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Out of Love for the Game

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Old
04-11-2004, 09:29 PM
  #1
GoM
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Out of Love for the Game

Just some notes on what I think of the game of Hockey. No offense is intended, I hope none is taken. These are all my views, and I felt I had to say them
-Stuart

--------

I love hockey. I was never much into sports at a younger age, but once I caught onto the sports craze, football and hockey took my attention, and hockey much more. It's fast; players supremely skilled; my nation's official winter sport; the action is nearly unparalled; the rich history and tradition of the sport, along with it's bright future, are all qualities of the game that attracted me to it. What also helped was the fact that my hometown team was in the Conference Finals at the time, and playoff hockey is the best kind of hockey to turn new fans onto the game with. I've been a hardcore fan ever since, and like to consider myself somewhat in the know, if not a total nut.

Now, I have noticed within the past year or two, alot of fuss has been made regarding the present state of hockey. The 'trap', the defensive flair of the game, the expansion era, and the sorry state of affairs financially are all the most common complaints. Everyone this side of Robert Frost has their own opinion of what needs to be done to 'fix' the game. However, I believe that there is no 'quick fix' that can be done. The game evolves throughout decades, styles come and pass, players come and pass, and it goes through different stages. Back in the 40s and 50s, it was a largely defensive era, not too much different from today. In the 60s it began to change, and in the 70s it evolved more offensively, and in the 80s exploded. In the early 90s, offense was still a premium, but from the late 90s on, it's been evolving back into a defensive era, much faster than any previous evolvement. Since we as hockey fans have been 'treated' to 20-odd years of high-octane hockey, everyone is *****ing and moaning that the game is watered-down and a shadow of its former self today; I disagree. What would I do to fix it? Nothing. Not much *can* be done. Outlawing a skill (goalies playing the puck), changing the dynamics of the NHL game (larger ice surface), changing the dimensions of the NHL game (larger nets), among other ideas are stupid. No one change can fix it; I believe it has to evolve, as it always has so far. Granted, I don't believe there is much of a problem, but anyone who thinks making one simple change will return the game to it's 80s form is wrong, IMO. They may be right; who knows, but I think it's ludicrus. The only idea I've been in favour of is widening the blue lines and taking out the red line; I've seen the wider lines in action in the AHL, and the extra foot or two kept several plays onside. Not a huge difference, but I noticed it.

So, who's to blame for the 'mess' the game is in? In my opinion, nobody. Alot of people are on the Blame-Bettman bandwagon. I have no faults with them, I believe he should go too, but he's not the only reason. Granted, some of his ideas were mind-boggingly retarded (glowing pucks, anyone?), but he's brought the game to several new 'markets' and expanded the game somewhat. Several years down the line, Atlanta, Nashville, Columbus all have promising futures, while Phoenix, Carolina, San Jose, Tampa Bay and Florida have all enjoyed some form of success, and are poised on the way to it again. So, is expansion to blame? In my opinion, no. Although there were (correct me if I'm wrong) 23 or 24 teams when Bettman took the reigns, and 30 now, I don't believe the talent level has dropped at all. Since the early 90s, the USSR has fallen, and coupled with the willingness of Western European nations, there are about 8-12 new nations with players willing to try their hand at the NHL level. Although there have been more teams, there has also been a mass influx of more talent. Is relocation the problem? In a word, no. Fans of the Nordiques and Jets are crying bloody murder now (and then) for the removal of their franchises and want them back; any team that relocates back will be crying bloody murder too. The relocation game is a dangerous one, as there are always going to be many fans upset at what happened and wanting things returned to how they were. If a team moved, it's for a reason; the city wasn't big enough, didn't have a large enough following or wasn't smart enough in handling the team to keep it. I'd love to see the Jets and Nordiques back in, and maybe the Whalers too, but not at the extent of 3 other growing fanbases.

Do stats mean anything nowadays? The Martin Brodeur/NJ Devils debate is an ever-present one, and quite frankly I'm sick of it. I read an article in Sports Illustrated a few weeks ago about baseball being in the "asterisk era", as the suspicions of steroids render the recent clobbering of hitting records, among other things, are running rampant. In last week's SI, a fan wrote a letter in about the article. I don't have the issue with me, so I'll paraphase. Basically, what he said was why not 'asterisk' the whole history of baseball; all the pitching records before the disallowing of spitballs and the lowering of the mounds, etc. I believe it's the same with hockey; if we're going to discredit the talent and system of an entire organization, why not discredit the talent and system of the 1980s Oilers and Wayne Gretzky, or the 1970s Canadiens and Guy Lafleur, the 1960s-1970s Bruins and Bobby Orr and Phil Esposito, the 1960s Blackhawks and Bobby Hull. Every record has been set in its own era, and although the game has changed, and the above players' talent is undeniable, I find the 'suspiciousness' of todays defensive records stupifying. Boucher deserved ever second of his shutout streak; as did Frank Brimsek and Alex Connell back in the 1930's for their shutout streaks. Gretzky deserved every one of his 212 points in 1981-1982; as did Martin St Louis with his 94 in 2003-2004. The discrediting of certain records, achievements and talent is stupifying to me, as anyone who achieves those accolades likely deserves them.

Much like the issue of relocation, we have been spoiled, from an offensive standpoint. In the 1970s, 80s and early 90s, Orr, Hull, Gretzky, Lemieux, Lafleur, Bossy, Dionne, Potvin, Esposito 1&2, Messier, Kurri, Bure, Jagr and many more all were 'super-superstars'; some of the best talent the game has ever seen in one era. Since then, although there is a wide amount of offensive and defensive talent (from St Louis to Brodeur to Datsyuk to Kovalchuk to Pronger), there aren't as many 'super-superstars'. To me, it's unfair to 'expect' about 10-15 players of such rare calibre per 10-20 year period; we were treated back then. Now, everyone seems to be crying for a return of the 80s and the superstars, and the high-flying era, but I don't think there ever will be, or at least not to that extent. There may be, but the 80s was the major offensive decade in NHL history. In its early days, scoring was astronomical too (One-Eye Frank McGee had 134 goals in 45 games), the equipment and talent and speed was much lower than the 80s. To expect the 80s every decade is pointless; to expect the defensive 30s every decade is pointless. The game changes, and although it's nice to reflect back on what the game was like, the look towards a different future is just as worthy for me.

My last point is that of violence in the game. Since the early 90s on, violence (well, hockey's a violent sport, but illegal, cheap and disrespectful violence) has been on the rise. Samuelsson, McSorley and Bertuzzi all come to mind. However, the level of respect in the game has in my opinion shot way the hell down. It's the nature of sport to gain as much of an advantage as you can, as the objective is to win, but if you look back throughout hockey history, respect seemed so much higher. Sure, you had your occassional Eddie Shore, Ted Lindsay and co., but the league seemed to me, for th emost part, to be so much more respectful. Maybe that's because they had so much less equipment, but to me, and I'm sure to them, it was just a game that paid well. I'm not denying the love, passion or dedication of todays players, but in general the respect has declined tremendously, in my eyes. Men used to play this game, not boys.

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Old
04-11-2004, 09:40 PM
  #2
DownFromNJ
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Can I get an Amen?

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Old
04-11-2004, 10:28 PM
  #3
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The state of the game, succinctly.

Thank you for posting it.


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04-11-2004, 10:30 PM
  #4
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Amen

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Old
04-12-2004, 01:10 AM
  #5
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i have never agreed so much with one person's opinion on the state of the game.

right on dude. right on.

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Old
04-12-2004, 01:52 AM
  #6
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Good stuff, and not just because I agree with it.

Irony: One can, on occasion, find on HF a newer fan to the game describing seeing an NHL clip from a few years back and how much "slower and inferior" the game was back then. In the next sentence, the same poster will lament how bad the game is today.



While our sport is imperfect, it isn't nearly in the horrible state some would have you believe - neither on nor off the ice. That is, the sky is not falling, the league is not going to disappear anywhere, on that we can be certain.

And the timing of some of the (rehashed) complaints currently on the board - poor officiating, how to increase goal-scoring, ya-da, ya-da - at a time of the year when there are GREAT games on nightly, leads one to suspect that a few folks simply will never enjoy the game.

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04-12-2004, 02:05 AM
  #7
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I agree with a lot of what you had to say but I take issue with some of it as well, particularly about expansion.

I know you say that we are in a "defensive era" but it does make you wonder what would happen if you brought it down to 23 or 24 teams again. Suddenly teams actually have 2nd lines that can score and suddenly some of these 3rd and 4th line "defensive" specialists are forced out of the league to make room for the more skilled players. I know its all hypothetical but it makes you wonder.

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Old
04-12-2004, 02:39 AM
  #8
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...and teams would be able to scout each other much better and know what is coming. The coin flips both ways. One reason we have defensive hockey is because the talent is spread thin (which really is a weak argument with players literally coming from all over the world, now), but at the same time, teams get less time to scout each other, which means that anybody that changes lines (which is common in today's NHL) has a hand up on the opposition, and can throw something at them that they don't expect.

It's no surprize that Gretzky was Gretz. He came when the league started major expansion again, onto what was a stacked team in the Western Conference. Add the talent on the Oil to the decreased scouting time other teams had, and it's no surprize that the Oilers ran roughshod over the NHL. What is a surprize is that they only won 5 Cups over their greatest stretch.

~Crazed.

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Old
04-12-2004, 04:36 AM
  #9
Trottier
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Quote:
Originally Posted by thecooker
Suddenly teams actually have 2nd lines that can score and suddenly some of these 3rd and 4th line "defensive" specialists are forced out of the league to make room for the more skilled players. I know its all hypothetical but it makes you wonder.
Defensive specialists and lines have always been an integral part of every NHL team's roster. The highest scoring team in the history of the game - the Edmonton Oilers - had two lines of snipers (Gretzky, Messier, Kurri, Anderson, etc.) and two lines of checkers (Hunter, Linesman, etc.) and bangers (Semenko, Lumley, etc.). Their job, Sather used to say, was to hit and keep up the tempo of the game.

Besides, the skill level required to score in the NHL exists in excess on numerous teams. It's the systems that teams deploy today that is successful in reducing scoring, not talent. Look at the talent on Colorado's top two lines, for example. Then look at their scoring totals for this year. Collectively, good, but not great, injuries notwithstanding.

The scenario you offer suggests that a team would have three or four lines of offensive players playing pond hockey (little attention to defense) and simply trying to outscore the opponent. Wasn't the case when there were six teams in the league, wouldn't happen now. Besides, what fan would want to see the Pecas, Drapers, Konowalchuks, etc. pushed out? And who the heck wants to see the Marius Czerkawskis of the world (read: offensive, one-way players) on a third, "checking" line, with the responsibility of stopping Joe Thornton's line?

The theory that contraction will solve any of the NHL's problems is baseless, IMO.

Just my opinion.

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04-12-2004, 05:37 AM
  #10
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The Cheapshots didn't increadsed , it's just that now we see it every 45mins on TSN and also everywhere on the Web . The Media changed the way we see hockey and many GM's and people in the industry agree with that .

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04-12-2004, 12:40 PM
  #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Jozeph_Balej
The Cheapshots didn't increadsed , it's just that now we see it every 45mins on TSN and also everywhere on the Web . The Media changed the way we see hockey and many GM's and people in the industry agree with that .
Indeed. The media has more coverage of cheapshots than ever before, so it's not so much an increase in cheapshots as the increase in covering of said cheapshots.

I will also give an Amen to GoM's post.

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Old
04-13-2004, 11:06 AM
  #12
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Enjoyed the read. Good passion for hockey and safe, for the most part.

I agree that all the crazy rule changes are "ludicrous". Let's make the ice a big circle with 8feet wide goals. Woo hoo.

I think too that you hit on the only REAL issue with the game. RESPECT. I don't think players really respect each other less, but there is no FORCE in the game to temper the disrespect. You can go all the way back to the beginnings of the league and find guys willing to do any and everything they could to win. It is just the nature of sports. I remember hearing something about Bobby Clarke telling a guy in the face-off circle that if he touched clarke in a disrespectful way again, Clarke would carve his eye out with the stick. He tempered that player's disrespect. Men are going to take advantage of everything they can to WIN. That is why we even need rules, isn't it. I mean if there were NO rules then guys would certainly be willing to cross-check more or slam heads into boards and such. Sooooooo anyway, that is why we see the disrespect more today than before. Bettman and company, with the approval of the Owners and Players (somewhat), have removed the biggest TOOL that teams and players have for tempering disrespect. Teams used to protect their own players - serving notice, in a similar fashion as Clarke did above, that if you disrespect our players you will pay a price. The league understood these measures. The players understood these measures. And the fans understood these measures. Bettman and company did not understand these measures and it has hurt the game.

i do disagree with you ultimately. I think the game of the 80's and early 90's can be ushered back into the NHL. If they reverted back to those set of rules (pre-bettman era), the flow would return and scoring would increase.

I do agree that this generation of stars does not have the talent that 80s group had, but it is not as far off as the points and such would suggest. There isn't a Gretzky or Lemiuex in the group but there are a lot of top-tier players out there.

Regardless, good post! I would prefer you be the man in charge leading this league than what we currently have. Especially the way the media is given so much influence in steering things.


Last edited by AGraveOne: 04-13-2004 at 12:11 PM.
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Old
04-13-2004, 12:48 PM
  #13
kira
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Interesting comments all...

The lack of respect for other players is something that I've seen a lot of...but like someone said before me, this is nothing new...going back to the days of the "Broad Street Bullies" and even beyond that.

Respect is something that coaches and parents need to instill in their kids when they first start playing the game...it cannot be learned later on, it must be something that is drilled into the players from an early age.

I've been watching this game we love since the early 60's, and I've seen a lot of people and styles come down the pike...everything goes in cycles...and right now seems to be the cycle of defensive struggles and strong goaltenders...maybe the next turn in the cycle will bring back the high scorers...we don't know.

But we keep watching the game and keep our eyes open for the next star to shine...

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Old
04-13-2004, 03:58 PM
  #14
Trottier
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Jozeph_Balej
The Cheapshots didn't increadsed , it's just that now we see it every 45mins on TSN and also everywhere on the Web . The Media changed the way we see hockey and many GM's and people in the industry agree with that .
Agree. Yet another reason to KILL YOUR TV!

(Unless it's on during a game, of course. )

Quote:
Originally Posted by AGraveOne
I remember hearing something about Bobby Clarke telling a guy in the face-off circle that if he touched clarke in a disrespectful way again, Clarke would carve his eye out with the stick.
I recall reading a story about a Bruins/NYR playoff game, circa 1970. Early in the game, just before a faceoff in NYR's end, goaltender Ed Giacomin skated out to the B's center Derek Sanderson and said "We're going to get you tonight." NYR won the game (and series, I believe).


Last edited by Trottier: 04-13-2004 at 04:04 PM.
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Old
04-14-2004, 08:22 AM
  #15
Love Machine
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Great post

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