Hockey has many dimensions. Don't mess with them.
Forum: Why the NHL sucks

no.7
Jul 23, 2007 15:12 ET
I don't know any other sport that has so many dimensions as hockey. Whereas most sports offer a pure confrontation of skills, hockey comprises at least half a dozen different forms of confrontation in one package.

I'm going to list various hockey dimensions one-by-one below in no particular order.

Hockey Action

This includes skating, puckhandling, passing, shooting, scoring, goaltending etc. Pretty much every sport has a similar dimension.

Hitting

Includes bodychecks and other collisions. The type of bodychecking allowed in hockey is probably the most exciting among all sports. Hits are often delivered at high speed. Some hits can be damaging but legal. Big hits often inject emotion into the game. Sometimes, they can directly lead to players fighting each other.

There are many outstanding hockey hit specialists, but Scott Stevens is widely considered the best bodychecker of all time.

Fighting

Hockey players often settle their differences in fisticuffs. Hockey fights are usually short, but often spirited with furious action. Unlike boxing, hockey players fight without gloves.

Many fans find hockey fights to be more exciting than boxing. They can be highly emotional. They can be wild, with both players totally losing control of themselves. They can be damaging and bloody. They sometimes degenerate into all-out brawls, with several fights going on at the same time.

Bob Probert is considered by many the best hockey fighter of all time. An example of a bench-clearing brawl can be seen here.

Cheap Shots

Sometimes, players try to injure an opponent using their stick or body. A deliberate attempt to injure is called a cheap shot.

Cheap shots can be thrown for different reasons. It can be an emotional retaliation for a hit. It can be in retaliation for a (real or perceived) violation of one of numerous unwritten rules. It is sometimes a result of a reckless play and at least partially accidental. It can also be a cold-bloodied attempt to take out a skilled player.

Cheap shots usually lead to fighting and other forms of violent behaviour.

The Bertuzzi-Moore incident is the most notorious hockey cheap shot of all time.

The Code

In hockey, there is a set of unwritten rules of what each player can do and what they can't do. Anyone who breaks these rules must be physically punished. For example, if somebody throws a reckless hit or a blatant cheap shot, the other team must retaliate. Its players must show that they won't tolerate such liberties taken against their teammates. Basically, it is considered as an insult to the entire team and it's a matter of honor to sort out the offender. Seniority also matters. A shot thrown by a tough senior player is one thing, but when a it comes from a no-name rookie, it is a major insult.

The Bertuzzi incident was a direct result of a violation of the Code.

Intimidation

Sometimes a tough, physical team will try to deliberately intimidate their less physical opponents as a way to win a hockey game. They would start throwing reckless hits and blatant cheap shots challenging the other team to retaliate. If no one from the other team accepts the challenge, the intimidating team gets a psycological advantage as the other team feels humiliated into a submission. If someone from the other team accepts the challenge but gets badly beaten in a fight, the intimidating team also builds up a psycological advantage.

The notorious Broad Street Bullies successfully used intimidation to win 2 Stanley Cups.

Rivalries

Hockey rivalries are legendary. Hockey players have long memories and will wait for months and sometimes years for an opportunity to pay back. WWF would pay dearly for a made-up rivalry of the sort which hockey has had FOR REAL and in abundance. These rivalries often involved bloody confrontations and some led to all-out wars on the ice. The Detroit-Colorado rivalry of the late 1990's was the most vicious in recent hockey history.

Trash talking and yapping

This is when players verbally abuse other players, using all sorts of profanity and insults. It is typically done in order to throw an opponent off their game, make them lose their focus, psycologically unbalance them, causing them to start making mistakes or take a penalty.

Trash talking sometimes works and can even help to win a hockey game. Matt Barnaby and Sean Avery are premier trash talkers in the NHL today.

Goons, enforcers, tough guys, cheap shot artists and pests

There are role players on every team. Apart from goalscorers, wingers, puck-moving defensemen, penalty killers and other roles associated with the hockey action, there are also various roles associated with physical play. This intricate mix is as rich and complex as in any great role-playing game. No other sport offers such a variety of different, often weird roles players have to fulfil.

Steve Durbano was probably the wildest goon who has ever played in the NHL. Dave "the Hammer" Schultz was a legendary hockey enforcer. Brendan Shanahan is a widely respected tough guy. Claude Lemieux is probably the most notorious cheap shot artist of all time. Matt Barnaby is a classic hockey pest.

Toughness

There is a cult of toughness in hockey. Toughness is not necessarily about being a tough guy, but rather about the willingless and ability to play through pain. It is commonplace to return to the game and play after having been badly cut and stitched up, losing teeth and even breaking bones.

Team play

Hockey emphasizes team play. Individual players must sacrifice their own interests for the sake of the team. Teammates are supposed to protect each other at all times and unconditionally. Any disputes between teammates must be off the ice or in practice, but never in an actual game. Whereas I've seen a few fights between teammates in other sports during a game, I've never even heard about one in pro hockey.

Don't mess with the hockey dimensions

Hockey offers a rich mix of various playing skills, soap opera and all-out war which is unmatched by any other sport. The reason such a high percentage of hockey fans are loyal to the sport is that it is the only one to offer so many things in one package. Some of these things are pretty, some beautiful, some ugly and some disgusting, just as things are in life.

The most important duty of any body governing the sport is to preserve it in all its parts and forms. There are NO BAD HOCKEY DIMENSIONS. They are all important, they all must be preserved.

If you are going to change the rules, like the New NHL did, make sure that you don't take anything out of the game. If you do, you will inevitably harm the product and lose fans.
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no.7
Jul 24, 2007 12:02 ET
Absolutely not. It troubles me to says this, but hockey needs players like Clause Lemieux. Without Lemieux, there would be no Colorado-Detroit rivalry, or at least it wouldn't have escalated into an all-out war. I've seen him turn utterly boring games into emotionally charged battles with his antics.

Like any good book or movie, hockey needs both heroes and villains to be entertaining.
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