I’ve been bitching about the “New” NHL for a while now. I’m just not a fan of it. In fact, with each game I watch, the less and less interested I’m in the game.
I know many care not to listen. But I still strongly feel that the problems lie not in the goalie handling the puck behind the goal line … or the presence of a red centre line … or the clutching and grabbing … it’s not the trap …
Why is hockey being forced down the throats of ‘fans’ that don’t know the game. Why must hockey be showcased and catered to a fickle demographic that only jumps on the bandwagon when the team is succeeding, and not to a community that supports its team, win or lose?
In short, the problem is Gary Bettman.
This so-called “New” NHL isn’t really new. What makes it new is that the scoring is up, and that the game is faster. Well, guess what? Welcome to the hockey of the 1980’s … only, now we’ve bent the rules of the game to let the few stars and/or lesser players of each team shine as true stars of the game in lieu of having teams with players capable of competing at the highest level.
The talent has been thinned out too much over the league. Why were the Oilers of the 80’s so successful? Look at their line-up … Gretzky … Kurri … Messier … Anderson … Coffey … Lowe … Fuhr. Can you name a modern-day team that has the potential to boast so many Hall of Fame‘rs and candidates?
This particular team was the last of such an era when teams could be built into true dynasties. Previously there were the Maple Leafs, Red Wings, Canadiens. Teams had to be built over time by drafting players selectively and forging a chemistry among the players. Not like that of the Stanley Cup-buying Rangers of ’94; a repackaged team of former Oiler core players, for those a little hazy with the hockey history.
Nowadays, it’s all about spending the money to sign players to win a cup. This was trend was brought into the NHL with Gary Bettman’s appointment to office in ’93 when his downright stupid decision to expand hockey into the United States by placing and relocating franchises to new large-market cities.
Even after re-awarding Minnesota with a franchise – after having stripped the hockey-mad state of its club – Bettman still remains unapologetic about his previous claims that the Minnesota lacks the support to sustain a hockey team.
Hockey cities like Quebec City, Hartford, and Winnipeg have also lost their clubs to Denver, Raleigh, and Phoenix respectively. What the NHL will not own up to is the fact that these teams have enjoyed success leading up to and during the first several seasons following the move, but have since endured hardships to sell (season) tickets to a steady fan-base.
With fewer skilled players per team, there’s less creativity on the ice. No longer are you seeing a team of skilled players creating a play and capitalizing on opportunities to score goals. Today, it’s a matter of allowing players to freely roam and shoot on net, as defensive players are hand-cuffed by the new rules; where players cannot engage an opposition player until he’s received the puck.
Moreover, each player on a team must become ever more defensively responsible. Enter, the trap. This defensive strategy is designed to force the opposition’s puck carrier (often the most skilled player) to skate himself directly into a defensive wall of opposition, or dump and chase (in hopes of recovering the puck).
Furthermore, I’ll be the last person to claim that players should ever be placed in dangerous situations … however, I constantly see players hiding behind the safety rules to their own benefit. As a player with body position on the puck and facing the boards, he’s off-limits to hits. That leaves him practically free to skate along the boards until he sees fit to pass the puck off, or have the defensemen smother him along the boards for which a holding penalty will most likely ensue.
Lastly, players hide behind the “instigator rule“. Players are no longer required to police themselves. This leads to two things; cheap-shotting pussies and goons. The pussies will go about playing the ‘skilled’ game while getting away with what they can … only to run and hide behind a goon whom will fight the battles with the other teams’ goon.
Frankly, if players were to be made accountable for their own actions, they’d be much more cautious about any shots they take on their opposition. Gone are the days of what I consider true hockey greats; players that did it all. Players like Gordie Howe for doing what the “Gordie Howe Hat Trick” was so aptly named after. Cam Neely, the prototypical power forward, was another of this now rare breed.
Don Cherry has long been critical of these pussies I speak of. He may not be the most politically correct or tactful person on TV … but hey … he’s right. And if you don’t see that he’s right, then you’re far too short sighted.
We’re currently ushering in a game that simply isn’t hockey. It’s become a basketball game on ice. It’s all about the goals, and there’s is no emphasis on defence. It’s become game of gimmicks … no longer a sport.