Friday, 17 April 2009

State of...Messages

It's that time of year again. Time for the top 16 hockey clubs to battle for the right to hoist Lord Stanley's mug over their head. Now, I have a post brewing regarding some NHL traditions, but something has come up that rubbed me the wrong way.

Colin Campbell, the NHL's Senior Executive VP of Business Operations, has come out and made a statement regarding how the final minutes of an NHL game should be, or shouldn't be, played. Here is his statement:

"We had a conference call Monday with the General Managers and Coaches of playoff teams and told them explicitly we would not tolerate attempts by clubs to 'send a message' late in the game when the outcome had been determined. Organizations - players and coaches - will be held accountable for such actions."

This is playoff hockey time. PLAYOFFS!!! It's ALL about sending a message to the other team, regardless of score. Hockey isn't a single-game elimination, it's a seven-game series. It's a battle. First team to four wins WINS. If you aren't going to win a game then your priority should be planning for how you can win the next one. If by 'sending a message' late in a sure loss helps you to intimidate the other team, or fire up your team, then you do it!

What does the NHL want the teams to do, just accept their fate and roll over? Showing the other team that "we may lose the battle, but not the war" is a perfect attitude for a long series. Sending a message late in the game that your team, while losing this game, isn't going to make this series an easy one is totally acceptable.

Now I am not saying that cheap shots should be allowed into the game...but some post whistle pushing, shoving, face washes, and scrapping are totally acceptable. This is hockey. It's a physical game played by physical players. If the players aren't able to tolerate a little roughness then they should quit hockey and get into something a little less offensive - I think that there are some openings on the Frisbee golf team nearby.

Hockey has made some changes over the past few years to try and enhance the game; to make it more entertaining to the US audience. Some changes I agree with, some I don't. But this game has been around for a long time and it's always managed to police itself fairly well. In years past cheap shots were dealt with by that player having to face up to the opposing team's tough guy.

But I digress. The NHL shouldn't be shying away from this 'message sending' for two main reasons. One, the customer wants to see a physical game - that's what hockey is. And two, in a seven-game series sending a message to the other team that you're not going to roll over and die is an absolute must! If things get out of hand then the league can come down hard on those individuals - but they didn't need to come out and make a statement like this. This is playoff time...we should be talking about :12 second overtimes and backup goalies standing on their heads.

Bring on Lord Stanley!

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