Tag Archive for Montreal Canadiens

Hockey : Diving With Betttman

1220 for publication Friday May 5, 2017

Ross Brewitt

Do you recall, in this present season now into its last act, when goal production was called into question by the NHL’s Commissioner? Well, do you?

They were looking for something, anything, new rules, circular nets, open season on running goalies, and no-defenders allowed within the new no-go-area painted green and cerise between corner face-off circles.

The first paragraph was true, some of the second wasn’t’. You decide.

Of course the NHL, in its wisdom, rejected out-of-hand any of those crisp and effective, yet flawed suggestions needing more work. Still, as the NHL were scratching their heads and looking blankly at each other, time marched on and, who would’a guessed, the goals started to come. True, they were fewer, with only a few outbreaks of blowouts, but it was accomplished without doing any tinkering.

To their credit, the NHL withdrew their panic. Imagine, cost-savings and progress realized by using common sense on the problem. Whatta concept!

Take a fledgling team like Toronto, peppered with rookies up front and at the blueline, who became the darlings of tight hockey and wedged themselves into a post-season spot. They entertained fans with overtime games and one goal wins while losing in six against the Capitals, only the best team in hockey over the season. That took penalty control.

Montreal enlisted a new “old” coach, Claude Julien, and just made it into the post season, Ottawa did the same, getting Guy Boucher to take the Senator reins.

For me this was the most surprising coaching change coming into the season, and now, today, the Sens are still in the hunt. We had last seen Guy Boucher as the wild-eyed, growly, short-fused coach who harped his way out of a job in Tampa Bay. This new version is the quieter, calmer model and the team has responded.

The Oilers look like a team with the tenacity that will need a game seven with the Ducks to win. They lack the experience of Anaheim, have the legs and firepower to prevail, yet patience will be their key to any success.

However, as I have warned many times, there is this nasty feeling a series, perhaps the Stanley Cup Final could be decided on a penalty advantage gained by a “dive.”

It’s always a cowardly, disgusting way to play the game. With the rise in diving, don’t look to the League to take control or any leadership in exterminating the practice. Little has been done since the arrival of diving in the 70’s. Frankly, there is no excuse, none, for allowing it to continue.

My thoughts on the subject have been printed here. Often. My concern is, an important game is going to be won, or lost, on a phony penalty, the result of a dive.

So, it comes down to Mr. Bettman, and since he has had so much success in dealing with the players and their Union, it’s about time to get serious, and enlist their support before hockey is dragged down to the status of soccer. Hockey used to be the “tough guy sport, the sport other pros in other sports point to when asked about “tough’.

Most recently, the dive on Wednesday night when Penguin Nick Bonino successfully staged a stick in the vicinity of his shoulder, into a high-stick to the face penalty for Washington’s T.J. Oshie. It was a joke, And the joke was made obvious on TV-replay.

Therefore, why not give the referees a review? Why not afford them their own check, their own conference, and call an obvious dive a foul with some clout. Let’s say four minutes for diving!

With the advent of cameras everywhere, and the technology to back them up, diving can easily be exposed.

Mr. Bettman, why not go down in sports history as the big-league commissioner who eliminated diving, rather than the guy who helps promote it?

Otherwise, you are going to be sorry for your lack of judgment and control. If your players are trying such underhanded moves in the Stanley Cup playoffs, it means they have gone over the limit. It indicatess even the players don’t care anymore. That means you are headed for a breakdown, one you can avoid.

Like a Stanley Cup won or lost on a foul.

NHL: Don’t Let the Rough Side Slide

1189 for publication October 28, 2016

Ross Brewitt

Before we get deep into the World Series, I have a problem to settle with the NHL.

During September’s NHL exhibition season, Andrew Shaw was tagged with a suspension of three pre-season games for one of those definitely illegal  head-first boarding hits on Caps defence prospect, Connor Hobbs.

As usual in these matters, Shaw could explain that he was the victim of slew-footing earlier in the game and decided to even the score. This was the critical Canadiens opener of the “tryout season” and Shaw deemed it critically necessary to set the tone for the rest of his season, plus other innocent culprit’s too.

To show who was in charge in the fight that ensued, Shaw held off his opponent with one hand, and with the free arm egged-on the homer-crowd to yowl louder in appreciation of his dominance. When he was satisfied, he landed two punches that ended the fight.

He’s a tough guy, and no-one on ice will dispute that fact. But his disregard and comprehension of the rules and the subsequent penalties and suspensions, and ending up in the press box, require clarification. He, and others like him, must recognize they’ve got a problem, not the reverse. Until Mr. Shaw discovers he can be a tough guy and stay within the rules of the day, he must be subject to the results.

Confusing? Sure, but necessary in the world of players whose job it is to mete out “payback.” In a thirty team league, it’s easy to see how this can become a memory nightmare, unless you’re a player adhering to the “take a number and deal with it now” rule. We’ve seen them, they’re called “goons.” That role can be taxing.

So, after serving his suspension and back in the lineup on the Habs opening night, a road game in Buffalo October 13th, he received a five-minute major, plus a match penalty for slew-footing the Sabres Johan Larsson in the waning seconds of the game. This case now is somewhat short of “smart.”

Still, regardless of who tripped who, or what was done when, the culprit in this typical dumb-bum case is the NHL. Why? When you have rules you enforce them. Geez, it’s the reason you have rules in the first place.

If the governing body wants to lean on a malcontent who defies the rules and treats them with continuing disdain of the governing body, in this case our NHL, then they are obliged to take it seriously and put the hammer down.

As I’ve said many times before and I will write again, the NHL’s up-side in this scenario is the start of the season, the perfect time to set the tone and mete out tough justice. If that decision is reached and applied, it should be all the wake-up call necessary.

Well, the NHL may be “obliged” to grudgingly dole out penalties and suspensions, but following up has never been their trademark, and they’ve stuck to their usual distance in this case. Stephane Quintal, heading up the NHL’s the Department of Player Safety, thought “a chat” about the situation, and the problem’s it presents, would be rough enough for Shaw. Really?

No fine, no suspension, no penance required.

After the “educational” meeting Shaw emerged sounding anything but contrite, instead coming across cocky and cavalier. “… I tripped the guy, but it wasn’t vicious,” he said. He sounded like many other hard-done by players explaining away their treatment or suspension.

The bare-faced truth is slew-footing is dangerous, no matter how gently it’s applied. It’s sort’a like a “soft head-hit” thrown at a player such as Sydney Crosby. It doesn’t take much to end a career, and it’s disappointing to hear a selfish position taken by a player who considers himself a “stand-up guy.”

Well, it’s still early, the perfect time to set the standard for the rest of the NHL season to enforce their rules, and put players on notice, before the playoffs loom and the crying towels come out.

The NHL “hands off” theory has been tried before, often in fact, by the Bettman regime.

And, it’s downright disappointing to see them back down from their responsibilities all over again.