Think about the kids!

May 14, 2018
By Doug MacQuarrie, CCES Chief Operating Officer

I love hockey. What a sport! Nothing better than a good game of hockey – especially playoff hockey. 

The National Hockey League Playoffs are the games that fans wait to see all year long (although I can certainly do without the beards!). Playoffs is when hockey is played for keeps, where players very noticeably raise their intensity, and when teams pull out all the stops for the honour of hoisting the Stanley Cup, or as it is known in the Bible: The Holy Grail. I’m told that no other playoff routine in pro sport is as demanding – 16 teams begin the gruelling test: only one is victorious.

Hockey is a fast and incredibly skillful game played by millions of people around the world. When age and size appropriate, physical contact in hockey is a key component of the sport – it is fundamental. When played well, hockey is incredibly fast, agility levels are spell-binding and team work is vital to success. Hockey is also a rugged and very physical game. 

But hockey – played as intended – should never be dirty. The physicality of the sport should be limited to separating player from puck – albeit sometimes with great force and occasionally resulting in injury. The rules of hockey clearly describe the conditions when physical contact is within or outside the rules. Head contact, hits from behind, violent hits into the boards, leaving the ice to hit an opponent, kneeing, slashing, cross-checking and a whole litany of physical acts are prohibited in the game – as they should be!

Regrettably, the NHL has permitted the physicality of the sport to become perverted. When did the rules of the NHL deviate so dramatically from the rules of hockey?

Sadly, in the playoffs so far, I have witnessed too many flagrant fouls that have no place in the sport: vicious, dangerous acts – cross-checks in the neck and back, charges into the boards, hits to the head and back. Why does the NHL tolerate such egregious behaviour? Very few have been penalized at all, a small proportion have received minor penalties and a much smaller number yet, a major penalty. But should a defender inadvertently flip the puck over the boards or a stick come in contact with a brittle composite shaft and it break, a penalty is assessed EVERY time! Hack at an arm or hand with impunity… but heaven forbid you should tap an opponent’s fragile stick!

I hate that the NHL and many of the network commentators have rationalized this wicked behaviour. Weekend warriors and others following the example of their professional heroes are sure to mimic it. And what about the kids who are watching!? 

According to the IIHF, there were 631,295 players registered with Hockey Canada in 2016-17 – the vast majority of these players are young and impressionable. I hate to think that those who are skilled enough to eventually make a living playing hockey would believe that another price of admission to the show is the lack of respect for your opponent, a rationalized acceptance of the loss of self-control and an expectation that wanton recklessness is valued in the sport of hockey.

It’s time for the NHL to crack down on such behaviour if there is to be any hope of preventing it from trickling down to the next generation!

And don’t even get me started about the licking! Had such a grotesque act been appropriately dealt with by the NHL the FIRST TIME it happened, it would never have been repeated nor become the subject of such attention!

NHL: enough is enough!