By Ken Reed
It is extremely rare when I share a column or blog in its entirety but Paul Busch’s blog post today is exemplary. He exposes the prevalent NHL mentality beautifully. Excellent work Paul!
By Paul Busch
“Celebrate The Game!” is displayed prominently across the webpage for ScotiaBank Hockey Day In Canada. This is a major promotion for the CBC and the NHL and it was appropriate that the final game of the night showed the type of play that the league has ignored, tolerated and supported. Vancouver and Calgary waited an entire 2 seconds after the opening face-off to give us “Slapshot 2014.”
The game ended with 204 penalty minutes – 142 minutes with 8 game misconducts in the first few seconds. It also featured Canucks’ coach John Tortorella charging the Flames dressing room corridor in an attempt to get to Flames’ coach Bob Hartley.
If you want to read all the gory details then check out the links below:
Both coaches tried to present reasonable arguments on their starting line-ups – reasonable as long as you are indoctrinated in the NHL’s culture of intimidation.
Hartley said he started his fourth line to create energy and perhaps reward them for recent success:
“Those guys are playing well for us. They got us a goal last game. We’re not scoring many goals,” said Hartley, whose team has lost 10 of its last 12. “We had zero intentions there. Those guys are playing hard for us. As far as I know they were the home team. They had the luxury to put whoever they wanted on the ice. He decided who he puts on. It is what it is.”
I’m sure that his decision had nothing to do with the fact that Vancouver was making a lot of noise this week about playing tougher and coming together as a team. In their previous two games the Canucks had racked up 142 penalty minutes as they exacted revenge against Dustin Brown and Jordan Nolan. I am also sure that Hartley’s line-up did not reflect his interim GM’s objective of playing bigger, tougher and with more truculence. His reasons were more than reasonable as you see lots of NHL teams regularly start their 4th line face punchers to reward them for their offensive prowess.
Tortorella was likewise unapologetic about why he had to match the Flames’ opening lineup:
“I see the starting lineup and I know the other guy across the bench and it’s easy for people to say ‘Well put the Sedins out there and it’s deflated.’ I can’t put our players at risk like that,” he said. “With the lineup that (Hartley) had, I am not going to put those types of players at risk, and that’s what ensues.
So this had nothing to do with not being intimidated, particularly after a week in which they showed that they would not be intimidated. And, if you buy into the NHL’s culture of enforcement and “The Code”, then you know that Vancouver has to put these guys on the ice to protect their stars. But if enforcers are there to protect players then Tortorella should have no fear that Calgary’s 4th line would intentionally injure someone. The fact that he did not start the Sedins is an acknowledgement that he knows the goons are primarily on the ice to generate violence, not stop it.
If you believe that there is no such thing as bad press, then the Canucks and Flames did a great job at generating media activity for Hockey Day In Canada. In the first few seconds of this game we got the opportunity to celebrate all of the effort that the NHL and NHLPA put towards building their image.
Tortorella is a serial initiator of line-brawls, having been involved in 2 very similar incidents versus New Jersey (while coaching in New York). Go back and look at the press coverage of those brawls and try to find a response from the NHL condemning the violence. I suspect they will shrug their shoulders and take the same action on this latest brawl. Go back and look at game preview stories where players have talked about retribution against an opponent for some cheap shot or perceived slight. Then look for an appropriate response from the league that decries those statements and threatens penalties or fines. Doesn’t happen. Tortorella may get fined for his antics between periods but none of the on-ice stuff is deemed a problem. The response to all this violence from players, coaches and most GMs is the same. We get consistent comments like, “he has our backs” and “it’s part of the game” and “the fans seem to love it.”
What can the league do to avoid similar brawls in the future? Mandate that only 1st line players can start? Stiffer penalties or fines for teams that fight in the first 30 seconds? My recommendation is a game misconduct for every fight. Opening face-off brawls will likely disappear along with most staged fights between enforcers who need to reinforce their roster spot by lining up against each other. The 4th line rosters spots will likely be filled by players who practice skating, scoring and passing versus those who take boxing lessons. Passion fights will still happen but players will make better choices when faced with getting tossed after dropping the gloves. A clean hard hit will likely be absorbed and ignored while outright dangerous hits or cheap shots will be answered.
— Ken Reed, Sports Policy Director, League of Fans
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Episode #30 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: The State of College Athletics with Dr. David Ridpath: Problems and Potential Solutions – Ridpath is a sports administration professor at Ohio University and a long-time member of The Drake Group, a college sports reform think tank.
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Episode #29 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: The Honorable Tom McMillen Visits League of Fans’ Sports Forum – McMillen is a former All-American basketball player, Olympian, Rhodes Scholar and U.S. Congressman. We discuss the state of college athletics today.
Episode #28 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: A Chat With Mano Watsa, a Leading Basketball and Life Educator – Watsa is President of PGC Basketball, the largest education basketball camp in the world. We discuss problems in youth sports today.
Episode #27 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: Kids’ Sports: How We Can Take Back the Game and Restore Quality Family Time In the Process – Linda Flanagan is author of “Take Back the Game: How Money and Mania Are Ruining Kids’ Sports and Why It Matters.” We discuss how commercialized and professionalized youth sports are hurting kids and their families.
Episode #26 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: How Can We Fix Youth Sports? – John O’Sullivan is Founder and CEO of Changing the Game Project and author of “Changing the Game: The Parents Guide to Raising Happy, High Performing Athletes and Giving Youth Sports Back to Our Kids.”
Episode #25 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: Physical Education Should Be a Critical Component of K-12 School Design – Michael Horn is co-founder of the Clayton Christensen Institute for Disruptive Innovation.
Media"How We Can Save Sports" author Ken Reed appears on Fox & Friends to explain how there's "too much adult in youth sports."
Ken Reed appears on Mornings with Gail from KFKA Radio in Colorado to discuss bad parenting in youth athletics.
“Should College Athletes Be Paid?” Ken Reed on The Morning Show from Wisconsin Public Radio
Ken Reed appears on KGNU Community Radio in Colorado (at 02:30) to discuss equality in sports and Title IX.
Ken Reed appears on the Ralph Nader Radio Hour (at 38:35) to discuss his book The Sports Reformers: Working to Make the World of Sports a Better Place, and to talk about some current sports issues.
- Reed Appears on Ralph Nader Radio Hour League of Fans’ sports policy director, Ken Reed, Ralph Nader and the New York Times’ Tyler Kepner discussed a variety of sports issues on Nader’s radio show as well as Reed’s updated book, How We Can Save Sports: A Game Plan. Reed's book was released in paperback in February, and has a new introduction and several updated sections.
League of Fans is a sports reform project founded by Ralph Nader to fight for the higher principles of justice, fair play, equal opportunity and civil rights in sports; and to encourage safety and civic responsibility in sports industry and culture.
Vanderbilt Sport & Society - On The Ball with Andrew Maraniss with guest Ken Reed, Sports Policy Director for League of Fans and author of How We Can Save Sports: A Game Plan
Sports & Torts – Ken Reed, Sports Policy Director, League of Fans – at the American Museum of Tort Law
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