MIASUN Posted September 16, 2011 Report Share Posted September 16, 2011 The hockey gods may seem to be ganging up on Vancouver, as the Canucks open training camp this weekend with echoes still reverberating from their unseemly collapse against Boston in the Stanley Cup final, the ensuing civic riots, and the heartbreaking death of 27-yearold Rick Rypien, by his own hand, this summer. But really, it's all of hockey that's feeling criticism from around every corner at the moment. It's the National Hockey League itself that's under more scrutiny than ever, with pressure mounting to act decisively on head blows, on concussions, on the questionable role of fighting, on suicides and painkiller addictions - and how all of these seem to be parts of the same cynical equation. After a column the other day about the absurdity of NHL prospects camps that feature long shots fighting other long shots in order to draw the attention of NHL coaches and general managers, a high-ranking club executive wrote to wonder why we can't have a rational discussion about fighting in hockey without name-calling. Well, we can. In fact, he might be surprised to find that the writer - despite having been warmly welcomed to the antifighting camp by readers these past two days - is not yet convinced that there is no place for the occasional heat-of-battle tilt between two players who have enough skill to play a regular shift in the NHL. Not to say there's no possibility of a change of mind on that score, either. Just right now, it's hardly a slam dunk that players who engage in the odd anger-release scrap (but don't do it for a living) are anywhere near as likely to be susceptible to concussions/depression/ painkiller dependency as boxers, mixed martial arts fighters, football or rugby players - good Lord, did you watch Canada-Tonga? - or soccer players who practice heading a weighty leather ball every day, or athletes in any number of other contact sports. So while it's good to be vigilant and open to new research, the idea of banning any form of contact that might potentially lead to any or all of the evils described above isn't terribly practical, in the real world. Ruminating on all of this, however, amid dozens of emails from people who are plainly passionate about the debate, leads to other thoughts about hockey and its exalted place in the Canadian consciousness. Herewith, a few: Staged fights: There is no justification for them, beyond the blood lust of fans, and no reason to employ the one-trick ponies who engage in them. They don't affect the outcomes of hockey games, don't set the tone for future meetings, don't prove anything about a team's toughness or lack of it. What began with Dave (Hammer) Schultz, or thereabouts, should end with Derek Boogaard and Rypien and Wade Belak, and the game will be the better for it. It's the easiest place for GMs to insert the scalpel without affecting the essential nature of the game, and gain some brownie points from the public at the same time. The national stereotype: No one can say we don't deserve to be parodied as igloo-dwelling nerds who don't know about anything but hockey. Case in point, this week's all-consuming fascination (no doubt partly driven by media and NHL team websites) with how distant draft picks and other young suspects are doing against their opposite numbers from other NHL organizations at pre-training camp tournaments, which are - let's face it - glorified junior games, only without the intensity. It reveals an unhealthy fixation on a single sport, a fanatical devotion to the insignificant that is in no way constructive, or terribly flattering. The oracles were right: It's been said by media wags, and gets a laugh every time, that if Brian Burke and Ron Wilson had known there'd be years like this, they'd have never invented hockey. But long before they were the brain trust of the Toronto Maple Leafs, what they said years ago, separately, about Canadian NHL teams has certainly stood the test of time. Wilson said that Canadians love their teams to death. Burke said the suffocating pressure on Canadian NHL teams by their hometown markets may be as good an explanation as any for why a Canadian-based club hasn't won a Stanley Cup in 18 years. Of course, he also said the same sort of pressure might prevent Canada from winning the gold medal at the 2010 Olympics. The puck fetish: There's a reason Stanley Cup riots happen in Montreal and Edmonton and Vancouver. We Canadians, as a species, care too deeply, invest too much emotion, and frequently lose our minds over this game - you only need to look at the online reader comments accompanying an NHL story to know how many have utterly lost any sense of perspective. No wonder an entire class of NHL star-calibre players finds it less onerous, safer, and every bit as rewarding to be on the other side of the border in a market that respects but doesn't obsess about hockey - a Detroit, a Boston, a Chicago, a Buffalo, a Pittsburgh, a Philadelphia, a San Jose - among a populace that cares but doesn't strangle. Read more: http://www.montrealgazette.com/sports/Cole+Canadians+invest+much+emotion+over+this+game/5404871/story.html#ixzz1Y7tbwgXR Link to comment Share on other sites More sharing options...
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