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Vulgar Opinions: On Patrick Kaleta (NSFW)

01/29/13

So what if Patrick Kaleta, who was taken to the hospital after being boarded by Toronto’s Mike Brown, just played his last game of professional hockey?  How do we feel about that?  Where is the argument that stiffer penalties for dangerous hits will take the toughness out of hockey now?  Is that what we say when we see a guy like Kaleta get sent to the hospital?  Gee that sucks, but good thing the game is still tough.

And maybe it wouldn’t make any difference.  Maybe Brown would have planted his elbow and shoulder square in Kaleta’s back regardless, whether the penalty was 2 minutes or 50 games.  But the ‘fear of losing toughness’ argument never flew with me, especially amid all the claims that hockey players are ‘the most skilled athletes in the world.’  If that’s true (and I think it is), then these men are plenty capable of learning to kill each other without killing each other’s heads and necks and we don’t need to cling to some misguided ideal of manliness.

The not too invisible elephant in the room is the NHL’s unwillingness to adequately deal with such hits.  They hired a former goon (albeit a soft-handed one) to be an apologist for the guys doling out headshots and generally look the other way when incidents involve players of a certain caliber.  Then they thump their chests over suspending a player a record number of games (Raffi Torres) that everyone already knew was dirty and was going to get it eventually.  Suspensions like that show all the courage and conviction of yelling a racial slur at an all-white country club.

The average suspendee last season was a 51 game, 9 goal, 14 assist garbage player.  Which is fine because garbage players tend to do more suspendable things.  So I took out all the guys that played less than 40 games or had less than 5 goals (and weren’t defensemen,) the goons, if you will.  The average suspendee then became a 69 game, 16 goal, 23 assist player.  So even when you stack the data completely in favor of “The NHL suspends plenty of important players,” the NHL still doesn’t suspend enough important players.

The only reason the NHL ever suspended guys like Claude Giroux and Alexander Ovechkin, is because they’d done so much blatantly dirty crap by that point that they pretty much had to so they could continue to perpetuate the myth that they take player safety seriously.  Meanwhile, Sidney Crosby has done a half dozen suspendable things in his career and half the Atlantic division has molds of Evgeni Malkin’s elbows in their face.  I mean if you can dig through enough game footage to suspend Brad Boyes and Ville Leino, who had 22 PIM in 136 games last year, I think you end up coming across the type of hits that have hospitalized Patrick Kaleta and Nathan Gerbe.  (Or Tim Connolly if you want to go back to the 2011 playoffs.)

Of course that would require the whole system to not be completely fucked because, as I said before, a former goon is in charge of player safety.  For there to be real change, the NHL would have to oust the guy that is dumb enough enough of a goon sympathizer to talk about things like intent and prior history.  If you throw an elbow at a guy’s head, does your history really matter?  I mean it’s nice to know that elbowing one of the game’s (and your main rival’s) best player square in the face is only worth five games because you’re a good guy and didn’t mean to concuss him, you only meant to…actually I don’t know what Duncan Keith was trying to do other than exactly what I just said.

Mike Brown is going to tell Brendan Shanahan that he didn’t mean to completely clobber Patrick Kaleta, only kind of clobber him, and that he was going too fast and Kaleta turned a little.  Then Shanahan is going to nod his head and give Brown 3-5 games because he seems sincere and his last incident was 4 years ago.  Which won’t matter, even in a shortened season.  Do you know why?  Because the team and its fans will treat it like it’s an acceptable trade for braining a guy, which is bullshit.  They should be saying “god damn it, this sucks,” because there is no acceptable trade for braining a guy.

I can’t help but think that Brendan Shanahan, and the rest of the NHL decision makers are in that Don Cherry mold and don’t want to take away “old time hockey,” whatever that is.  They bow to the dumbfuck fans that think that any sort of rules regarding player safety are emasculating the sport, and the manly men that play it.  It’s a shame because at the end of the day we come to watch hockey, not red rover on ice.  I would rather watch a game that was all scoring and not hits than watch a game that was all hits and no scoring, and I have to think most NHL fans would agree with me.  Do me a favor, think of all the great Sabres goals you’ve seen, and then think of all the great Sabres hits.  Which column is higher

2 Comments leave one →
  1. Sam permalink
    01/30/13 8:18 AM

    So what, 6 sabre games and two blatent boarding calls… That is not a good start! I didn’t see gerbe last night, was that an effect of the hit in Carolina? I know he played when tv was out but I’m still asking the question… And did the Carolina player get anything? Will brown get anything? Do we have to put the stop sign on the back of the jersey like in pee wees….

    The answer is simple, although the NHL doesn’t have the balls to do it…. Any boarding call like the two we have seen, you are out of the game… Period…. The subsequent suspension is an automatic 5 games, plus the amount of time the player you injured is out, period….if you do it again, 10 games plus injured player time and we will do 15 on the third or just sit for the year. That’s it, cut and dry, no intent questions…. No bullshit, take the blind side hits out, period. You see the guys numbers, don’t take the hit… Period!

  2. Dan permalink*
    01/30/13 10:02 AM

    Right up there in my hatred pile is the “karma” or “well, it’s Kaleta” bullshit that runs rampant. First off, how many careers has Pat Kaleta actually ruined? He hits big, he hits often, and for a while he was reckless, yes. But how many people has he sent to the hospital with a neck injury? That’s an honest question, because maybe I’m missing a few, but I can’t recall him ending anybody’s career (or potentially so).

    He’s gained this reputation as the “most hated player” and 90% of that reputation is because he’s a pest who draws penalties. Other teams hate him because he runs his mouth, knows what to say, and gets under their skin. Not because he’s Matt Cooke and cheap-shots left and right.

    Beyond that, even if he were that complete piece of shit, how does that allow for “karma” of “well it’s okay to crush the guy’s neck against the boards and maybe paralyze him, because he hits too much”. Nice eye-for-an-eye shit there, hockey fans. I don’t wish paralysis upon Tod Bertuzzi, just as I don’t wish dying in a car accident upon Dany Heatley.

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