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The "Gretzky was protected" myth.

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06-25-2008, 04:36 PM
  #1
lextune
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The "Gretzky was protected" myth.

First off, I am still pretty new here, but I am very happy to have found this forum. There really does seem to be an impressive amount of knowledgeable Hockey historians/scholars here.

That being said, there is a still a fair amount of some pretty old and foolish myths floating around that I thought went away long ago....I guess not.

The number one of these aforementioned myths is that "Gretzky was protected". As a die hard Bruins fan of course I hated him, lol. But that did not prevent me from marveling at him.

The silliest part of the "protected" myth is that very few men in history have come into the league with a bigger target on them.

At every level Gretzky was called too small, as a 9 year old playing against 15 year old's; as an 17 year old playing against 25 year old's, etc. etc. etc. The solution to stopping him was simply going to be "to hit him". Gretzky himself has pointed out that this is how he learned to roll with hits and/or avoid them. But upon his entry into the NHL, "this was going to be the exception".

Now no one would say the Wayne was tough, lol. And he wasn't one who would "take the hit to make the play"....But that wasn't necessary. As I posted elsewhere in these forums:

Quote:
"The uncanny playmaking of Wayne seem to stem from his ability to see into the future. Wayne knew where everyone, and the puck, was; and where they were all going to be. Interestingly, it was this same ability that seemed to make it impossible to "line him up" for a monster hit. Something that everyone who called him "protected", failed to understand. He was elusive.
Every team in the league took their runs at him. That is not a protected guy. What would 'protected' even mean? Do people think that a memo went around the league; "Hey guys, don't hit Gretz too hard, ok?" I've known a few NHLer's over the years, and trust me, if you felt someone was 'protected' that would only serve to make them an even bigger target, lol. This is 'The Big Show" we're talking about here.

Occasionally, (rarely though it was), someone would catch him with his head down.

Witness: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=72oxwUo1T9E&NR=1

Again, not too tough, lol. But definitely not protected.

When/if Gretz had seen that coming he certainly would have peeled off and moved the pucked. Not "thrown it away" like many "soft players" through the years (I'm looking at you Craig Janney!). He was neither "soft", nor "protected", what he was was "not physical".

And for the most part, confronting a non-physical player with physicality not only failed but hurt your own team. An example of this tactic was to put a shadow on him, someone who would hit him as soon as the puck touched his stick, Gretz came up with all sorts of ways to make this tactic hurt you, he would go stand right next to another player on your team and you would be double teaming him, leaving teammates of his open...on and on and on.

Gretzky notoriously "under-performed" at the old Boston Garden (except in the '88 finals....tragically for me), in part because of it's small confines which gave him much less room to do his usual peel and turn away from hits, and also in part because of Steve Kasper, the only successful Gretzky "shadow" (again, except for the '88 finals ).

If you are still one of those who believes in the "protected" myth, do yourself a favor and catch a few games on ESPN Classic or the NHL network if you can. If you have a lick of Hockey sense you'll find it to be an enlightening experience, trust me....we all did back then and nothing has changed.


Last edited by lextune: 11-19-2010 at 04:45 PM.
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06-25-2008, 04:42 PM
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Welcome to HFBoards.

BTW, I don't think Gretzky was protected. He was simply better than everyone else.

He was elusive and brilliant enough to do what he did.

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06-25-2008, 04:59 PM
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Gretzky was protected by Gretzky. What I mean is some guys just respected him too much to play rough with him (mid to late 80's) not to mention the reffs would call a penalty on anyone who touched him. Last but not least Gretzky was protected and had protection, every star player with limited psyical ablitites is "protected".

Now I'm sure back in the early 80's Gretzky was smashed every now and then but even then he was protected.

Remember Gretzky was pretty much God in the 80's and he was the face of the NHL so with that said when you played Edmonton or LA in the 80's you knew the call was always going to favor Gretzky if he was given a minor hook or he was hit a little too hard. The last thing the NHL wanted was Gretzky getting his bell rung one too many times to end his career. Like I said, Gretzky protected Gretzky.

If you watch closely and just keep your eye on Gretzky on every shift in some of the older game you will notice he could have been put out of commisson cleanly toomany times. Hell, It was almost a conspiracy.

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06-25-2008, 05:06 PM
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I agree, mostly.

I don't think there was any league-wide conspiracy to make Gretzky untouchable...and he didn't really need it anyway.

BUT, I would argue that if someone touched Gretz and there was even the remotest possibility that it wasn't a 100% clean play, then it got called. And early in his career, Gretzky could rival Barber in the diving and whining department.

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06-25-2008, 07:01 PM
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We all agree that Crosby goes into the corners and mucks it up pretty good and is able to play a physical game. But how often does he get hammered? Not often. Almost never do we see an open ice hit on him. Trust me, nobody would think he doesnt get touched, but why does he never get crunched? Because like Gretzky, he alwas has his head up. He sees a hit coming, a defenseman pinching, an opening, stuff like that which no one else sees. He can anticipate a play with his vision. Which is why he rarely gets hit, and which is why Gretzky rarely did either

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06-25-2008, 07:12 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Big Phil View Post
We all agree that Crosby goes into the corners and mucks it up pretty good and is able to play a physical game. But how often does he get hammered? Not often. Almost never do we see an open ice hit on him. Trust me, nobody would think he doesnt get touched, but why does he never get crunched? Because like Gretzky, he alwas has his head up. He sees a hit coming, a defenseman pinching, an opening, stuff like that which no one else sees. He can anticipate a play with his vision. Which is why he rarely gets hit, and which is why Gretzky rarely did either
Crosby is a bulky guy for his size, hes pretty much all muscle and hes been "taken care of" his whole life. when I say that I mean he's had trainers and nutrition experts working for him since he was 9-10 ect. He's basically a hockey machine the same goes for AO.

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06-25-2008, 07:37 PM
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Originally Posted by Big Phil View Post
We all agree that Crosby goes into the corners and mucks it up pretty good and is able to play a physical game. But how often does he get hammered? Not often. Almost never do we see an open ice hit on him. Trust me, nobody would think he doesnt get touched, but why does he never get crunched? Because like Gretzky, he alwas has his head up. He sees a hit coming, a defenseman pinching, an opening, stuff like that which no one else sees. He can anticipate a play with his vision. Which is why he rarely gets hit, and which is why Gretzky rarely did either
Sort of.

Crosby's vision does keep him from getting hit; however, if he relied on that alone he'd still get hammered often. This isn't the wide-open 1980's.
Crosby rarely gets crunched because he has the best balance in the league. His lower body strength is unparalleled. He rarely gets hit/knocked off the puck because it's difficult to overpower such a strong low center of gravity.

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06-25-2008, 07:40 PM
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I know the presence of the neanderthal Semenko was for hockey talent.You must be kidding me. From an Oilers blog:

http://oilerslegends.blogspot.com/20...e-semenko.html


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06-25-2008, 07:42 PM
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I find that the Gretzky detractors are usually fans of teams that he burned. (ie. Flames and Leafs fans)

Thinking that the Refs were protecting him by some kind of directive from the league President is such BS that it wreaks with ignorance. Ever hear of anti-trust suits? If there were a conspiracy put forth by the league to protect Gretzky, the NHL would've been brought to its knees by a major lawsuit.

Keep on smokin' Cheech & Chong.

Gretzky played Lacrosse as a kid in the off seasons and that helped him to learn how to roll off of a hit and how to avoid hits. Betchya didn't know that.

He also played in the era where the instigator penalty was not enforced. So yeah, if you hit him, you had Semenko or McClelland or McSorley or sometimes all-three to deal with!

Lemieux also had plenty of body guards and the Bruins weren't exactly a group of choir boys.

Every star player has protection, if they don't then their GM should be looking for a new job.

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06-25-2008, 07:51 PM
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Originally Posted by greatgazoo View Post
I find that the Gretzky detractors are usually fans of teams that he burned. (ie. Flames and Leafs fans)

Thinking that the Refs were protecting him by some kind of directive from the league President is such BS that it wreaks with ignorance. Ever hear of anti-trust suits? If there were a conspiracy put forth by the league to protect Gretzky, the NHL would've been brought to its knees by a major lawsuit.

Keep on smokin' Cheech & Chong.

Gretzky played Lacrosse as a kid in the off seasons and that helped him to learn how to roll off of a hit and how to avoid hits. Betchya didn't know that.

He also played in the era where the instigator penalty was not enforced. So yeah, if you hit him, you had Semenko or McClelland or McSorley or sometimes all-three to deal with!

Lemieux also had plenty of body guards and the Bruins weren't exactly a group of choir boys.

Every star player has protection, if they don't then their GM should be looking for a new job.
Not saying the refs protected him and I'm not saying other players were not protected also but to say he was not protected,defended or avenged by Semenko is a joke.

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06-25-2008, 07:55 PM
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Originally Posted by Zine View Post
Sort of.

Crosby's vision does keep him from getting hit; however, if he relied on that alone he'd still get hammered often. This isn't the wide-open 1980's.
Crosby rarely gets crunched because he has the best balance in the league. His lower body strength is unparalleled. He rarely gets hit/knocked off the puck because it's difficult to overpower such a strong low center of gravity.
Crosby is a smart player first and foremost he uses gravity to his advatage and gravity is a huge part of playing hockey.

As far as Crosby being hit....Hes a big guy, hes not fragile like Gretz, he can take big hits but what makes him so good is his situational thinking, if hes on the boards battling for a puck or on a break he makes the smart play, hes a strong kid as well.

Ill go a litte OT here and say that Crosby is a great player a generation player but he wont ever sniff a meaningfull Gretzky record ever. It's not the run and gun 80's and the goalies in this era dont lead the league with a 3.29 GAA.

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06-25-2008, 08:02 PM
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Crosby is built like Bryan Trottier...and Trots was damn hard to knoch off the puck.

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06-25-2008, 08:32 PM
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There's no question Gretzky was good at avoiding hits. I watched his entire career and I'll tell you one big difference between him and Crosby: guys didn't punch Gretzky or cross check Gretzky in the face on a nightly basis. When I watch Crosby, I am flabbergasted at what he has to put up with compared to other superstars of the past. I've never seen a superstar receive more blatant shots to the face and head than Crosby does.

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06-25-2008, 08:33 PM
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Dennis Bonvie
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Quote:
Originally Posted by lextune View Post
First off, I am still pretty new here, but I am very happy to have found this forum. There really does seem to be an impressive amount of knowledgeable Hockey historians/scholars here.

That being said, there is a still a fair amount of some pretty old and foolish myths floating around that I thought went away long ago....I guess not.

The number one of these aforementioned myths is that "Gretzky was protected". Now for the sake of background, I was born in 1971 in the Boston area (i.e. - I grew up a HUGE Bruins). By the time I was 8 (1979) I was already a "student of the game" and along came Bourque to my team (I saw every game he ever played, minus a few Av game's, and learned more about the game each and every time I watched him on the ice), and another fella named Wayne Gretzky.

As a die hard Bruins fan of course I hated him, lol. But that did not prevent me from marveling at him.

The silliest part of the "protected" myth is that very few men in history have come into the league with a bigger target on them.

At every level Gretzky was called too small, as a 9 year old playing against 15 year old's; as an 17 year old playing against 25 year old's, etc. etc. etc. The solution to stopping him was simply going to be "to hit him". Gretzky himself has pointed out that this is how he learned to roll with hits and/or avoid them. But upon his entry into the NHL, "this was going to be the exception".

Now no one would say the Wayne was tough, lol. And he wasn't one who would "take the hit to make the play"....But that wasn't necessary. As I posted elsewhere in these forums:



Every team in the league took their runs at him. That is not a protected guy. What would 'protected' even mean? Do people think that a memo went around the league; "Hey guys, don't hit Gretz too hard, ok?" I've known a few NHLer's over the years, and trust me, if you felt someone was 'protected' that would only serve to make them an even bigger target, lol. This is 'The Big Show" we're talking about here.

Occasionally, (rarely though it was), someone would catch him with his head down.

Witness: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=72oxwUo1T9E&NR=1

Again, not too tough, lol. But definitely not protected.

When/if Gretz had seen that coming he certainly would have peeled off and moved the pucked. Not "thrown it away" like many "soft players" through the years (I'm looking at you Craig Janney!). He was neither "soft", nor "protected", what he was was "not physical".

And for the most part, confronting a non-physical player with physicality not only failed but hurt your own team. An example of this tactic was to put a shadow on him, someone who would hit him as soon as the puck touched his stick, Gretz came up with all sorts of ways to make this tactic hurt you, he would go stand right next to another player on your team and you would be double teaming him, leaving teammates of his open...on and on and on.

Gretzky notoriously "under-performed" at the old Boston Garden (except in the '88 finals....tragically for me), in part because of it's small confines which gave him much less room to do his usual peel and turn away from hits, and also in part because of Steve Kasper, the only successful Gretzky "shadow" (again, except for the '88 finals ).

If you are still one of those who believes in the "protected" myth, do yourself a favor and catch a few games on ESPN Classic or the NHL network if you can. If you have a lick of Hockey sense you'll find it to be an enlightening experience, trust me....we all did back then and nothing has changed.
Its not a myth. And I don't have to watch ESPN Classic to see Gretzky games, I saw them when he was playing. He never got touched. He'd play against Dale Hunter and not get touched? Nobody is that elusive. I don't know if it was the officials, the league, respect, fear, whatever. But no one touched him when he played for Edmonton. Bruins defenseman John Blum (Messier's brother-in-law) ran into Gretzky in the Garden one night and had to fight two guys back to back. But that's the way it was. No myth.

When old timers were asked about Gretzky, they all said the same thing: Great player, but I don't understand why no one hits him. Derek Sanderson, Eddie Shack, Ted Lindsay, etc. It was always, why doesn't anyone hit him?

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06-25-2008, 08:46 PM
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Agreed completely it's a myth.

The notion that pro athletes wouldn't hit the best player on the other team, and by contrast would just let him walk all over them, because they were cowering in the presence of Semenko and McSorley is ridiculous.

Every team in the league had a Semenko or McSorley. The notion that players were willing to hammer every other 'star' player in the league but not Gretzky in spite of the fact that they were all protected by the same type of enforcer is just stupid.

Gretzky didn't get hit because he was so quick and absolutely brilliant at avoiding hits. You still couldn't hit him in the mid-1990s when he was in his mid-30s and Semenko had been retired for a decade.

Does anyone really think that Risebrough, Peplinski, Baxter, Hunter and the like were scared to hit Gretzky in the Edmonton-Calgary Battle of Alberta games?

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06-25-2008, 08:50 PM
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Its not a myth. And I don't have to watch ESPN Classic to see Gretzky games, I saw them when he was playing. He never got touched. He'd play against Dale Hunter and not get touched? Nobody is that elusive. I don't know if it was the officials, the league, respect, fear, whatever. But no one touched him when he played for Edmonton. Bruins defenseman John Blum (Messier's brother-in-law) ran into Gretzky in the Garden one night and had to fight two guys back to back. But that's the way it was. No myth.

When old timers were asked about Gretzky, they all said the same thing: Great player, but I don't understand why no one hits him. Derek Sanderson, Eddie Shack, Ted Lindsay, etc. It was always, why doesn't anyone hit him?
Ask Billy Smith. A love tap on Gretzky's shin pads resulted in a MAJOR penalty (in the SC Finals for God's Sake!) for slashing when Smith tried to sweep the puck on one of Gretzky's wrap-arounds.

Gretzky was great and deserved all his awards, records and trophies. He was also the most elusive player I have ever seen.

But touching him meant giving up a powerplay 99% of the time against a stacked team in an era of sloppy goaltending, so many teams gave up going after Gretzky and tried to concentrate on shutting his wingers down (which didn't work very well) or Coffey (which didn't work either).

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06-25-2008, 08:56 PM
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Agreed completely it's a myth.

The notion that pro athletes wouldn't hit the best player on the other team, and by contrast would just let him walk all over them, because they were cowering in the presence of Semenko and McSorley is ridiculous.

Every team in the league had a Semenko or McSorley. The notion that players were willing to hammer every other 'star' player in the league but not Gretzky in spite of the fact that they were all protected by the same type of enforcer is just stupid.

Gretzky didn't get hit because he was so quick and absolutely brilliant at avoiding hits. You still couldn't hit him in the mid-1990s when he was in his mid-30s and Semenko had been retired for a decade.

Does anyone really think that Risebrough, Peplinski, Baxter, Hunter and the like were scared to hit Gretzky in the Edmonton-Calgary Battle of Alberta games?
It begs the question though, why didn't anyone hit him when he was standing still or in close, where he can't evade? Happens to Crosby every game. Yes, I understand he is in the middle of things more but not once in his whole career did I see Wayne receive that kind of treatment. I watched Hartnell deliver deliberate headshots to Crosby 3 or 4 times in one game last year and it had nothing to do with Crosby not being able to evade.

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06-25-2008, 08:59 PM
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I know the presence of the neanderthal Semenko was for hockey talent.You must be kidding me. From an Oilers blog:

http://oilerslegends.blogspot.com/20...e-semenko.html
While it's an Oilers' Legend blog, Joe Pelletier is not a simple Oilers homer. THe guy knows his hockey and has done profiled many of the greats regardless of where or when they've played.

I find it odd that his teammates and coaches speak about him and you completely dismiss it. Who would know what he brought to the team better than them?

Quote:
Originally Posted by Dennis Bonvie View Post
Its not a myth. And I don't have to watch ESPN Classic to see Gretzky games, I saw them when he was playing. He never got touched. He'd play against Dale Hunter and not get touched? Nobody is that elusive. I don't know if it was the officials, the league, respect, fear, whatever. But no one touched him when he played for Edmonton. Bruins defenseman John Blum (Messier's brother-in-law) ran into Gretzky in the Garden one night and had to fight two guys back to back. But that's the way it was. No myth.

When old timers were asked about Gretzky, they all said the same thing: Great player, but I don't understand why no one hits him. Derek Sanderson, Eddie Shack, Ted Lindsay, etc. It was always, why doesn't anyone hit him?
A team protecting its star player is one thing. The whole conspiracy crap is another.

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06-25-2008, 09:02 PM
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Agreed completely it's a myth.

The notion that pro athletes wouldn't hit the best player on the other team, and by contrast would just let him walk all over them, because they were cowering in the presence of Semenko and McSorley is ridiculous.

Every team in the league had a Semenko or McSorley. The notion that players were willing to hammer every other 'star' player in the league but not Gretzky in spite of the fact that they were all protected by the same type of enforcer is just stupid.

Gretzky didn't get hit because he was so quick and absolutely brilliant at avoiding hits. You still couldn't hit him in the mid-1990s when he was in his mid-30s and Semenko had been retired for a decade.

Does anyone really think that Risebrough, Peplinski, Baxter, Hunter and the like were scared to hit Gretzky in the Edmonton-Calgary Battle of Alberta games?
Yes they were. Hockey players are human beings and subject to fear just lke everybody else. I remember Louie DeBrusk talking about vomiting due to nerves because he may have to fight Brown or Miller that night. No myth,Semenko didn't even have to leave the bench. All he had to do is verbalize the threat or catch your eye.

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06-25-2008, 09:04 PM
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While it's an Oilers' Legend blog, Joe Pelletier is not a simple Oilers homer. THe guy knows his hockey and has done profiled many of the greats regardless of where or when they've played.

I find it odd that his teammates and coaches speak about him and you completely dismiss it. Who would know what he brought to the team better than them?



A team protecting its star player is one thing. The whole conspiracy crap is another.

I'm not debating anything other than the recognition of Semenko protecting Gretzky,not Semenko's skills,leadership or any other Semenko attribute.

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06-25-2008, 09:12 PM
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I agree in part, Gretzky was elusive that is for sure as Walter taught him from an early age to go where the puck is going not to where it's been. That helped him a lot. But he was also protected by the likes of Dave Semenko, Jeff Beukaboom, Marty McSorely, Dave Brown, Kevin McClelland. I mean Dave Semenko didn't play on his line because he was a scoring machine.

With the hit that McCreary laid on Gretzky (the clip you posted), I do believe that McCreary didn't play a game in the NHL after that hit (again Gretzky was protected).

So yes, in ways Gretzky was protected by his own players who would stand up for him as seen here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wbw6WVs-lCQ or was Gretzky protecting Kurri?

Or Gretzky vs. Broten
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=boJZQXFMHFU&NR=1

No one jumped in to save him this time, but I am sure Semenko had something to say afterwards.

Like I said, he was protected by avoiding severe body contract with how he played, and by refs and teammates.

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06-25-2008, 09:15 PM
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Semenko was tough. Had a lot of fights.

Hey...why did he have so many fights if everyone was afraid of him?

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06-25-2008, 09:21 PM
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Semenko was tough. Had a lot of fights.

Hey...why did he have so many fights if everyone was afraid of him?
Sorry, but duh!

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06-25-2008, 09:27 PM
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Agreed completely it's a myth.

The notion that pro athletes wouldn't hit the best player on the other team, and by contrast would just let him walk all over them, because they were cowering in the presence of Semenko and McSorley is ridiculous.

Every team in the league had a Semenko or McSorley. The notion that players were willing to hammer every other 'star' player in the league but not Gretzky in spite of the fact that they were all protected by the same type of enforcer is just stupid.

Gretzky didn't get hit because he was so quick and absolutely brilliant at avoiding hits. You still couldn't hit him in the mid-1990s when he was in his mid-30s and Semenko had been retired for a decade.

Does anyone really think that Risebrough, Peplinski, Baxter, Hunter and the like were scared to hit Gretzky in the Edmonton-Calgary Battle of Alberta games?

Well said. I was going to bring this same point up. Gretz didnt get hit because he saw the game 4-5 moves before the other guy did. Trying to line him up would only end as an embarrasment. To think that guys like Tim Hunter and other goons of the 80s were 'afraid' to hit Gretz because he had tough guys on his team is the completely idiotic. Anyone who believes this is an absolute shill for arguing that goons 'police' the sport......another myth that has never been close to true.

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06-25-2008, 09:40 PM
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Dennis Bonvie
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Bruwinz37 View Post
Well said. I was going to bring this same point up. Gretz didnt get hit because he saw the game 4-5 moves before the other guy did. Trying to line him up would only end as an embarrasment. To think that guys like Tim Hunter and other goons of the 80s were 'afraid' to hit Gretz because he had tough guys on his team is the completely idiotic. Anyone who believes this is an absolute shill for arguing that goons 'police' the sport......another myth that has never been close to true.
I agree he was hard to hit when he had the puck. But the Oilers would put up 7, 8, 9 goals on teams. Don't you think someone would run him away from the puck, from behind, cheap stick shots away from the play late in a game? Every hockey fan knows what goes on late in blowouts. Its cheap time. And though Edmonton had more blowouts than any team ever, no one touched Gretzky.

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