As On-Ice Violence Dominates Playoffs, NHLPA Acknowledges Duty To Change Game Culture
The NHLPA already "has acknowledged informally its obligation to change the culture in hockey that allows, if not promotes, the predatory head-hunting that has damaged the opening weeks of the Stanley Cup playoffs and portions of the past few regular seasons," according to Larry Brooks of the N.Y. POST. Rangers C Brad Richards said Friday, "As players, we’ve already talked about our responsibility to become more involved in the entire issue, and that’s going to begin with talks about our responsibility to each other when we’re on the ice competing." Brooks noted it has "been a mystery why the NHLPA has acted more like legal aid in rushing to defend the perpetrators of malicious acts in supplementary discipline hearings instead of responding forcefully on behalf of the victims and, by extension, the greater good of the game." Richards said, "One of the union’s worries has always been that guys would get harsh suspensions for plays that were more accidental. But I think now with all the video we all have access to, you can pretty much determine intent." He added, "There’s no question that this issue is going to be an important one for the players in the talks with the league this summer and it’s going to be a major issue within our own group" (N.Y. POST, 4/22). In Boston, Kevin Paul Dupont wrote NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman and NHLPA Exec Dir Donald Fehr "are both very bright men and are both attorneys." Based on their "protracted inaction, their disquieting silence around all the violence, it’s clear they either don’t know good hockey from bad hockey, or they are perhaps paralyzed by their own lawyerhood." Dupont wrote, "I am left to wonder why they don’t say anything, why they lack the sense and conviction to put a halt to the horrifying downward spiral." Perhaps they are "surrounded by minions who won’t tell them the truth or shield them from the obvious: A game that allows wanton recklessness ultimately is headed to disaster or irrelevance." The NHL has "allowed violence to infect its product and its players, and for violence to become its marketing theme in arenas and on TV" (BOSTON GLOBE, 4/22).
TAKING A BEATING: In N.Y., Klein & Hackel note the NHL "may finally have found the will to curb the on-ice chaos that marked the start" of the playoffs. A string of statements "by top league officials indicated that the NHL front office was concerned about the parade of brawls, head shots, sucker punches, ambushes, slew footing and boarding." The "lingering image of the playoffs' first week was not that it was the best hockey of the year, but the most brutal" (N.Y. TIMES, 4/22). In West Palm Beach, Hal Habib wrote, "It's difficult to tell what's taking more of a beating: players dominating nightly highlights with their fists and hits, or the league for failing to stop it" (PALM BEACH POST, 4/21). However, in Ottawa, Mark Sutcliffe wrote, "There really is nothing new about the violence in this year's NHL playoffs. ... Violence, brawling, attempts to injure and cheap shots have always been front and centre in hockey" (OTTAWA CITIZEN, 4/22).