Friday, November 2, 2007

Brian Burke Wants To Hug

Mr. Burke is never one to mince words, and he has a unique offshoot of the Randy Jones hit on Patrice Bergeron, as reported by Kevin Allen of USA Today here.

Burke is saying that one way to prevent against the kind of legal, but potentially dangerous hit that Jones laid on Bergeron, AS WELL as reduce the impact of players turning their back into the hit (something that I still don't think Bergeron did on that play, but readily acknowledge happens all-too frequently) and ending up compounding the potential for harm from an otherwise-legit hockey play without malicious intent is to allow defensemen to go back to being allowed to place their hands on/around the player they're trying to check/control.

Rules changed after the lockout created a penalty situation when a defenseman takes his hands off his stick and places them on their opponent. This was an attempt to reduce the clutch and grab type of play that was thought to be clogging up the game to quadruple bypass levels.

I think Burke has an interesting point, and a potentially legitimate workaround.

My first reaction, though, is "where do you draw the line" and "do you really want to put more gray area into the refs' job"? Obstruction is such a subjective call, and NHL refs have a hard enough job as it is. The good thing about the way the rule is now is that, theoretically, as soon as the defender takes his hands off his stick and places them on the opposing player it's a penalty. Doesn't always get called like that, but that's the rule nonetheless.

If Burke's rule was graven on stone tablets and brought to fruition, at what point does it become obstruction? When the opposing player tries to move away from the exact spot that the hit was made? Within one stick length of that spot?

Hard to say, and I'm glad I don't have to try to quantify this.

But it's an interesting point, nonetheless - and anything that we can do to reduce these awful images of a player going head-first into the boards and lying unconscious on the ice is good.


Daron said...

Hey Nick, I am new to hockey, I admit, but this one is pretty obvious to a NASCAR lifer like myself. PAD THE BOARDS. My goodness, how obvious. NASCAR has adopted what are called "Safer Barriers" on the walls of many of their faster tracks (I expect them to eventually be at all tracks) to reduce the impact G's. It works. Even just a couple inches of some hard foam padding (it doesn't have to be soft, more like the things gymnastics uses) around the boards would reduce some of the impact, and still allow players to play the puck around the boards. But one thing I have defnitely noticed about the NHL and hockey in general, they treat change as a four-letter word.

Keep tabs on Pouliot up there with the Wild. You think he'll stick after his attitude adjustment down here in Houston a few weeks ago?

Nick in New York said...

huh...interesting thought. And I have to admit that my first reaction was along the lines of"


Two things about it:

1. Would players continue to put themselves in "vulnerable positions" knowing that they were less-likely to get hurt with the padded boards? Or conversely, would defenders actually take less care not to ram someone from behind knowing that the boards are padded? I tend to think that a lack of respect (driven by several factors specific to the hockey culture today) is at the heart of it - and no rule change is going to get guys to actually start having enough respect for the other guy that he holds up in that situation.

2. The hockey purists will freak out about how the softer board changes puck movement on dump ins, clearing attempts, etc. I'm not sure that's a reason not to investigate your idea, though.

I'm willing to give Pouliot a game or two to get his feet under him (adjust to the faster pace, is the euphemism players usually trot out). In other words, he was a non-factor last night, but I don't think that means he'll flop this time.

How's the rest of the team down there doing?