Warning! NHL officials are taking fighting out of our beloved sport. Bruins fans know this is not a good idea. The last road trip both Adam McQuaid and Zdeno Chara, on two different nights, sparked the Bruins play with their well fought bouts. Let’s start by acknowledging that fighting has statistically declined since the 2012 NHL season. An educated hockey enthusiast can only assume this a shot across the bow from the NHL, now mandating officials to take NHL hockey by way of the European, finesse style of play. This makes hockey more palatable for national networks which translates into contracts and revenue. But if you’re a hockey purist, you’re not happy. Although, there is another hockey fan base out there that IS happy about this. To them, we must say they haven’t been watching hockey long enough to know what benefits fighting brings to the sport. For example:
- Keeping players honest and accountable.
- Someone taking a run at a defenseless teammate.
- Sparking a team if the puck is not bouncing their way.
- If a team is down on the scoreboard.
- To slow the opponents momentum.
Consider Wayne Gretzky, arguably the best player of all time. Fighting is what kept him in the NHL and allowed him to flourish and dominate without the threat of an opposing player taking a run at him. Even with the Kings, he had teammates to keep opponents honest and accountable. Otherwise, he may have been a victim of concussions possibly forced to retire early like so many have since the changing of culture.
This season officials are taking it upon themselves, at the onset of battles to step in and break it up. Not allowing any fighting to happen. The issue with this was on clear display December 29th, 2016 at the TD Garden. Bruins vs Buffalo. Adam McQuaid seething, sought out Sabre William Carrier, who injured David Backes with a dirty hit (resulting in a concussion). McQuaid was attempting to respond as the officials stepped in. They held McQuaid’s arms, but no one got in front of Carrier, allowing him to freely deliver uncontested blows to McQuaid. Carrier did not receive any fine or disciplinary action for the hit from the Department of Player Safety.
McQuaid held by Officials gets flurried by Carrier 12/29/16
NHL officials this season have been more noticeable than any other season in recent memory. As sports fans, we know that if the story line of the game focuses on the officials and their calls (or lack thereof), it’s not a good thing. We as hockey fans know what penalties look like when we see one. We know what types (major, minor or double minor). This year has been a spin of the wheel when the whistles blown. When we see the replays and it confirms we’re not losing our minds we think to ourselves, there are four officials at ice level in the middle of the action, that’s four sets of eyes. What are they looking at?
The big issue is what is not being called by officials in the waning minutes of a game as compared to the early minutes. I’m all for the “let them play” style, but at whose discretion and at what point of the game does this style kick in or expire? Goaltender interference has been practically removed from hockey’s rule book. Players make no attempt to slow up whilst crashing the net. Players get praised for it by coaches, teammates and fans. Then we’re appalled when a goalie chops a player in the leg and takes a team penalty for it. He’s fed up and who can blame him? The mauling of players in opponents crease. The list keeps going on folks.
The Bruins visited the Predators Jan 12th where the officials assessed a major penalty on Bruin Anton Blidh. Watching the replay, Blidh appeared to finish his check on Roman Josi as he was moving the puck out of his defensive zone. The league office will decide Blidh’s fate.
Officials assess Blidh a five-minute major for Josi hit 1/12/17
In the Bruins previous game in St. Louis I saw a defenseless Patrice Bergeron hit head first into the boards from behind that was a minor penalty. In the same game, I saw David Krejci cross checked then take a high stick resulting in two stitches in the forehead. No penalty. This tells me I don’t know what a penalty is anymore.
This troubling state of officiating is reaching a fever pitch here in Boston. We support a team known for fighting, it’s who we are it’s in our blood. The Big Bad Bruins. To think our beloved sport is turning into the European style, no checking league, is unthinkable. We live and breathe Bruins hockey.
Implementation of the Department of Player Safety 2011
Commissioner Gary Bettman named Brendan Shanahan Head of Department of Player Safety after the 2011 Finals and fines and suspensions went on the rise and fighting started the downward trend.
Today it’s no longer Brendan Shanahan or Colin Campbell.
Your NHL Department of Player Safety;
- Damian Echevarrieta, VP of Player Safety
- Stephane Quintal, Senior VP of Player Safety
- Patrick Burke, Director
- Chris Pronger, Director
Here’s a peek of the NHL Office in New York City
Let’s hope the second half of this season sees consistent officiating as we know that fighting is statistically trending downwards. We know that of all the four major sports, hockey is the lowest rated. The NHL has tried everything to get that bump in viewership. Lets just hope the next strategy from the Dept. of Player Safety is not to make hockey a non-contact sport.