April 15, 2008

What’s wrong with the NHL: Apr. 08 edition

by Dan Bilicki In: Ice Hockey

How a league changes a rule any time during a season, let alone in the PLAYOFFS, like they are thinking about doing now is a reason for outrage. Especially when this new rule contradicts what the league has been trying to accomplish (increase scoring). And worst of all it can be argued that this rule change is only in the fast-track because it “victimized” a great, top-tier player and it was perpetrated by one of the sports biggest “villains.”

Let me set the scene for you: With the Rangers on a power play against the Devils, New York’s super-pest did what any coach would want a player to do in front of the net, screen the goalie — in this case, Martin Brodeur, a future hall of famer. What Avery did though, instead of the conventional stand-in-front, watch-the-play-develop style you would normally see, is face Brodeur as if he was guarding him basketball style. Avery would wave his hands and stick in Marty’s face without touching him, obviously taking the Devils netminder’s mind off of the puck. The play resulted in a goal that Avery tucked in while in front of the net and then was warned by officials he would get a penalty if he tried that sort of antics again.

Now, I don’t see what was wrong with the play — which is soon to called under the umbrella of unsportsmanlike conduct penalties. I think it was a great, innovative idea. If you have no qualms with about being hit in back with a potential shot, you should be allowed to face-guard goalies.

Netminders have gotten away with cross-checking, slashing and abusing opposing players in front of their creases for far too long. It’s absolutely preposterous that —during the playoffs — a rule is being added because a villian thought up a sound idea.

And, finally, why the hell wasn’t there a Devils defenceman around to clear out Avery? That may be the worst part of all of this.

This is all yet another reason why the NHL is dumb.

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