Friday, April 20, 2012

Double the Pain

Playoff time is well underway. Hockey's second season and an occasion to focus on skilled players giving their all, game in and game out.

This usually happens when each spring rolls around. The nonsense and cheap shots take a backseat, as there is simply too much at stake. Goons and misfits are relegated to the press box to munch on their popcorn or are firmly planted on the bench.

In round one of the 2012 tournament, we have witnessed a return of 1970s hockey. Philadelphia's Broad Street Bullies mentality has popped-up and revealed it's ugly head.

The latest act of violence, Raffi Torres laying-out Marian Hossa, did nothing to enhance hockey's image or quality of play. Like Daniel Alfredsson in Ottawa, who suffered a blow to his head courtesy of Rangers forward Carl Hagelin, Mr. Hossa is now out of commission.

Enough is enough.

It is time for the National Hockey League to lower the boom and bring down the long arm of the law.They alone possess the power to change how games flow, and can severely punish those who are out to create mayhem.

Discipline is key, on and off the ice, and guidance can only come from above. The executives at league offices in New York and Toronto, must inform on-ice officials as to what is and is not acceptable behaviour during an encounter. Then, it is up to those donning striped shirts to enforce the rules.

Time has come for the NHL and NHLPA to clamp down on players who go on head-hunting expeditions. It can no longer be tolerated. There is no positive spin to what has been going down. Not even American television ratings going up.

Perhaps, Bettman and company should become creative and explore the concept of dishing out double-misconducts.

Here is an example of how a double-misconduct would be applied. Let's take the Torres/Hossa hit as a case study on how head shots should be handled at ice level.

Following the whistle Torres is given a two-minute or five-minute penalty for decking Hossa. He'd serve this time and an automatic ten-minute misconduct would be tacked onto his sentence.

Then, here comes the twist or double-whammy.

Chicago coach, Joel Quenneville, would select another player, who was on the ice with Torres, to also sit in the box for ten-minutes. Thus, imposing a double-misconduct.

So, what happens if Torres is banished (major/10-minute misconduct/game misconduct) and sent to the showers? The player selected by Quenneville would serve the major and two ten-minute misconducts. His time in purgatory coming to a grand total of twenty-five-minutes.

Everyone involved, from general managers to coaches to players, would feel the consequences. Do you think Brad Richards or Marian Gaborik would be jumping for joy if they were skating along side Hagelin when he batted Alfredsson's head, as though it were a floating balloon? There is little doubt one of them would be picked to join their colleague who instigated the head shot.

John Tortorella wouldn't be pleased. His blood pressure would go through the roof. Also, he would think twice about pencilling a repeat offender into his line-up next time around.

The pitfalls associated with this system are limited to those breaking the rules and their teams. A guilty party, having to explain his actions in the dressing room, and when being called on the carpet for an NHL hearing.

Coaches would have no other alternative than to juggle their lines to compensate for two missing parts. A pulsating sting really sinking in if his counterpart buried a key component, like Richards or Gaborik, for ten-minutes.

Players would be asked to adjust their output and possibly perform in a position they are not accustomed to. Hardest hit being forwards dropping back due to a couple of defenceman sitting in the box. The game taking on the feel of a chess match, with skaters being strategically moved around the board.

Now, comes the million-dollar question - Would players and management get the point of all this and respond accordingly? They certainly digested the message when steps were taken to eliminate the trap. Not too many players would enjoy having their ice time slashed due to a teammate being unable to pull-in-the-reins and control himself.

Some may consider the double-misconduct too radical, too harsh, too outside-of-the-box. I doubt if Daniel Alfredsson or Marian Hossa would agree.

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