Thursday, March 6, 2008

To Punch or Not To Punch

As Anaheim rolls in to Denver tonight I am wondering what will happen when the Ducks inevitably start hitting Forsberg and the rest of the Avs.

Adrian Dater of the Denver Post already brought this one up yesterday, so I'm not trying to copy...but it got me thinking.

While it is nice to live vicariously through our hockey compatriots, articles like Dater's may be a sign of things to come. And by that I mean, teams taking shots at the players, and the re-emergence of enforcers.

Coming out of the lockout we were told that the NHL's best players would be allowed to roam free and score at will. And this pretty much happened as the guys with the whistles actually called the game by the book. Yet here we are a couple of seasons later and almost since the beginning of the year, the stars in the NHL have been kicked around to a certain degree.

So this brings up my inevitable time saving assertion that enforcers should be thrust back into their eternally important role of policing the ice. Because it is important to protect the guys that score. Period. No amount of referee oversight will change this fact.

Yet we still have to deal with that annoying instigator rule and massive fines should any coach send out a guy to fight with less than five minutes remaining in the game. So what to do?

I'm not above accusing Commissioner Gary Bettman (or casual American hockey fans and columnists) of hypocrisy. I for one still harbor the belief that the lockout, in part, was intended to break up the "Super Teams" of the 90's, and wash out the talent pool. So for me to think that Bettman would roll back rules that don't work would be foolish. I mean, this is America and in America the status quo is to never admit mistakes, right?

But here's the thing. I've played enough hockey to understand that when it comes to people who skate professionally, rarely do they become so out of control that they accidentally cause say "accidentally" putting a man off of the end of the glass.

(I'm not sure if any of my hockey friends HAVEN'T thought of doing that to someone, assuming they didn't already do it at some point in their lives...)

Yet when things like that happen, there have to be repercussions. Granted Laperierre did try to fight Jack Johnson later in the contest on Saturday only to be foiled by Rob Blake, but what about the next time?

This brings us back to Forsberg. As it stands the Avalanche can not afford to lose another top player to injury. And as Dater mentioned, any time the Ducks roll around there are cheap shots aplenty.

But when the league is so staunchly against fighting (even in a year when penalty minutes for fighting are up) are we supposed to sit back and watch he refs bury their whistles as the stars of the game are buried on the ice? I don't think so.

Come on Bettman! Reverse rules and bring the enforcers back, something tells me you and about 50 of the top players in the world will be happy you did.

No comments: