NHL Needs Sid the Kid

Forget the magic of Tim Tebow. Sidney Crosby returned to the NHL on Monday Night and was nothing short of magical.

It was another one of those “wouldn’t believe it if it was in a movie” moments in sports. After 11 months off from one of the most talked about injuries in NHL history, Sidney Crosby scored his 1st goal of the season on his first NHL shot in 11 months. Crosby didn’t stop there as he racked up 4 points total on the night, adding another goal and 2 assists. This was not only a special performance but it was incredibly heart-warming for anyone born with a soul.

I guess special is as special does.

Hockey is a Canadian sport though and south of the border it often doesn’t generate much more buzz than a bowling tournament featuring Norm Duke and Walter Ray Williams Jr. Okay, maybe a bit of an exaggeration but the point is Crosby’s long-awaited return from his mysterious concussion has produced more than a bit of a noise in the United States.

While the ‘Welcome Back Sid” hash tag may not have been trending on twitter as it was in Canada, Crosby’s comeback illustrates how important one man can be to the world of star-driven professional sports.

With Alexander Ovechkin in an extended slump, the NHL has been absent of a true superstar for the past half-year. No matter how good the games are, no matter how good the playoffs have been and no matter how many games the Stanley Cup goes, nothing can fill the void left by an injured superstar of Crosby’s magnitude. Unlike football and basketball, the game of hockey lacks household names. Alex Ovechkin and Sidney Crosby, that’s it.

No Sidney Crosby equals big problems.

Sidney Crosby’s identity and life is hockey. There must have been a point in the last 11 months where he thought he might have been without the only thing he has ever known. Sure, Sidney Crosby needs hockey. However, there’s no doubt that the NHL needs Sidney Crosby more than Crosby needs the NHL.

Sid the Kid is the poster boy for the NHL. He can be as exciting as a peanut butter sandwich sometimes but his ultimate good guy reputation more than makes up for that. My grandmother is as likely to have Sidney Crosby as her favourite (non-hometown) player as that greasy guy sitting at the corner of the bar. His stardom reaches all.

Crosby is a ratings booster. Everyone knows Sid.

In this day and age of ever decreasing scoring and ever increasing trap hockey, Sidney Crosby is one of the few reasons to tune into a hockey game. The only people happier right now than the Pittsburgh Penguins are the executives at NBC and Versus. If Sidney Crosby can return to the NHL as good or, dare I say, better than ever, it will be almost impossible to keep him out from being mentioned in the elite company of players like Orr, Lemieux and Gretzky. Once in a generation talents don’t come around every day.

It took quite a lengthy period of time but Crosby looks to have come back at the right time. Sheriff Shanny has finally implemented the absolutely necessary harsher punishments for head shots that was lacking from Colin Campbell’s reign. The brutal head shots and concussions to go along with them seem to have significantly lowered in number this year. Amazingly, Dave Steckel, the man who essentially sidelined Sidney, wasn’t even suspended for his actions last season.

That won’t happen anymore.

The overabundance of bad press the NHL received over its handling of the head shots situation is gone and its most important entities are now much better protected.

11 months of NHL hockey without Sidney Crosby was tough. 11 more years of NHL hockey with Sidney Crosby sounds more like it.

Agree? Disagree? If you have any questions, comments, suggestions, please feel free to reply in the comments section below. Or you can e-mail me at cross_can15@hotmail.com. Also, follow me on twitter @paintstheblack and I will happily return the favour.

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Brendan Shanahan — It’s About Time

Where was this all along?

For over a decade fans and players have had to deal with the fingernails on the chalkboard inconsistency and spinelessness of Colin Campbell as NHL’s principal disciplinarian.

Not anymore. The saviour is here and his name is Brendan Shanahan.

Following James Wisniewski’s excessively late hit on Minnesota Wild forward Cal Clutterbuck, Brendan Shanahan suspended Wisniewski for the remainder of the pre-season and 8 regular season games. Let me repeat that, 8, yes 8, regular season games! Yeah, that deserves an exclamation point. Brendan Shanahan explains his decision in this video on NHL.com.

Through 3 separate incidents, Brendan Shanahan has done more for the safety of NHL players than Colin Campbell did throughout his entire tenure.

Colin Campbell exerted about as much authority as a High School hall monitor as Sheriff of the NHL. Campbell’s stepping down, due to “ethical reasons,” during the off-season was long overdue. The NHL needed a new Sheriff in town.

10 games for Jody Shelley and five games for Calgary Flames’ forward Pierre-Luc Letourneau-Leblond for similar looking hits from behind. Now, James Wisniewski.

It’s a revelation!

The last couple of years of hockey have been defined by an overabundance of dirty hits dished out from players with varying but mostly minimal consequences. On top of that has been the ever increasing knowledge of the long-term effects of head trauma and concussions.

Colin Campbell was supposed to step up to the plate and do something about it. Instead, he struck out. Golden Sombrero and all. Every opportunity was given to Colin Campbell to make a statement to the players yet he chose not to embrace it. Colin Campbell made a seemingly easy task, very difficult.

In less than 2 weeks, Brendan Shanahan has confirmed what many of us have suspected all along.

Sending a clear, concise message is not complicated.

Since birth we are taught through reward and punishment. You do something good and you get a treat. You do something bad and you get sent to your room for a 10 minute timeout. No one likes timeout, not even adults. We all want to play.

What happens when a 10 minute timeout isn’t enough? You stay up in your room for 30 minutes. If that isn’t enough then maybe no TV for a week. Does everyone get the idea?

Bottom line, you get punished and you don’t do it again. If you do it again, the punishment becomes more severe. It’s as simple as that. Colin Campbell made that look really hard. As a father himself you would think that he would understand the basic principles of discipline.

It isn’t an understatement to say that Brendan Shanahan could be the saviour for the National Hockey League. In the closing years of the Colin Campbell era, the game was being threatened by the increasing risk of its star players being forced to spend significant amounts of time in the press box rather than on the ice. Sidney Crosby is exhibit A.

As I said in February, selfishly the NHL should be thinking of protecting its players for the good of the league. Hockey, like all sports, is part of the entertainment industry and without its biggest stars the value of the product diminishes exponentially.

With this immediate hard stance that Shanahan has taken, he is undoubtedly saving the current and future stars of the NHL. Not to mention saving countless careers and ensuring the quality of player lives after leaving the game of hockey. The threat is no longer a code red.

Brendan Shanahan understands the straightforward concept that stern yet fair punishment is the only way to stop these players from ruthlessly gunning for opposing players heads.

Moreover, it is sure a breath of fresh air to hear Brendan Shanahan mention in his explanation of James Wisniewski’s suspension that it didn’t matter that Cal Clutterbuck was unharmed on the play.

Halle-FREAKING-lujah!

My blood boiled after reading that part of the reason for Aaron Rome’s suspension in the Stanley Cup Finals was partly based on the fact that his hit “caused a significant injury.” The reasoning makes no sense. I can’t stress enough that the action should define the penalty and not the result.

Brendan Shanahan gets this. This is the type of thing that can make you fall for a guy. I might already be in love.

He also gets that the prior history of discipline should be taken into account when deciding on the appropriate time for a suspension. Watch out Matt Cooke.

Is this guy for real?

If I could create a head disciplinary figure for NHL ’12, I don’t think I could make one as good as Brendan Shanahan appears to be.

Looking back in time, the suspension of James Wisniewski will officially represent the turning point in the NHL’s handling of these goons. But the real turning point should be when the NHL made what looks to be their best decision in 5 years, which is the hiring of Brendan Shanahan as Vice President of Hockey and Business Development and, most importantly, head disciplinarian.

Agree? Disagree? If you have any questions, comments, suggestions, please feel free to reply in the comments section below. Or you can e-mail me at cross_can15@hotmail.com. Also, follow me on twitter @paintstheblack and I will happily return the favour.

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