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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Throw the Book at Torres

Raffi Torres and his crazy eyes

If the NHL wants to prove that it is serious in its war against head shots then the time is now.

In game 3 of the Vancouver Canucks’ series against the Chicago Blackhawks, Raffi Torres nailed star Chicago defenseman Brent Seabrook in the head (See video here). Torres was playing in his first game back, fresh off of an, in my opinion, unjust 4 game suspension with his hit to the head of a reaching Jordan Eberle.

The hit on Seabrook was the kind of hit you cringe. It’s the kind of thing that the NHL and NFL are trying eliminate.

Head shots.

There is a lot of debate already to whether Torres’ hit was in fact illegal. You can even see in the video Raffi Torres is claiming the newly implemented rule 48 – Illegal Check to the Head. Bob McKenzie tweeted last night he believed initially that this was a classic case of rule 48 “Blindside hit, principal pt of contact to head or targeted head shot.” However, he subsequently tweeted that “When NHL GMs created Rule 48, they allowed area behind net is “hitting area” and players need to be more aware than, say, in neutral zone.”

To be honest, that second tweet just sounds like more ambiguity than anything else and it seems as though there can be a wide range of interpretations to the Torres hit.

The other big issue that McKenzie points out is “principal point of contact. Was it a straight on body check where shoulder also struck head or a “head shot.”??” There is no doubt in my mind that this is a head shot, not a case of his shoulder also striking the head. Whether or not Raffi Torres intended to hit Seabrook in the head is anyone’s guess but there is undeniably a great degree of recklessness involved in the play.

What has to be taken into account here is that Raffi Torres is a repeat offender and I’m not just talking about his most recent hit to Eberle. The CBC broadcast showed his Scott Stevens like elbow to the head of Milan Michalek way back in 2006, which is about as dirty a play as you’re going to see in the NHL.

Repeat offenders need to be punished. When repeat offenders are not punished you get Matt Cooke.

Related: NHL Head Shots

The NHL often finds ways to cop-out of making the hard decision with their interpretation of the vague guidelines set in the rule book. Although it was too harsh to suspend Raffi Torres those 4 games previously, it was (almost) nice to see the NHL make an attempt at showing the players that the Matt Cooke 10 game plus the first round of playoffs suspension wasn’t an anomaly even if it was the wrong one.

They must not revert back to their old ways.

I reiterate, this is a repeat offender. Even if there is a possibility that his hit was in the hazy boundaries of rule 48, a lengthy suspension will deter future offenders. This might have been said with the latest Matt Cooke suspension but I now believe that this decision on Torres will be the monumental verdict that will shape the nature of head shots for the NHL in the next 5 years.

Brent Seabrook shortly after Raffi Torres' shot to his head

This is the turning point in the game, the defining moment of a career. This is for all the marbles.

If the NHL wants to protect its product and its players then they have to come down hard on Torres. Anything less than five games should be heart wrenching for fans. That look of confusion that Seabrook had on the bench following the hit as he attempted to get his mind refocused, like a drunk convincing himself that he is okay to drive, will be the look on your favourite player in due time if the NHL doesn’t fix this pandemic.

Don’t think that the NHL is becoming the “No Hit League” either as some callous fans have deemed it. The safety of the player’s is priority number one and if you don’t care about that then take a look at the latest studies on the effects of concussions and then tell me what you think.

If you watched the game you must have seen Canucks defenseman Dan Hamhuis rock the world of Markus Kruger. That’s what the NHL is all about. It was as clean as my bathroom after using my magic eraser.

If you’re kid does something bad and you don’t punish him he will do it again. Colin Campbell doesn’t know whether he wants to be the good cop or the bad cop though. Well, it’s time for Colin Campbell to fully embrace his inner bad cop and throw the book at Raffi Torres.

Update: Raffi Torres was not suspended by the NHL. In other news, Benoit Pouliot and Chris Kunitz both threw out head shots on Monday in protest…at least I think they were protesting.

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. I am now on twitter follow me @paintstheblack and I will gladly return the favour.

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Hossa Controvesy Brings to Light a Bigger Issue

The Toronto War Room. Look it's Colin Campbell!

Yeah, its been a while since I’ve posted anything and its starting to get to me. School’s keeping me pretty wrapped up but just another 3 weeks and I’ll be back on the blogging train.

Anyways, in the midst of a heated playoff race in the NHL’s Western Conference Marian Hossa was awarded a controversial goal in Chicago’s game last night against the St. Louis Blues. A storied franchise in the league, the Hawks are fresh off a Stanley Cup Winning season after a lengthy championship drought.

Check out the video here and decide for yourself.

Seriously though, there’s not much decide. For one thing there’s an 87.83% chance that it’s not a goal but it was ruled a goal on the ice so without indisputable evidence you probably can’t overturn that. However, there is undoubtedly a distinct kicking motion, which even the hometown Chicago Blackhawk announcers point out. Distinct kicking motion means no goal whether it was over the line or not. Duh.

The big issue here though is that every single play that goes to video review is transferred over to the head office in Toronto where they go ahead and make the decision. The referee’s or an independent party isn’t making a decision. It’s the guys working for the NHL that have an agenda. The NHL already has problems generating viewership in the United States especially after their brutal decision a few years ago to take a bit of extra money from the Versus network instead of sticking with ESPN.

The Chicago Blackhawks are a clearly a team the NHL would love to have in the playoffs. They sit on the brink of playoff elimination. Not so much after tonight’s win. It isn’t out of the question that the NHL is willing to look the other way on a controversial goal such as this one and give the benefit of the doubt to a storied, marketable American franchise.

Do I sound paranoid? Maybe just a bit, but it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to put 2 and 2 together.

Goalie Ty Conklin wasn’t too happy about they call. He expressed a similar feeling in an interview after last night’s game saying that “They called it a goal on the ice, which is fine, that’s understandable. But the reason we have video replay is to get the right call. They’re probably going to make it into the playoffs anyway, but do we really have to make it that obvious that the league wants them in?”

What I think the NHL needs to change is having the infamous “war room” in Toronto making all the decisions on video replay reviews. They need the referees doing the decision-making, who most likely aren’t influenced, at least to the same degree, as some of those guys in Toronto. How can those guys in Toronto make an objective decision when you have Colin Campbell breathing down your neck?

I’ll admit that I really don’t know much about what goes on back there but I don’t understand why the referees aren’t making the decisions. The NFL has their refs making the calls on challenges so why don’t the referees, who actually call the game, possess the ultimate decision.

It’s ridiculous. Talk about conflict of interest. I mean, what if we had the NHL’s principal disciplinarian making the final call on suspensions that deal with his own son’s team. Oh wait, that already happens.

Having the head office in Toronto determining vital calls almost makes paying real money to see Charlie Sheen’s one man act seem logical. Almost.

This is not the first time something like this has happened either. The War Room in Toronto already takes 14 hours to decide on a call while it isn’t uncommon practice for them to butcher that very call. Nothing is going to be done about this but if the NHL wants to better it’s game this is something they need to look into. Hell, if they’re not going to fix the head shots what chance do we have of seeing a change with this.

Hey, if you took the time to read this sloppy post I want some feedback. Am I crazy? The NHL kind of pisses me off just generally so I thought I’d rant about it.

Follow me on twitter @paintstheblack too, you won’t regret it.

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