Saturday, February 12, 2011

Back to the stone age


I said I wouldn't blog about this but I might as well, even though I twittered most of my thoughts already.

The NHL is a disgrace. Given my current state of disgust and scorn already for the league and the idiots who run it, Friday's Pittsburgh-Islanders game was just about perfect. Total anarchy, total goonism, total cheap shots, just all out chaos and mayhem.

It might have been a little avoidable. After all, the Islanders only talked about revenge oh, pretty damn often since Brent Johnson clocked Rick DiPietro. Then they recalled their AHL leader in penalty minutes the day of the game. To join a lineup that already includes thugs like Trevor Gillies, Matt Martin and Zenon Konopka. Ahead of a game that also included Eric Godard, Deryk Engelland and Mike Rupp. Gee, what could possibly go wrong?

New York got the best start it could, lighting up Johnson early and often. Then they started to goon the game up and turn it into a circus.

I know what you're thinking. My team employs Matt Cooke, who am I to judge? Well, Cooke hasn't pulled a Todd Bertuzzi on anyone, as Matt Martin nearly did to Max Talbot. Martin dropped his gloves, from behind Talbot, and fired up a roundhouse right before Talbot saw it coming and managed to defend himself.

Then Trevor Gillies elbowed Eric Tangradi - who is the Penguins' top forward prospect - and possibly gave him a concussion, then Gillies continued to pound on Tangradi, who tried to huddle - Steve Moore-like - on the ice. To top it off, Gillies decided to be even classier by shouting at Tangradi from the runway, while Tangradi was still lying on the ice being attended to by physicians.

The Penguins did their part in escalating this now-intense rivalry. As near as I can tell, three incidents led to this. Kris Letang's shoulder-to-shoulder hit on Blake Comeau, a hit for which Letang was ejected under rule 48. The NHL rescinded the game misconduct because Letang didn't actually hit Comeau in the head as on-ice officials believed.

Comeau received another blindside, shoulder-to-shoulder hit in the teams' most recent meeting. That was delivered by Talbot. I don't believe there was a penalty, but Comeau apparently suffered a concussion from that hit and hasn't played since. Then, of course, there was Johnson breaking DiPietro's face.

Noted philanthropist and Islanders center Zenon Konopka was one of the ones mentioning the revenge word.

Instead of try to defuse it, the NHL assigned someone named David Banfield as a referee rather than two veterans. (Dan O'Halloran was the other referee.) As far as I know, there were no warnings like when Pittsburgh played Boston the first time after Cooke cheap-shotted Marc Savard.

So, naturally, in a blowout, things got out of control. But it was mainly the Islanders pulling the cheap shit. Martin, Gillies, Micheal Haley going after Johnson and leading to Eric Godard coming off the bench to go after Haley. (In a related story, see you in 10 games, Eric. At least.)

The Islanders' management, coaching staff and players should be ashamed of themselves. So should the NHL. And screw it, so should the Penguins. They instigated a few of the incidents too, it wasn't all New York.

Friday night was a disgrace. On the heels of the Montreal-Boston bloodbath, the NHL is regressing. Given the Sidney Crosby concussion is a continuing - if not growing - story (even ESPN's Pardon the Interruption has been talking about this stuff), the NHL's PR must be pulling out its collective hair.

Maybe because I'm on the losing end, but Friday's game was not fun. I worked during the Boston-Montreal brawl but I didn't look for any YouTube clips of that. I wasn't interested. This crap isn't good.

I'm not calling for the banning of fighting or anything like that, but there's something in the culture of the game that has to change. Unless the NHL is happy with just being a niche sport. In which case, whatever.

It's hard for me to care about at this point.

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