David M Singer
Mar 13, 2004
Hockey has become front page news across Canada and America. It is a rare occasion. Unfortunately, just like the last time the NHL grabbed the headlines, it is due to what can only be defined as an awful on-ice decision that's lead to the end of the season for two players, one by injury. Todd Bertuzzi still needs to be reinstated to hockey, and Steve Moore's career as a player is in doubt as he recovers from a fractured neck and other injuries.
Now hockey's heart is wanted on a platter. So-called journalists, most of whom rarely, if ever, sit through an entire game, have swooped in like vultures to peck at hockey's reputation the best they can before moving on to the next topic du jour. They question the integrity of the players on ice, the coaches, the management and even the fans who tune in night after night. They deem it violent, barbaric and don't stop for one second to realize no one, from top-level management down to the beer vendor, condones the actions Bertuzzi took on the ice March 8th.
It's hard to imagine why anyone would do what Bertuzzi did, but frustration from being on the losing end of a blowout, Moore's prior hit on Markus Naslund and Moore's refusal to fight Bertuzzi most likely combined to help push Bertuzzi over the edge. A few seconds he wishes he could take back no doubt. In the end, there was no excuse for it, and the NHL saw it the same way, banning him from the regular season and the playoffs and rightfully so.
Interestingly, if Bertuzzi meets with NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman in early August, he could be permitted to play in the World Cup for Team Canada. Steve Moore will play a role in Team Canada's roster. NHL Executive Vice President and Director of Hockey Operations, Colin Campbell said, "Mr. Bertuzzi will be required to meet with Commissioner Bettman prior to the start of training camp for the 2004-05 season, at which point Mr. Bertuzzi's eligibility will be reviewed in light of all the available facts at that time, including Mr. Moore's physical status and the progression of his recovery."
Some of the media is now calling for an end to fighting in the NHL. Fighting seems to be the mandatory media scapegoat of all troubles related to the NHL. Yet, what Todd Bertuzzi did was not a "fight". Four years ago, Marty McSorley did not fight Donald Brashear; nor did current Colorado Avalanche coach Tony Granato in 1994 when he was suspended for slashing Neil Wilkinson. The NHL's longest suspension list is filled with stick-related and abuse of official related infractions. This is the first punch-related offense to be added to that list. Yet, fighting is somehow being related to a cross check, a high stick or a hit from behind.
Despite what is being said, hockey, like any other sport, has a code. This code was not bent or slightly stepped over by Bertuzzi, it was simply ignored. When a player breaks the written rules and the unwritten rules, little can be done but to penalize him and send a message that these sorts of actions will not be tolerated. The NHL has definitely sent that message with the suspension handed to Bertuzzi.
Some of the silly comments about how great Olympic play is and "why can't the NHL be like that?" have resurfaced. Don't get me wrong, Olympic play is great, but when the NHL goes back to a six-team league and plays a single-game elimination tournament, perhaps the level and style of play will emulate that of the Olympics. "Many European leagues do not have fighting." No, they don't, but those who have actually watched some European games are not the ones making these statements. There's a big difference between a rulebook and the game that is played. Watch sticks over there, along with elbows and knees; it certainly is not a cleaner game.
McSorley can relate, speaking to the Vancouver Province he said, "When I was going through this, I was amazed how much people refused to listen to hockey people. There were people like [Bobby] Orr and [Gordie] Howe and [Barry] Melrose saying it was an accident but people didn't listen. They didn't want to. There was so much sensationalism. It's a media frenzy."
Ironically, the media frenzy will die off as the playoffs start, the same point fights become even more of a rarity. It is a time when hockey is at its high point and the level of play is on the rise. Yet, few of the media members to step up and take their own jabs at the sport will even be paying attention while the number of teams decreases from sixteen to two, grinding it out until the captain of one raises the Cup above his head. If they have no intention of actually listening to their own words – why should we?
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