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A blog by a long time New York Islanders fan who stays true to the fellas wearing orange, white and blue…but thinks the Islanders organization has some shaping up to do.

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Sunday, May 16, 2010

Are There No Gentlemen Left in the NHL?

Atlanta Thrashers prospect Partrice Cormier is currently facing criminal charges stemming from his elbowing Mikael Tam (in the jaw) in January which caused Tam to convulse on the ice and as reported also caused him to stop breathing for under a minute. Cormier who is also known for being the former captain of Canada's world junior hockey team could face up to 18 months in jail.

Although following this season had been tricky this year, the blind side hit issue I have followed. After watching the NHL for many years, a gut feeling continues that there's a momentum out there building that is making death on ice a possibility - a desensitization going on where these kinds of hits are freakishly becoming strategy for taking players out of the game - strategy by players who in my opinion utilize these hits to overcompensate for a lack of impulse control, professional boudaries and ultimately real skill.

What amazes me the most about this issue is that after coaches, GMs, owners & players have time after time witnessed the escalation in shots to the head and the outcomes THERE NEEDED TO BE A RULE ABOUT IT IN THE NHL. Are there no gentlemen left in the NHL for a gentlemen's agreement? It takes a ruling, which by the way took too long to be put into place, to discourage blatant behavior that is NOT NECESSARY IN THE GAME OF ICE HOCKEY.

The ruling states:

"A lateral, back pressure or blind-side hit to an opponent where the head is targeted and/or the principle point of contact is not permitted. A violation of the above will result in a minor or major penalty and shall be reviewed for possible supplemental discipline". -full story here.

Don't know about you but as it reads, it kind of seems like wussy, non-desrcript wording where ultimately the consequences remain in the subjective hands of the NHL which in the past has shown sketchiness when doling out suspensions.

I read somewhere that the average age of retirement from the NHL is late twenties which means barring unforeseen circumstances, a retired player has quite a ways to go in his lifespan. The wear and tear of being in the NHL should not include Traumatic Brain Injury. If you have ever been around someone with TBI, which I have, it's not anything someone should purposefully (meaning the hit) do to someone else regardless of rivalry and a desire to win, and should not be a price to pay for a career in the NHL.

As far as players who either think, voice, or give off the vibe that 'it was an accident' or like James Wishiewshi's response that he didn't do anything wrong when he nailed his 'friend' Brent Seabrook into the boards - if at that level of conditioning and skill a player cannot control the force of his body, he doesn't belong on the ice to begin with. Those players who know it wasn't an accident don't belong on the ice either. Granted ice hockey is a contact sport, it's supposed to get rough out there on the ice, I get that however this issue verges on damaging the integrity of the game and no matter how rough - there's got to be integrity for the sport to flourish. It would be a shame for this sport to be void of another 'great one' because he took up curling instead because his parents saw how violent hockey had become. Yup, just in case you didn't get ENOUGH of curling at the Olympics...there ya go.

If the NHL is going to promote hockey as family entertainment then they should share the responsibility in protecting children from witnessing this kind of violence. And that's what it is: violence. The responsibility cannot fall solely on parents because there is no predicting when this kind of violence is going to take place at a game. The solution should not be a parent avoiding the game altogether - there's got to be shades of gray.

One last thought, it appears that off ice behavior is paralleling on ice antics with the escalation of fans beating upon the glass looking like a bunch of apes, and that is insulting apes around the world. What's up with that? Bad day at the office?

Please note: escalation does not equate a generalization of players and fans. Most players and fans get it and at the end of the day ice hockey remains awesome.

(sources: nhl.com, yahoo.com, usatoday.com, my brain)

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