Vulgar Opinions: A Short Commentary On NHL Brass Stupidity
So if you watch football, you just got done (as I write this) watching the San Francisco 49ers and the New Orleans Saints finish one of the more exciting sequences in recent memory. One of the key plays in this sequence was a touchdown by Saints Tight End Jimmy Graham on a deep pass over the middle. Ten years ago Graham wouldn’t have caught the ball because the safety would have knocked him into next week. But an ever stricter stance on safety from the NFL has forced defensive backs to avoid attempts to paralyze guys that run routes across the middle. It seems like I’m way off topic here, but bear with me.
The reason I bring this up is because it’s a perfect illustration of something the NFL has done very well, and the NHL has done very poorly. The NFL brass has recognized that they’re well served by allowing their best and most skilled players to A). not get killed, and B). make the plays they’re capable of making. So they made several rule changes designed to make it safer for wide receivers and quarterbacks.
The NHL…does not do this. Other than token attempts at alleviating the number of brutal headshots and lockout-inspired rule changes that have all but disappeared by now, the NHL brass seems content to keep the game boring and keep the Crosbys of the league off the ice. Hooking and interference have started to creep back into the game, using pick moves to set up zone entries is common, as is interfering with a forward dumping the puck in so he can’t recover it. You see guys putting a shoulder into each other ten feet before they get to a puck along the boards in every single game every single night and stick infractions seem to have no consistency whatsoever.
At times it causes the game to be a neutral zone mess, or at best a series of kickoffs with teams exchanging dump-ins of pucks that defensive obstruction won’t allow them to recover. People always talk about how enacting such changes is cheap and an artificial way to increase in scoring, but I see nothing wrong with meting out the guys that have very few of the skills that produce a talented hockey player. NHL purists seem way too intent protecting the things that make their sport awful to watch so they can claim some sort of personal award for watching it anyways.
It is, as baseball has shown us, an all too common sentiment in sports that have a ton of history. There is a feeling that whatever happened before is certainly better than what is happening now, or anything that might happen in the future. Change is not only good, but natural. Things evolve and we hurt ourselves and the sport we love far worse by resisting change than we do by potentially making the wrong changes.