Wednesday, August 20, 2008

More on Legein's Motives

Great article by Aaron Portzline in the Dispatch......

My take : As a BJ fan I have no regrets of seeing him retire at that age. At least he was very class about it and didn't pull off a Peter Forsberg saying he might or might not play when the time comes. Stefan, if you ever find the spark in you to play hockey again your always welcome to comeback and play for the BJ's.

Excellent article on NHL.com about heavy metal and hockey

As a die-hard heavy metal and hockey fan, I enjoyed a lot the article by Doug Karda:

Stop the Moralizing: Why Fighting Belongs in the NHL

Fighting in the NHL remains one of the most staunchly debated subjects in the world of hockey and yet the argument barely divides supporters down the middle. Far from a modern topic, last seasons incident with Patrick Roy’s son Jonathon returned fighting back to its usual grandstanded place. Now I’m not here to endorse stupidity like Roy’s kid or fighting for the sake of fighting but I am here to support fighting as the part of the game it always was and the integral part at that.

Last season 38.46% of regular season games saw a fighting major called with 143 games seeing multiple fights, up from 31.22% of games and 87 multiples the season before. Where the statistics spiked were less than 3% down on the season before the lockout and the “new” family friendly NHL. The big project of castigating the enforcers on the ice whilst remaining cryptic off it has begun to backfire on the league and there is a stonewall reason behind the increase that defies the concepts of entertainment and goonery.

Post-lockout the NHL was looking to rebrand itself, the pre-lockout game was getting bogged down with obstruction plays and slowing the sport that marketed itself as the fastest game in the world. The remit was to tighten holding, hooking and interference calls and open out the game, showcase the talent and make the sport a more family orientated spectacle. There is this perception that if they took the hard stuff out of the game the fans will suddenly flock; of course this could be dubbed as more league chicanery in the face of next-to-zero TV coverage. After all, how are you going to promote the friendlier NHL when nobody gets to see it and furthermore why oxymoronically support the divisional schedules with phrases like “familiarity breeds contempt” and then complain if it becomes violent? But I digress.With the post-lockout game opening up the ice the game certainly became faster and players such as Peter Worrell, Gordie Dwyer, Chris Dingham or any enforcer who possessed little to no skating ability, puck handling consistency or offensive flair were rendered extinct either in the first year or after the instigator penalty was brought in and that was not entirely a bad thing, after all even Bob Probert or Tiger Williams could post nigh on 30 goal seasons. What the death of the barely-skating-fists brought in however was an entirely new type of enforcer designed for an entirely new NHL.
With the prototypical goons rendered obsolete by the rule changes and antsy officiating calling chincy penalties left right and centre, the NHL has become blighted by the agitator. Generally smaller players who won’t think twice about drilling players head first into boards or laying stupid charging hits in vulnerable positions, with the emphasis on stupid and not “a hit.” Players who to name and shame include Hollweg, Janssen, Tootoo, Avery and Cooke have become cheap shot merchants with free reign.

Now the agitator isn’t a new breed, but time was their job to draw penalties could be negated by the threat of a hulking player like Worrell or Dingman offering them a beat down for their insolence. Now there is a lack of respect and the hitting is getting out of hand, the fact that an instigator penalty can give the cheap shots a power play is drawing significantly closer to a bad injury and not one brought about by fists.

In fighting there is a code and honor, but hammering players head first into boards is downright dangerous. One of the anti-fighting schools of thought is that eventually a fight is going to end in tragedy, and of course as a Toronto fan, I and the rest of the league held our collective breath when Kris Newbury hit the ice head first after a series of haymakers from Ronald Petrovicky in 2007. The fact that Newbury, a competent scrapper, came out of hospital amidst the moralizing and said “I think it [fighting] belongs in the game, it's just a freak accident that happens every once in a while." Seemed to have been lost in the moral panic, meanwhile think back to Hollweg’s head high cross check on Sergei Kostitsyn or Cam Janssen’s frankly pathetic ├╝ber late jumping hit on Tomas Kaberle and its hardly surprising that a new talented breed of enforcers are making their way back into the game.

Of course the whole deal became a lot smoother for the contemporary goon after Anaheim’s cup winning triumphs atop the record of most fighting majors by a team, a fete fronted by fan favorite George Parros. Not only popular with the fake moustache wearing crowd, Anaheim showed that fighting could still be used as an integral part of a winning formula be it as a momentum breaker/builder, keeping dirty players in check or bringing the crowd into the game whilst mocking the ambiguity of the instigator rule. What Anaheim did was set the wheels moving towards intense offensive hockey, supported by a heavy core of players who could be called upon to intimidate if needed, basically hockey where it was prior to the lockout. Of course a return to fighting would clearly result in fans marching out of the arenas in utter disgust, but low and behold the NHL saw a 2% increase league wide in attendances in 07-08’. To note this simply to the increased proliferation of gloves on the ice would be trite, but to say the trend, which started early in the season, was damaging to the game would be plain wrong. As Mr. Hockey himself, a.k.a. Gordie Howe once said:

“I have always believed that far more people come to games to see the fights
than stay away.”


And in this sentiment belies the paradox that stereotypes the act. Hockey is not solely about fighting and those reputed fans that come to see the fighting alone, if such a fan base exists, are not fans of the game, but there are almost certainly more of them out there than this phantom crowd that are put of by the “nature and barbarity of the game.” The nature being the important phrase and not one implicit to the act of fighting alone but owing to the history, traditions and stereotypes of the game, draw from its necessity. Basically if you don’t like fighting and physicality, chances are hockey is never going to be your cup of tea.

Perhaps it’s easy to wax lyrical in the face of naysayers about the good ol’ days, the Broad Street Bullies and the Big Bad Boston Bruins, but the fact of the matter is that fighting is still an important part of the game, both in play and also in the marketing of it. Whilst I don’t believe in pandering to a crowd of fight hungry meatheads, many would argue that the NHL’s inability to pull a major US TV deal lies in the decreased marketability of the game sans fighting in the American market. The fact the league uses this as a springboard to usurp much of the physicality in the game for endless power plays shows how out of touch the league is in marketing itself to even the most fervent followers.

If you were to take an example, one particular to my argument, say the Columbus Blue Jackets. Their season was all but over with a couple of months to spare, in the face of a miracle. The fact they had the league leader in fights, the small but ultra willing Jared Boll provided some pull for crowds in a quiet market. Pair that up with the fact that Boll and fellow fighter Jody Shelley are amongst the fan favorites after Rick Nash and that after Nash are two of the most enthusiastic players to skate in the Jackets teams and its hard to see how these power players can’t be a pull of a mainstay demographic.

Subsequently fighting is a part of a multi faceted sport and that is what makes hockey the spectacle it is. The various roles of the players, the strategy, the scoring and the physicality, its all part and parcel of what makes hockey the greatest game in the world and the NHL the greatest league. A wise man would market fighting for what it is, a part of the game and stop placing it on a pedestal of evil as if the debate were more prevalent than the sport itself. A great fight, especially if it were for the right reasons, can be part of a spectrum of experiences that can occur in hockey from the nasty to the sublime and we should stop striving to remove the various layers of the game as if to leave it bare and bleak.

For me I don’t find a place for marketing in the debate of hockey fighting. Hockey fights happen for a variety of reasons, some good and noble, some bad and pointless they are never there to be a circus sideshow attraction and the guys dropping their gloves are not performing monkeys. It happens down to emotion and protecting your team mates and god forbid if those elements are ever removed from the game.

Questions About The Northwest

The Northwest Division is going to be a battle from start to finish, and unless something catastrophic happens, any team can win it. Last year saw the Wild grab it and even though they lost Brian Rolston and Pavol Demitra, can they defend their title? Or will a new brand come in, like Calgary or Edmonton? Just a hoot, these aren't my predictions, but assumptions.

The Canucks had a busy off-season letting long-time Canucks Brendan Morrison and Markus Naslund go, while signing Pavol Demitra. They also offered Mats Sundin a 2-year $20 million dollar contract, but that may not work out, at least for now. The Canucks are going to the road of last season, if though their offense may be a bit improved, it's going to take more than Roberto Luongo and Kevin Bieksa to supply this team not only for the division, but for the playoffs.

Minnesota lost 2 of their best scorers in the off-season, and even when they were around, their offense was hurting under the Lemaire system, so imagine now. They lost Sean Hill to Russia, although they traded for Marek Zidlicky. Many have put them already in the playoffs, but I'm not so keen on them. With the distraction of Marian Gaborik's contract, the Wild will have to fight for a playoff spot.

The Avalanche had an OK off-season, signing former Leafs Darcy Tucker and Andrew Raycroft, although they lost goaltender Jose Theodore, defenseman Jeff Finger, and could potentially lose Joe Sakic. Even without Big Joe, I think this team can make it. If Budaj improves his play and the offense comes out to a fast start, I think they will make the playoffs.

Calgary made some changes this off-season, by re-signing key players, and signing bigman Todd Bertuzzi, who oculd play awesome with Jarome Iginla. They lost Kristian Huselius so right now we will have to see if they can cover that up. Their defense stayed the same and will be dominant as always, and Miikka Kiprusoff will play great again. They have a great chance for the Northwest title but in my mind they're gonna lose it on the last day of the season to......

The Oilers had one heck of an off-season, trading away Jarret Stoll, Matt Greene, Joni Pitkanen, and Raffi Tores for Lubomir Visnovsky, Erik Cole, and Gilbert Brule. The offense will be extraordinary with Andrew Cogliano's speed, Ales Hemsky's playmaking touches, Shawn Horcoff's finishing abilities, Erik Cole's big time scoring, and Sam Gagner's clutch play. Their defense should get bigger and better with a healthy Sheldon Souray and a big puck player in Visnovsky. Tom Gilbert also improved and should continue this year. The only question is goaltending where either can win the starting job but htey should be able to win the Northwest.

Thanks For Reading, and be sure to check out the new blog over at http://www.nhlrumour.blogspot.com/!

LIVE CHAT INTERACTIVE: Many Topics Covered

Another Live Chat came and went, with special guest Brad Ratgen from Hockeybuzz joining us. Here's what he said about the upcoming tussle in the Northwest division this season:

"The Northwest will be tight as always. The question is will Calgary step up? Will Edmonton catch up? Can the Wild repeat as division champs?"

We will see. We discussed the best games of last season, and it ended up being the HB Exclusive Poll Question, which turned out like this:

Wings vs Pens (S.C Game 5) ( 9% )
Habs Comeback vs Rangers (Season) ( 73% )
Kings Comeback vs Stars (Season) ( 9% )
Stars vs Sharks (WC SF Game 6) ( 9% )
We also covered Michael Ryder, Stephen Legein, early Stanley Cup favs, Teemu and Mats, and Russia and the KHL!!! Plus much much more.
If you want to see the live chat and how it unfolded, check the replay of it on the bottom of the page. And stay tuned for info of the next live chat, if you want to be apart of the COVERITLIVE experience!

My Own Site

Hey everyone The Source here while I'll continue to post my blogs right here on the great Hockeybums I have opened my own site.

Here is the link its all Maple Leafs all the time

http://leafscrazyrumors.blogspot.com/

Come on over while I'm completley new to the world of Blogspot I will figure out my site in time so be patient thanks guys and I'll hope to see you there.

The Source

Legein retires!!

Columbus Blue Jackets prospect Stefen Legein decided he won't play hockey as a living. He is 19 years old and was on the Canadian junior team! Legein was drafted in the 2nd round by the Blue Jackets...

***ATTENTION*** CHANGE OF LOCATION

HOCKEYBUMS HAS CHANGED LOCATIONS OUR NEW SITE IS LINKED

http://hockey-bums.blogspot.com/

THIS IS NOT THE BIG SITE YOUVE BEEN WAITING FOR BUT IT IS CLEANER VERSION OF WHAT WE HAVE NOW HOPE YOU ENJOY!

SCOTTY

P.S. YOULL BE GLAD TO SEE THE BLOGGER WE HAVE BROUGHT BACK!!!

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