Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Fighting? Be a Good Boy and Swallow This

I think I could do without fighting in hockey, but I know I would be better off without the preaching and the Utopian world view being projected by those writers who see a perfect world where hockey is a sanitized game, free of emotion, save for the odd collision that might take place.

Naughty you, I am told by someone who does not like hockey and who thinks I should share the same view.

They tell me to go find my seat in the box, take the little pill that will dull my edges, and be sure to read the nice academic pamphlet that they have waiting for me. It's a study about behavior. All the good homes have read it, or at least, all the good homes were kind enough to distribute it to all the bad homes like mine.

Now go.

But where are all the people from the good homes who seek to change hockey to fit in a sedated world for the less fortunate? Why aren't they here?

Ah, I am told, they found it undignified to come to a hockey game before. Even now, they still do not want to be seen to be coming to games.


Well, there is that whole thing about helping those less fortunate, so long as you never have to actually socialize with them. Besides, hockey is not their game.

What is?

Telling others how to live their lives.

I can see the need for stopping the appointment fighting that once featured the Brashears, Twists, Laraques, Grimsons, etc. But the emotion of the game tells you that referees can only see and call so much. And when liberties are taken, a team either has to take it or say stop. Nothing says stop like a closed fist.

That's a fact. When the Flyers were pounding everybody in the 1970s, Montreal's Larry Robinson said enough, with body checks and, if need be, fists.

Today, there is a certain corner of the elite world that says this is all wrong, telling you they are right and if you disagree, perhaps you really don't belong with them in their sanitized luxury box. But these deep thinkers do not talk to the players union, which seems to be less interested in joining the Universalist hockey circuit.

And the players, in a recent poll conducted by ESPN.com, seems to say they do not want the elimination of fighting in hockey. Perhaps they might if these Univeralists would say just exactly how referees could stop the after-the-whistle actions that seem to contribute to the eventual dropping of gloves. For every time a referee sees an infraction, a few are missed or ignored because they were immaterial to the play at the moment.

That's the rub, or friction, if you will, that has yet to be addressed. Admittedly, it is a tough time for hockey. But that doesn't mean it should be open season on the game. I said at a hockey round table in October that I could do without most of the fighting in hockey, those that appear to be appointment or arranged bouts. As the season has gone on, I have grown less troubled by fights rising out of those transgressions that the referee did not address, or could not see.

Tell me how the refereeing can be improved so the game does not get to the point where an exchange of fists is an option. Work with me on that, and then we may be able to agree on a deal, shaking hand rather than trading shots.

Are the high-minded folks willing to work on a solution or just sit in judgement. In the film adaptation of Mordecai Richler's "Barney's Version," Barney Panofsky's future father-in-law is a vision of contempt when Barney's father, Israel, describes what it was like being a Jewish cop in Montreal, having to make arrests with force -- and without the proper backup another policeman might expect.

The bride's father: "Are you saying you were gratuitously violent with suspected felons?"

Israel: "Gratuitously, no. I always got paid. I ain't going to work for free."

Barney: "He means unnecessarily, Dad."

Israel: "Oh, look. When a fella is young and you give him authority, he likes to push people around. But I always knew that my name was Israel Panofsky. I knew I had to be extra careful and I was -- most of the time."

Bride's father: "Most? Did you ever consider that your career advancement was stunted by your professional conduct and not by imagined prejudices?"

Israel: "I call it as I see it. But you're the one with the mansion on the hill, so what do I know?"

I think I trust the street cop, and the players on the ice, more than those who tend to look down on the people who must get a little dirty to do their job.

But what do I know?

Friday, December 2, 2011

College Hockey Friday in the Lounge

It's a good night, with Detroit visiting Buffalo as the main early game in the NHL, so I will put that one on my iPhone (7:30 Eastern/NHL Network). The Big Screen in the Lounge is reserved for the college doubleheader on the CBS College Sports channel.

The doubleheader begins at 7:30 with Boston University visiting Boston College. It's not a Beanpot game, but there is an ample serving of hate ready to be served at this event. At 10 pm Eastern on the same channel, the Denver Pioneers visit the Colorado College Tigers.

I may be far, far away from Colorado Springs, but I will be there in spirit for the team of my youth, the mighty Pie-OHs of DU.

If those games don't quite do it for you -- man, tough crowd -- then at 8 pm on Fox College Sports Atlantic, the Minnesota Golden Gophers play host to the Minnesota State Mavericks, who have long outgrown the name Mankato State.

And should you want to see the ladies lace them up, Fox College Sports Central has women with sticks on ice at 8 pm when Minnesota faces North Dakota in Grand Forks.

The medium-size HD monitor will have the Islanders/Blackhawks game (8:30 Eastern, MSG Plus) until the Flyers and Ducks get underway.

The rest of the NHL will get live look-ins on the iPhone and the HD monitor. That's the lineup. My line starts.

A Week of Turnarounds

Randy Carlyle said he didn't see it coming. Bruce Boudreau left quietly, and then he got a gig on a late show called Hockey Night in Anaheim. Paul Maurice? Haven't heard much from him after he picked up a toe tag in Carolina.

The GMs for the Ducks, Capitals and Hurricanes made a lot of statements in the previous few weeks. Somewhere along the way, they buried the lead: You WILL be fired. SOON!

Mssrs Murray, McPhee and Rutherford, the first tune is for you.

And as for the Replacements, well Kirk Muller and Dale Hunter still are working out the lesson plan for their confused teams. Boudreau will have his hands full. Puck Daddy seems to think Boudreau is just what the Ducks need to get going. But if you read Robert Vollman's essay on the Ducks (why haven't you already?) in Pages 1 through 5 the Hockey Prospectus guide for 2011-12, you know that the Ducks have been pronounced as thin, running out of luck (an element that Vollman said put the Ducks in the playoffs last spring) and are under the delusion that they have quality goaltending.

Here's the in conclusion paragraph from Vollman.

"The power play is nice, the top-end talent is spectacular, but the efforts of a lot of very good players are being wasted because the team's only about 10 skaters deep," Jonathan Willis sums up nicely. Unless Charlie Sheen winds up in court with a funny judge who orders him to coach the Ducks, it is going to be a long, dull season in Anaheim.

I guess I'll let you decide if Boudreau is the next best thing to Charlie Sheen. The first test is tonight when the Flyers visit the formerly mighty men in jade and eggplant. That's a 10 pm Eastern start on Center Ice. In the meantime, here's a bet that the above Replacements can't carry a tune, so below is a little "Alex Chilton" from the straight-outta-Minnesota band, the Replacements, who managed to get it right most of the time.

See you later tonight.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Back on the Right Course

Every morning is a chance to fall in love with New York again. It's an opportunity to see the place in the fresh light of day, a moment to forget what the city did to yesterday, the transgressions that had you trending somewhere between the rising rage of Travis Bickle and the defeated, yet refusing to settle posture of Ratso Rizzo.

A good night's sleep is a good start. Having your hockey team win the late game out West also does a man right. But add to those two a good cup of coffee and a pastrami, egg and cheese on a roll for $4 ($3 if you want to skip the Joe, but why would you?) at the cart on 2nd Avenue and 68th Street, and you're in love again.

The town's getting crowded for the tree lighting? Let them light 100; I'm feeling good. The President is in town to raise some money? Here's a buck. Get some Joe, will ya?

I'm feeling good and refuse to make the same mistakes again. I skipped the Penguins-Rangers game on Tuesday night because I wanted to see Dale Hunter's first game as coach of the Capitals. Yep, traded what turned out to be an exciting game for the right to see the Caps and Blues wax the aisles of a supermarket. Up and down, up and down, up and down. I felt as if I had been robbed.

Not tonight, though. Penguins and Capitals (7 Eastern, NHL Network) will get DVR treatment as I focus on the Rangers' visit to Carolina Hurricanes. It's an opportunity to see Kirk Muller behind the bench for the struggling Storm Warnings. That's at 7 Eastern on MSG here on the Big Screen in the Lounge.

I'll have the old Jets visiting the new Jets (8:30 Eastern, Center Ice) on the medium screen, but I promise to switch it to the big screen if someone in Winnipeg brings that big portrait of the Queen to the rink to pose with Phoenix's Shane Doan.

The iPhone gets Columbus at Calgary (9 Eastern, GameCenter Live) because I can. Live look-ins on the iPhone for Ottawa-Dallas (8:30 Eastern), Nashville-Vancouver (10 Eastern) and Montreal-San Jose (10:30 Eastern). Once the Rangers-Hurricanes finish, the big screen gets my almost full attention for the Panthers-Kings at 10:30 Eastern (Center Ice.)