Hockey in the news is intersecting in a number of fascinating ways today.
Jack Jablonski, the Benilde-St. Margaret's sophomore who was paralyzed when hit from behind in a game this season, is leaving the rehab hospital this afternoon and heading for a temporary apartment until modifications are finished at his parents' home.
The NHL playoffs are underway and little of the chatter is about the high quality of play and the inherent gracefulness of the sport. Instead, it's the blind eye the league is turning to a situation that could create more Jack Jablonskis.
Like this a couple of days ago:
And this last night:
As more players get carried off on stretchers, one parent of a young hockey player has penned an open letter to the NHL. Dave Banks, who writes the GeekDad column for Wired, says the sport is more hooliganism than hockey:
As the NHL season progressed, we'd occasionally see fights during games. As a kid, it's tough to understand why grown men are punching each other with such ferocity over a game that he loves so much. He was confused. I tried to explain it to him, but I honestly didn't have an answer that made a lot of sense. Excuses like "it's always been a part of the game" don't hold a lot of water when cross-examined with the naked innocence of a ten year old kid.
Still, we soldiered on. Our excitement grew as the season closed and the Stanley Cup playoffs neared. This past week, we've been glued to the television, jumping from game to game, night after night. Unfortunately, the violence that had been percolating during the regular season has boiled over during the first week of the playoffs.
He and I understand that the stakes are much higher during the playoffs; that the players' competition is ratcheted up another notch. But the violence and, more importantly, lack of seriousness about it from the league has been inexcusable.
The fastest game in the world can also be the most dangerous,
but technology helps us see that what when seen in real time could arguably be an unfortunate accident,
with the help of slow motion is clearly shown to be an intentional, dangerous, vicious cheap shot.
Kudos to the refs for catching them in the moment.
This has also been a source of conversation for the talking heads on NBC as well as the bloggers over at ESPN. What I find distressing is not so much the lack of enforcing the rules but the inconsistency in which punishment is meted out (i.e. why does one player receive a one game suspension, while another is docked for 4 games?). Make it cut and dried, much like the bans MLB has for steroid use: 1st time-10/20 games; 2nd time-50 games; 3rd time-gone for life.
This is what I talk about everytime you bring the topic up. The real problem in the NHL is not fighting, the problem is cheap shots.
Ban fighting. Ban checking. Have huge fines for stick penalties. I'm all for it, but the NHL can't afford it. Hockey isn't all that popular nationally and hockey that doesn't allow fighting or checking is even less popular.