Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Here we go again... sigh.

It would be nice to go one season without a Todd Bertuzzi incident, a Marty McSorley one ... and now we have to add a Chris Simon one to the list.

I've always believed that hockey is a physical game without being a truly violent one. I don't think we can deny that the violence we see (and which gets aired so prominently during the highlights) is a part of the game, but at the same time, it's not what the game is about. Make sense?

That said, there's been too many "isolated incidents" for those who don't get the game to avoid jumping to certain conclusions. I'm very uncomfortable of this offhanded dismissal of hockey as a goon's sport, a sport where it's-ok-if-they-fight-because-they're-all-white-men-not-like-the-NBA.

What I think is problematic is that for players, there's a lack of good options these days in response to a cheap hit or play. Can't pick a fight anymore with the same kind of impunity as before - that'll get you an instigator, that'll cost you a couple of days of pay, that'll cost your team. Can't rely on the officals to hand out a proper penalty - some things never change. And when players get frustrated, when they have to keep on bottling-up that ohhhhhh-I-hate-that-pest-and-I-want-back emotion, they're only human. Eventually even they will boil over. They're professionals, they're not saints.

As for the Simon case specifically? I like Chris Simon. He was a fan favourite during his time in Calgary, and even now, none of his ex-teammates or coaches, or even the local media have been anything but supportive of him. A guy like that might not be perfect (not with his career PIMs and previous suspensions, he's not), but he also deserves to have his story considered as well.

I don't like the suspension. I don't dispute that it was deserved, but I don't like that it's so long. Yes, it was a dangerous and stupid move on Simon's part, but Hollweg walked away from the entire thing and was able to (nervously) laugh about it afterwards. This is not a Steve Moore by any means, lucky for Simon. I can think of players who get put out for weeks, with their assailants getting only the rest of the night off, tops. This is the league making an example out of Simon. This is all about optics.

I would be happier with his punishment if there was some acknowledgement that Hollweg's hit on him wasn't entirely kosher. I'm not familar with Hollweg particularly, but listening to the players around the league talk about the incident, you can hear the subtext...here's a guy who's a superpest who now gets to bother other players without fear, without any brakes. Here's a guy who could be dangerous, take things too far, and be on the receiving end of a suspension himself if somebody doesn't stand up to him on the ice. So Simon got the 10 min intent to injure.... let's see Hollweg get at least a two-minute token unsportsmanlike. It's not like he's going to be skating for those two minutes, anyways.

If the league wants to curb violence in the game, be it players lashing out at each other, or outright brawling, then they have to make the players who are making the dirty plays and the dirty hits accountable for their actions. I don't care if it's a penalty on the ice, or punitive fines after. Our guys aren't perfect, we shouldn't expect them to be, and hell, that's the way I like them.


Heather B. said...

I don't have a problem with Simon's suspension - just because Hollweg got up and walked away, it doesn't mean the next guy is going to and I'm fine with the league using preventitive measures - but I do agree with your overall point. Refs either miss or let too much go and I think it gets to guys. There are tons of hits I would consider boarding or hitting from behind that get nothing. I think this was partly to blame for the Buffalo/Ottawa situation getting so far out of hand. Buffalo thought Neil's hit on Drury was bad and was looking for a penalty. They didn't get one and all hell broke loose. It doesn't really excuse what happened afterward - just like Hollweg's hit doesn't excuse Simon - but it does make things a little understandable atleast.

Teebz said...

Leanne, I am not defending what Simon did as it was truly an act of cowardice. However, I believe the answer lies with the Anaheim Ducks.

The Ducks currently lead the league in major penalties by a whopping margin. They lead the league in fights by a whopping margin. There's no coincidence here. This is why no one lays a hand on Ryna Getzlaf, Cory Perry, Teemu Selanne, or Andy McDonald. If you do, you know someone is coming for you.

I'm not saying fighting is the answer to all problems in hockey, but I am saying that the instigator penalty has been used less and less in recent years. In that case, follow Anaheim's lead. If I saw someone do to a teammate what Simon did to Hollweg, I don't care if it was Dave Brown... it would be lights-out for one of us.

Sherry said...

I would be happier with his punishment if there was some acknowledgement that Hollweg's hit on him wasn't entirely kosher.

I agree. I'm not saying that it justified Simon's behaviour or anything, but Hollweg is hardly a perennial Lady Byng candidate himself.