Friday, March 20, 2009

NHL-NHLPA At Odds Over Fighting/Rules

1) Any regular reader of this blog knows the stance of us and FR on the fighting issue. IE: That it not only should NEVER be eliminated, but it should be expanded/encouraged if/when possible. We were dismayed/outraged at the recent GM meetings where they discussed ways to curb fighting, especially 'staged fights'. If anyone can definitively tell when a fight is staged let us know. Players may chat before a whistle, but that largely is due to the rules that fights can't commence before a face-off, else additional penalty minutes in the form of a misconduct will result. Thus players often will banter/discuss of when they will fight. Is that staged? Hardly. Its not like pro wrestling where they have already mapped out the others moves for the benefit/entertainment of the crowd. Its still done for a reason. The end result entertains, but its not why they are fighting.

2) Meanwhile the NHLPA, under Paul Kelly specifically stated BEFORE the GM meetings that the players main issue was somehow working with the NHL to try to curb head shots NOT fighting. As an aside we believe the reduction of fighting will only make head shot MORE prevalent! We also have to add that we doubt that the GM's were the force behind these measures. Clearly came down from on high (Gary Bettman) The results of the meetings indicate that the league will try to reduce the number of fights. Specifically they came up with three specific changes to the rules:

  • Calls for the linesmen to stop a fight if/when a helmet comes off. This silly rule change can be traced directly to the unfortunate death of an amateur hockey player falling during a fight and ultimately dying from the head injury. Yes, players sometimes do fall during fights and injury results, but we doubt that helmets would help. secondarily, its part (at least it used to be) part of the code to remove ones helmet(or have it torn off by your adversary) during a fight to prevent injury to a hand. We would have preferred a new rule that gives an automatic penalty to players who fight with a visor!

  • More instigator penalties for fights that result after a hard, but clean check. Another dumb rule. OK, first off, if they want an instigator penalty fine, but lets make it what it used to be, an extra 2 minutes. As for determining why a fight started it gives too much discretion for refs to decide on motivation. Refs do best when they are given fewer options.

  • A 10-minute misconduct for "staged" fights. As mentioned in our opening remarks, we felt this to be absurd. More ref discretion to decide whether a fight is legit or staged. No doubt the league will be especially hard on traditional enforcer type players. This in our opinion is a veiled method to eliminate fighting without actually ruling on it. This will almost totally eliminate the role of enforcers as we believe the league/refs will be especially hard on those type players, defacto eliminating their jobs

3) So instead of trying to change/alter existing rules to reduce head shots as the players wanted, the GM's made rules changes that the players did NOT advocate. Most disturbing to the NHLPA was that the GM's, and the NHL itself under the 2005 CBA can NOT change rules unilaterally. Only the competition committee, made up by players and GM's can make new rules. The NHL doesn't believe it even needs to be voted on because it believes it's not a new rule. The GM's also did not support an NHLPA proposal for a new rule that would penalize hits to the head. Its expected that the players on the competition committee will bring it up during their next meeting in June. The union states it won't let this go. Anyone already see cracks in the 'partnership Bettman likes to talk flowery about between the players and NHL? Sounds like he has his own agenda and the players best stay out of his way. Napoleon has spoken!

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