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The .Net On The Hockey Guys Blogtalkradio And Hitting In The NHL

PenaltykillI had the good fortune of being on The Hockey Guys CrashTheCrease blogtalk radio broadcast yesterday. The first topic of discussion was the evolution of hitting in the NHL as it relates to the instigator rule and cheap shots. The general feeling, as I understand it, is that as the rules changed to discourage fighting the level of cheap shots has gone up. Without the ability to “freely” defend their teammates, player injuries - especially to previously off-limits skilled players - could continue to rise.

Keep in mind that the discussion was between the show’s hosts - long-time hockey fans, some with actual hockey experience, and myself, the “new generation” hockey fan. In addition to the on-air discussion (below), I had a few additional thoughts on the subject.

First thing I want to make clear is that I completely understand that the game I’m watching today is not the same game played less than a generation ago. I fully respect the ‘old guard’ and their desire to preserve the game as they’ve known it. Although I think some aspects of the current game are natural progressions necessary for the survival of the sport, I don’t claim that “it’s all about the new school”.

Part of the discussion blames Gary Bettman for allowing rule changes that discourage fighting. I would like to put it out there that the reason Mr. Bettman and his rules committee may have had to put those rules into place is because other rules, one’s designed to make the game faster and higher scoring, resulted in more ‘unnecessary’ fighting. I would also like to put out there that the problem with ‘unnecessary’ fighting is partly the fault the players. Let me pontificate…

Rule changes were put into place to make the game faster, no more grabbing and hooking and holding. The addition of the trapezoid also means guys go flying into the corners resulting in more collisions. Mix in that today’s modern athlete is physically more fined tuned and you can see why the speed, and the literal impact, of game has accelerated. All this speed means two things. First it means that clean hits are harder and more violent. Second it means that more infractions (boarding, tripping, etc.) are going to happen because reaction time is significantly reduced.

They say there are no accidents in hockey. If that’s true, then players should be able to change they way they play to avoid thing like boarding or kneeing - things that can end a guy’s career. Officials need to really stay on top of those kinds of calls and be more consistent, and players have to respect each other enough to know that championships and contracts are not worth another man’s health.

What it boils down to is that all the anti-fighting rules are probably in place because players all to often fight to retailiate against clean hits or just to try and fire up a bench.

The expansion of the NHL was designed to broaden it’s fan base. I’m sure one of their tactics was to expose existing fans of other sports to the merits of hockey, people like me. People like me watch football. I may not like Chad Ochocinco, but I know that on any given Sunday he and many like him take numerous violent hits like it’s just another day in the office. When a hockey player takes a clean hit it’s no worse than a football hit. But when someone gets hit and a team mate has to retaliate it makes hockey players look like lesser athletes compared to football players. Shouldn’t a hockey player be able to take a hit like a football player? This is where I think the onus is on the players - stop retaliating for clean hits.

Listen below, our segment starts approximately 30 minutes into the broadcast.

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