Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Just When I Thought That I Was Out, They Pull Me Back In

Michael Corleone said that. He was talking about the mob, I'm talking hockey.

People have been asking me this week what I thought about the Jordin Tootoo punch and I hate continually complaining about the state of the NHL, but here we go again. I think it's a typical Jordin Tootoo play. First he takes a 5 to 7 stride run at Mike Modano with his elbow up (I don't think there's enough being made of the intial hit on Modano, where there was at least an elbow and probably a charge in there as well), then turns around and cold-cocks Stephane Robidas, knocking him unconscious.

I've said it before, so I won't go into detail again, but this perfectly illustrates the complete lack of respect that some players have for other players and for the game. It's definately not all players and in all honesty it's probably a very small minority, but they are continually dragging the NHL through the mud. Incidents like this and players like Tootoo (who has contributed a whopping 7 points in 61 games to his team) are indicative of a very real problem that is affecting the NHL.

Because I can't stand writers who point out problems and flaws and provide no solutions. Well I'll be honest, I have no solution. I do think it's something that begins and ends with the players themselves. The onus is on them to change their attitudes about the way they play the game.

That all being said...

I feel I need to set something straight while I'm on this subject. I fear as though I'm coming across as someone who wants fighting and physicality taken out of the game. And if I am coming across that way, I'd like to say for the record that I don't think those things should be taken from the game. Those things are part of what makes hockey hockey and part of why I've followed this game for so many years. What I have a problem with are hits to the head and players who lack respect.

Take a look at this fight from last night in the game between Toronto and New Jersey. This was Wade Belak sending a message to Cam Janssen for the hit he put on Tomas Kaberle (see previous entry for more details). I'd say this has to be the fight of the year and maybe the fight of the last five years. This sends a person back to the days of old-time hockey and it's an example of why there should still be physicality in the game - the fans and the players both loved it. Two willings guys going toe to toe for over a minute, complete with Janssen waving the linesman away - I know I ripped Janssen for his hit on Kaberle, but I have to admit that was great to see him waving them off. And how perfect was it that the fight took place at center ice?

Moments like the Belak/Janssen fight still give a person hope for the game. And they're part of the reason that, somewhere, deep in my heart, I still love the game.

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