Archive for April 8, 2017

NHL: Another Houdini Act

1216 for publication April 7, 2017

Ross Brewitt

Well, ol’ 63 is at it again, and all I can say is, I told you so.

The Boston Bruins Brad Marchand, the Gremlin with a Cause, is known throughout the NHL as a dirty player. Actually that’s capital D as to differentiate between a run-of-the-mill miscreant, and the kind of player who is dirty to hurt, dirty to injure, dirty to gain attention. It’s his idea of how to strike fear into opponents.

I’ve been around the NHL and in the business of writing about teams and players 48 years now. I’ve seen them all from Keon, Beliveau, Orr, and Howe, up to today’s McDavid, Matthews, and Laine. Players with talents and on-ice traits that convey what they are, so you know, absolutely, where they stand.

As I’ve often written, every player who makes the NHL is tough, some simply tougher than others. But once you cross the line from tough to dirty, there is rarely a chance to rebuild your reputation.

First let me reveal the weak-kneed NHL is a league prone to erring on the side of softening the penalty phase into protecting their image, one that has failed in its purpose. Their reluctance to back up their own rulings, on-ice or in the boardrooms, never ceases to amaze. And, there’s no better example of how far back they will lean in demonstrating failure. Nothing embarrasses them.

People who follow the NHL might be amazed to discover Marchand has had seven judgments against him pronounced by the League.

Beginning in March ‘11, 2 games, for an elbow to the head; Dec. ’11 a $2,500 fine for slew-footing; Jan. ’12, 5 games for clipping; Jan. ’15, 2 games for slew-footing; Nov. ’15, fined $5,000 for roughing; Dec. 15, 3 games for clipping; Feb. ’17, a $10,000 fine for dangerous tripping.

Fines and suspensions certainly don’t deter Marchand either, not handed out the way they are. Hockey, being an eye-of-the beholder league, in this case the referees, the calls are selective and subject to situations and interpretation. But the evidence is there. In spades. A dirty player.

And, in this most recent event, the foul was vicious, regardless of apologists and nay-sayers.

Anyone who said it wasn’t vicious may have been watching it in slo-mo, but let me ask you this. What spearing hook to the genital area isn’t vicious at any speed, and dangerous to a man’s “manhood” and the ability to have a family?

On several occasions, as far back as his junior days with Team Canada, I lauded him as an upcoming big goal scorer in the pros, and over time he has proven that to be the case both internationally, and in the NHL. But it’s this erratic twitch coming up at unpredictable times, seemingly with no pattern, rhyme or reason, that’s makes this veteran observer wonder where this will lead, or end.

On Thursday the NHL showed their misunderstanding of Marchand’s brand of one-step forward, two-steps back, by handing him a laughable two game suspension, for this latest vicious stick-hook to the groin of Jake Dotchin of the Lightning. Given his previous record alone, the bare minimum should have been the final two games of the season, plus the first game of the playoffs.

No wonder no-one takes the department of Player Safety serious.

Believe me, Brad Marchand is a far better hockey player than simply a small forward looking for a bad rep. So why not step up and help himself, rather than burying his good side any further?

After all, this is his eighth time on the carpet, and it warranted more. I had him down for five games, knowing full well the NHL would err on the side of soft-soaping the deed.

But two games makes the penalty look like it was a first time black-mark. That one game in the finals would have been the balance. Now it borders on ridiculous.

Lastly, Gary Bettman is also attempting to be a bad boy yet again, by announcing he’s advised the IIHF, IOC, and NHLPA the NHL will not be participating in the Winter Olympics when they gather for the Games in South Korea come 2018.

The announcement was no sooner made than Alex Ovechkin said he was going no matter what roadblocks were thrown up. Well, the minute other “names” such as Malkin, Karlsson, Backstrom, Lunqvist, Hossa, and the Sedins, begin speaking up, it’s going to be very uncomfortable.

Good luck with that, Gary.