Monday, November 27, 2006

 

"hockey + lack of critical thinking"

(Updated at bottom)

Adam Proteau of The Hockey News:
I don’t know Ron MacLean. By all accounts, he’s a very nice man who loves the game as much as anyone. But for him to appear on Leafs Lunch radio in Toronto Thursday and imply the NHL’s crackdown on obstruction has created a dangerous working environment for the players – well, that’s just laughable.

Since Proteau's full-time job is analyzing hockey and producing content for a paid publication, he follows this up with a bunch of evidence... bwaaa, hahaha. Of course he doesn't: he just points out that Maclean works with Don Cherry (zing!), and spends the final two-thirds of the piece saying that the only possible reason Ron Maclean could have a problem with things now is that he's resistant to change. Ta-dah!

This ignorant piece is a perfect example of the sorry state of what at times has been considered the "Hockey Bible", but which in 2006 carries absolutely no such cachet. What exactly are they doing at THN to make themselves indispensable to hockey fans? Shouldn't a bunch of hockey watchers, freed from the constraints of day-to-day reporting on specific teams, be producing the most interesting hockey stuff to read? How is it that I read dozens of hockey blogs every day, and yet the only references to what is ostensibly THE hockey periodical are from Lowetide rooting through his back issues?

I'm not defending Maclean's opinion exactly: for one, he doesn't need me, and for two, I don't know that he's right. But it's certainly possible: why shouldn't less holding/more skating lead to more open ice hits, and thus more head shots & injuries? Is that thought ridiculous? You may prefer it that way, many do. If everything reverted, I might.

But, I have ten bucks that says Adam Proteau doesn't know the answer to, "True or False: there have been fewer concussions since the obstruction crackdown." He can laugh away, but he doesn't know.

Here's a spreadsheet that you'll probably find interesting. Colby Cosh, as background for a column in the Western Standard & Mining Stock Brochure, collated the "Iron Man" streaks for the 21 franchises that have been playing since the WHA merger. Check it out, and squint as long as you want, but not one of them has occurred even in part in a year beginning with '2'. I'd like everyone who scoffs at Don Cherry's dangerous old-school attitude to at least pretend to wonder why the Leafs' consecutive games record is held by Tim Horton (dead for 32 years), or why the Oilers' record is held by the guy famous for being the last helmet-less player in the league.

I readily admit that I'm not the guy who sits around worrying about the health and safety of NHL players. But nonetheless, these are serious issues, and they deserve serious, informed analysis -- not just sneering dismissal of people who've been around the game for dozens of years, and yelling MANDATORY VISORS! at the top of your lungs. Laughable, indeed.

UPDATE: This is so completely on topic, I'm not sure why I didn't bring it up earlier. Cosh's most recent WS column online (free reg.) is Revenge of the Prissy Paranoids, which dissects a "senseless and unjust" piece by SI's Michael Farber:
Can Farber's argument really be that the new stick blades are safe, but are inherently deplorable on safety grounds, simply because the NHLPA and its members approve of them? So it seems. "There are so many other safety issues, including the reluctance to make visors mandatory for players entering the league, the absence of no-touch icing... and a permissiveness about how loosely chin straps of the helmets can be worn, that the extra quarter-inch on a blade might not scream out as No. 1 on the to-do list," he writes, without explaining how the issue got onto the "to-do list" at all in a total vacuum of data.

Go read the whole thing, for as he says, "...it's rare to witness the birth of a particular, irrational safety panic."

Comments:

Interesting comments. I too would have to agree with MaClean somewhat. I'm certainly seeing players putting themselves in vunlerable positions more often in open ice. However, my concern is along the boards. In the past, if a player turned their back to protect themselves from a hit, the defending player would normally "wrap up" and guide them to the boards, so as not to break their neck. Now, that's a penalty and players are told to keep two hands on their stick. I think this will lead to some serious injuries for the players. It's all fine in theory to cut down on holding and interference but let's make sure it's for the right reasons.
 


Part of the reason why the only player on that list still in the game is Brind'Amour is increased player mobility. Karlis Skrastins is about to overcome Horton's record for most consecutive games as a defenseman, but because he's split those 454 games over two teams, he's not on the list.

Honestly, not that many guys are playing 400 games with the same team these days, consecutive or not.
 


And, just as I say that, I see that Trevor Linden's also on the list, so Brind'Amour's not the only one still playing. I would kill for a way to edit comments, but oh well.
 


The problem from a safety standpoint - as well as an entertainment standpoint - is that My New NHL is more roller derby than hockey. Where once rosters were filled with guys whose only "talent" was to fight, today's rosters are littered with "energy players," which is a euphemism for "handles the puck like a grenade, has a shot that wouldn't break a pane of glass, but spends 12 hours a day in the training room, takes 35-second shifts and staples somebody to the boards every time out." When I was 10, I liked it. It was called roller derby.
 


Honestly, not that many guys are playing 400 games with the same team these days, consecutive or not.

Was there a time when a lot of guys played 400 games with the same team?
 


Was there a time when a lot of guys played 400 games with the same team?

Actually, quite frequently from the Original Six era up until about the last round of expansion. Don't forget, the NHL has had at least a 70-game schedule since 1949-50, excepting the lockout years.

I've said it before, and I'll say it again: Grapes is right about the Goddamned hard plastic shoulder pads. These guys aren't being shot at with bullets, they're being shot at with pucks. I rewatched the Good Friday brawl between the Habs and Nordiques back in '84, and as they filed off to the dressing room to simmer (and plot revenge for a late punch, as the case may be), it struck me that they actually looked like they were normal people under their jerseys, not football players.
 


doogie:
I watched the game on one of the classic channels 2 years ago and I almost forgot the game was taped. Enjoyed that immensely. I would love to see the Oilers/Flames series from the '80s and early '90s.
 


If you ever get a chance to see the 72 series take a look.

The players look like a lot of the guys I play hockey with Saturday nights.

And its a different game - at the end of game 8 (@three minutes left) with it tied up some Canadian, can't recall who, tries to beat three guys coming out of the zone. He gets by two, loses the puck, the Russians get a chance and the same guy gets it back and does it again.

Its pretty funny shit.

But yeah Cosh, back in the day I would say there were a lot of guys who played 400 games with the same team. Even those Oilers teams from the 80s - I'll bet you'd have quite a few who played 400+.

Not consecutive mind you.
 


The Hockey News is HF Boards with a printing press.



I've wondered the same thing though Andy, you'd think a publication which is being threatened by the internet might change it's focuss somewhat and bring some coverage that few people on the net are doing.

But hey, there's enough truly insightful hockey commentary in the blogosphere that THN's failings don't really concern me.
 


AK: The great thing about that game is that it wasn't just the brawl. If I remember correctly, that was also the game that saw the Habs score five third-period goals to take the game and the series. I've only seen YouTubes of the brawl and the third-period highlights, but it's become one of my "games to seek out" if I ever get around to subscribing to the NHL Network (the one power that might break the spell of WoW over me). Really, any of the big rivalry games between Montreal-Quebec, Montreal-Boston, and Calgary-Edmonton.
 


Well, if you put it that way, 400 games is only five seasons, so I doubt there is any less of a tendency for good players to put in that many somewhere. If they were good why wouldn't someone hang onto them that long? Even Paul Coffey, probably the most-travelled of great players, put in 500+ for the Oilers (including close to 400 in a row, since we're on the subject).

What I'd suggest is that there is a strong tendency to look back on most players from the past as one-team guys. People forget that Orr played in Chicago, that Serge Savard played in Winnipeg, that Marcel Dionne didn't start or finish in L.A., etc., etc.

A lot of these records should be vulnerable under any system of player rights or collective bargaining. The Flames' franchise record for consecutive GP is only 257 games, and yet it's still stuck in Atlanta. I don't know what the best explanation for this might be, but it's not player movement.
 


You're right there Cosh - so many guys are identified with one team but spent their first season or two elsewhere or in more cases, their last season or two. As LT always points out Montreal did that a lot, moved out some guy on his last legs to the Kings for a pick they would turn into another star player.

And nowadays - who - Yzerman and Daneyko are two guys who just retired. Richter did.

Sakic. Brodeur. Anyone else look to?
 


You're right there Cosh - so many guys are identified with one team but spent their first season or two elsewhere or in more cases, their last season or two. As LT always points out Montreal did that a lot, moved out some guy on his last legs to the Kings for a pick they would turn into another star player.

And nowadays - who - Yzerman and Daneyko are two guys who just retired. Richter did.

Sakic. Brodeur. Anyone else look to?
 


Stevens and Bourque (defensemen!) both played in the neighbourhood of 1500 games with the same team.

Ryan Smyth is in his 11th full season (739 GP) with the same team. Jarome Iginla is in his 10th full season (730 GP) with the same team. Alfredsson (11, 730). Sundin has been a Leaf for 12 years (850 GP). This is Saku Koivu's 11th season with the only NHL team he's ever had. Olaf Kolzig played his first game as a Cap in 1989-90.

etc. etc. etc.
 

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