Welcome to a weekly grab bag of thoughts and observations from the past few days and/or decades of NHL hockey.
The Three Stars of Comedy
Recognizing the NHL personalities from around the league who produced the most comedic fodder for fans.
The third star: Joffrey Lupul elbows his own teammate
Here’s Lupul trying to deliver a flagrant elbow to Henrik Sedin’s head, getting confused, and taking out Nazem Kadri instead. Which is an odd mistake to make, since I’m pretty sure there was a player in that game who look more like Henrik Sedin than Kadri does.
The second star: Alexander Ovechkin blinds his own teammate
Congratulations on your first NHL point, rookie! Don’t mind me as I mash this towel full of shaving cream directly into your eyeball. (That link is worth clicking just for the photo of a crazy-eyed Ovechkin stalking his prey.)
The first star: Corey Perry finds a loophole to avoid being injured by his teammates
Screw this, if everyone is going to keep injuring their own players, Corey Perry is just going to go hide out on the other team’s bench for awhile.
The One Star of Totally Not Comedy
Recognizing the NHL personality from around the league who produced the least comedic fodder for fans.
The first star: The drunk couple that stole Adam Pardy’s helmet then poured beer on him
That’s not funny, people! Totally classless move there by those Blackhawks fans. Inexcusable. Not even in the least bit humorous, I think we can all agree.
[Watches the clip 500 times while laughing so hard no sound comes out.]
What Is the Hockey World Pretending to Be Outraged About Now?
Nothing makes hockey folks happier than being outraged about something relatively unimportant. We’ll pick one topic fans are complaining about and try to figure out if it’s justified.
The Issue: The Flyers were losing a game 7-0, so goalie Ray Emery decided to skate the length of the ice and beat the snot out of Caps goalie Braden Holtby. Then, Emery wasn’t suspended because there was nothing in the NHL rulebook that said he could be.
The Outrage: Emery is a seasoned fighter. Holtby is not, and hadn’t done anything to provoke the attack. This wasn’t a hockey fight, it was a televised assault. The NHL has to do something!
Is It Justified: Yes, and we covered the reasons why earlier in the week. Beating up an opponent who doesn’t even know how to fight doesn’t make you a tough guy, and doing it when you’re seven goals down doesn’t send any sort of message beyond the fact that your team is terrible. Just about everyone who doesn’t have multiple Flyer neck tattoos has already agreed on that point.
But this is the NHL, which means no outrage would be complete without a bunch of proposed “solutions” that are completely over the top. In this case, the league is reportedly mulling a rule change that would treat goalies who leave their end of the rink to fight in the same way it treats players who leave the bench: with a 10-game suspension.
That’s overkill. Sure, it would prevent what Emery did. But it would also prevent every other goalie fight, including those when a goalie comes down to even out the numbers after his counterpart is already involved in a brawl in his own end. I’m sure I don’t need to remind you that goalie fights are awesome, but if the league passes this rule, they immediately become extinct.
It doesn’t need to be that way. The league already has a rule that covers what Emery did: Rule 46.2, the “aggressor” rule. But it couldn’t be used to fine or suspend Emery, because it stipulates that supplemental discipline only kicks in once a player has accumulated three aggressor penalties. That’s the part that doesn’t make sense — beating on an unwilling opponent should be suspendable.
So if you want to eliminate what Emery did, you don’t need to ban goalie fights outright. Just make it clear that the league has the discretion to suspend any player, goalie or otherwise, for being the aggressor in a one-sided fight. Then leave the rest up to Brendan Shanahan, who, after all, knows a thing or two about the good kind of goalie fights.
But instead of that obvious solution, the NHL is considering a rule change that would essentially end the goalie fight forever. I swear, Emery, if your dumb decision ends up ruining goalie fights for the rest of us, I’m going to … um … well, I’ll …
[Looks sheepishly at ground.]
… be mad, I guess. Quietly. Over here. Sorry to have troubled you, sir. Please don’t hit me.
Great Hockey Debates
In which we employ the Socratic method in an attempt to settle the issues that have plagued a generation of hockey fans.
This Week’s Debate: On Tuesday night, the Sharks put the puck into the Sabres net during overtime, only to see the goal waved off because of the “intent to blow” rule. Is it time for the league to get rid of the rule once and for all?
In Favor: Of course. The rule is confusing and rarely necessary, and in the handful of cases in which it’s called, it just ends up making the league look ridiculous. It should go.
Opposed: No, they should keep it.
In Favor: How can you say that? Look at what happened in the Sharks game. That was a clear goal, waved off on a technicality because of some obscure rule that few fans even understand. How can that be a good thing?
Opposed: Well, they should still keep it.
In Favor: But the rule doesn’t even cover what it says it does. It’s supposed to deal with instances when the puck crosses the line during the fraction of a second between when a referee makes up his mind to blow the whistle and when he actually does. But look how much time elapsed on that Sharks goal. You could hand a whistle to a newborn baby and they’d figure out how to make a sound with it more quickly than that.
Opposed: I still think they should keep it.
In Favor: OK, fine, we get that. But why?
Opposed: Excuse me?
In Favor: This is the part where you’re supposed to present an actual counterargument.
Opposed: Oh, that. Yeah, I didn’t bother to come up with one.
In Favor: Oh.
Opposed: Yeah, sorry man. The side they gave me to argue this week is impossible.
In Favor: So you didn’t even try to come up with an argument?
Opposed: Well, I was going to.
In Favor: But you didn’t.
Opposed: Yeah, but I totally meant to.
In Favor: But you didn’t …
In Favor: …
Opposed: But I intended to.
In Favor: [Sigh.]
Opposed: That counts, right?
In Favor: No. No it does not. That would be stupid.
Opposed: Oh yeah, you’re right.
The Final Verdict: I intended to make this debate seem like it had two sides. That should be good enough for the NHL.
What Has Don Cherry Gone and Done Now?
Whether it’s Coach’s Corner, his regular media appearances, or a Twitter account that’s presumably meant to be performance art, Don Cherry is everywhere. What has he been up to this week?
Don Cherry didn’t do much this week, other than wear a plain yet tasteful brown suit that made my wife angry for some reason.
But a few years ago, Cherry decided to weigh in on Toronto’s municipal election results. Specifically, he wanted to share his opinion of the city’s new mayor, a delightful young go-getter by the name of Rob Ford. And in light of recent events, some folks figured they’d go back and revisit those thoughts:
You have to give him credit. Even when he turns out to be wrong, Don Cherry still has a knack for finding exactly the right words.
Canadian Olympic Panic Watch
Canadians love three things: rolling up the rim, ruining American pop music, and freaking out about our Olympic hockey teams.
This week, Canadian hockey fans are panicking about P.K. Subban, the Montreal Canadien who won last year’s Norris Trophy as the best defenseman in the league.
You’d think that the league’s reigning Norris winner would be a lock to make any country’s Olympic team, but apparently that’s not the case for Subban. TSN insider Darren Dreger recently went so far as to call him a “long shot.” That’s at least partly because, while he’s a dynamic offensive force, Subban has a reputation as an occasional liability in his own end.
The Canadiens aren’t helping him there, often turning to blueliners like Douglas Murray and Francis Bouillon late in games, leaving Subban to sit on the bench in the final minutes. It’s a decision that could best be described as curious, and now it may be having an impact on his Olympic chances.
To put it kindly, this is inconceivably dumb. Subban is one of the best defensemen in the world, period, and even the idea that he wouldn’t be invited to Sochi is shaping up to be this year’s example of Team Canada execs overthinking things. It’s not quite Zamuner-level bad, but it’s bad. If you don’t want Subban on the ice with a one-goal lead in the dying seconds of the gold medal game, that’s fine — use Duncan Keith or Shea Weber or whoever else.
But before you can protect a lead, you need to get one, and Subban’s one of the best defensemen in the world at helping that happen. He needs to be on the team.
Awesome and/or Horrific Old YouTube Clip of the Week
In addition to being a great source of adorable pets and functionally illiterate commenters, YouTube is a gold mine for old hockey clips. In this section we find one, and break it down in way too much detail.
The big story next week will be the Hall of Fame induction of four NHL legends, including Chris Chelios. The big story of last week was a Flyers goalie being violent. You can probably figure out where this is going.
• Welcome to May 11, 1989. It’s the dying moments of Game 6 of the Wales Conference final between Montreal and Philadelphia, and the Canadiens hold a 3-2 series lead and a 4-2 lead in the game. They’re about to win and advance to the Stanley Cup finals. But first, Flyers goalie Ron Hextall has a little unfinished business to take care of. Roll the tape!
• Hey, it’s a Mats Naslund sighting. Am I the only one who, to this day, cannot hear his name without repeating “Mats Naslund???” to myself in incredulous Don Cherry voice? That’s totally normal behavior, right?
• “Out of the penalty box comes Sutter.” Fun fact: In the 1980s, those words edged out “He shoots, he scores” as the most common phrase uttered by hockey broadcasters.
• And there’s Hextall, charging out to jump Chelios. This was payback for this brutal elbow Chelios had thrown on Flyers veteran Brian Propp in Game 1. Let’s play a round of “how many games would that hit be in 2013?” I’m going to say 15. In 1989, Chelios didn’t even get a penalty.
• Feel free to pause it at the 15-second mark and enjoy referee Don Koharski breaking out one of the all-time great “Everyone chill out, I GOT THIS!” moves.
• So Hextall delivers a flying blocker punch, and then just kind of falls on top of Chelios while everyone piles on. He really doesn’t do all that much. Nobody on the ice really does. This whole thing is kind of a letdown …
• … except for the two guys in the front row at 45 seconds, who are getting ready to THROW DOWN!
• Seriously, check out the guy in blue standing next to the old guy in the tan shirt. He takes an elbow in the chest, then hilariously attempts to politely correct the behavior. “I’m sorry sir, your elbow has inadvertently struck my torso, perhaps you would be more comfortable if I positioned it over here for you …”
• Tan shirt guy’s response? Another elbow, directly into the ribs, and he makes sure to hold eye contact the whole time. Never change, Philadelphia sports fans.
• Nice blocker toss, Ron.
• Perhaps inspired by tan shirt guy’s enthusiasm, the players on the ice decide to continue the festivities. Philadelphia’s Dave Poulin pairs off with Montreal’s Bobby Smith, which doesn’t seem like a great idea because Smith is roughly six inches taller. But never fear, Dave, I’m sure Kjell Samuelsson is on the way over and will help you!
• Or, maybe he’ll skate over and just awkwardly hump the small of your back. Huh. Interesting choice there, Kjell. I don’t want to tell you how to do your job but maybe go with “help” next time.
• And now Samuelsson is trying to literally climb on top of Smith. Has Samuelsson ever actually seen a hockey fight before? I kind of wish they’d kept the camera on him, because I want to see what else he was going to do. I feel like he’s 30 seconds away from putting down a piece of cardboard and trying out some break-dancing moves.
• Somehow Hextall is still on the ice, and he makes a half-hearted attempt to go after Canadiens goalie Patrick Roy, who is standing calmly at the blue line while he …
• WAIT, PATRICK ROY IS THE OTHER GOALIE DURING ALL OF THIS?
• How did Roy not fight Hextall during this brawl? This is an absolutely inexcusable missed opportunity. This is like the WWF having Hulk Hogan and Ric Flair in 1992 and then not booking them to headline WrestleMania.
• Oh hey, would now be a good time to mention that Hextall had trouble with French Canadian goalies? Too late.
• Seriously, here’s my quick ranking of the greatest upsets in hockey history: 5. David Volek eliminates the Penguins; 4. The 1991 Minnesota North Stars; 3. The Miracle on Manchester; 2; Belarus over Sweden; 1. (tie) Patrick Roy staying in his crease for this whole fight/The Miracle on Ice
• Roy is getting pelted with various beverages, so he skates out to the blue line. Personally, I think that’s a much better solution to that particular problem than the Kelly Hrudey option: hiding inside the net.
• “As much as this would have been Paul Holmgren’s style as a player, we’ve seen a lot more restraint from Paul Holmgren as a coach.” No doubt. I wonder whatever happened to that guy.
Hextall took a 12-game suspension for this one. By the way, that suspension is not to be confused with the time he took an eight-game suspension for trying to break Glenn Anderson’s arm (and getting Kent Nilsson instead). I feel like we didn’t appreciate the Ron Hextall era as much as we should have.