There should be no problem with the NHL trying to crack down on slashing and face-off penalties, as they did to a comical effect at the beginning of the preseason before backing off a little. Nor should there be a problem with the board of governors passing the new rule stating teams will suffer a two-minute minor penalty if a coach challenges that a play is offsides and is wrong.
All of this is fine and good. Yet it really stands in stark contrast with the league saying nothing declarative towards their biggest on-ice problem — headshots.
When a slash took the tip of Marc Methot’s finger off at the end of last season, maybe it was a wake-up call that the stick rules have been too lax. OK. But when Sidney Crosby missed most of two years because of concussions, then suffered another one last year? Really, you think the rules on hits to the head are stern enough?
There has been a changing of the guard this year at the top of the Department of Player Safety, with former league pugilist George Parros taking over for Stephane Quintal. Parros was an interesting choice, having made his living more with his fists (and taking punches to the head) rather than his skating of skill. But he also graduated Princeton with a degree in Economics.
Right off the bat, Parros has levied some preseason suspensions — including a two-gamer to one of the league’s ghastly villains, Tom Wilson. The Capitals forward had previously been a disciplinary aberration, unaccountably avoiding any previous suspensions after numerous predatory plays. Now the next time he tries to decapitate someone, he’ll be treated as a repeat offender, which is only right. Parros also suspended Andrew Desjardins for two games for his headshot on the Devils’ Miles Wood, essentially ending Desjardins’ bid to make the Rangers while on a professional tryout.
It was a relatively busy preseason for the new man in charge, and productive. The rules are already in place to give Parros power, and, as always, the burden also lies on the Players’ Association to defend their players’ health as a whole rather than defend one players’ efforts to injure.
So let’s hope that the shiny changes already taken place to slashing and face-offs and coaches’ challenges doesn’t distract people from the biggest issues at hand.
Kneeling on Ice
The NHL Players’ Association was smart to address a possible situation if one of their players decided to kneel during the national anthem, saying in a statement that “should a player decide to make such a peaceful protest, he would of course have the full support of the NHLPA in regard to his right to do so.”
Although the vast majority of this league is filled with Caucasians from North America or Europe, that doesn’t exclude them from wanting to join the peaceful protests seen in other leagues. Hockey can be a very insular and conservative sport with strange unwritten rules — some rules being short-sided and boneheaded — but it can also be very open-minded. Just look at how active people involved with the sport are in the You Can Play initiative.
It’s part of Sean Avery’s DNA that he draws attention and embraces controversy. So of course when the former Rangers pest came out with a book, it was filled with strong opinions and borderline inflammatory statements.
The most glaring was his attacks on former coach John Tortorella, now behind the bench in Columbus, and his assistant at the time, Mike Sullivan, now a two-time Stanley Cup-winning head coach with the Penguins.
“None of us can stand listening to the mental midget and his big goofy sidekick, Mike Sullivan,” Avery wrote, according to Yahoo. He then said Tortorella “probably knew” about Derek Boogaard’s addiction to pain killers that would eventually kill him, and that Tortorella tortured Boogaard with conditioning drills. Avery then said he was so mad that Tortorella missed Boogaard’s funeral that he needed his wife’s support to “stop me from doing something that could have landed me in prison.”
Never a dull moment for Page Six Sean.
Stay tuned …
… to the Oilers, and more specifically, the career arc of Ryan Strome. The Islanders traded the 24-year-old winger to Edmonton this offseason started his tenure on the flank of reigning Hart Trophy winner Connor McDavid. He was pulled off that line in the middle of a game, with coach Todd McLellan saying, “it was a message that went to him fairly early in the process.” Should be interesting to see where Strome’s career goes from here.
The Bruins must be pretty happy about locking up David Pastrnak to his six-year, $40 million deal. The 21-year-old Czech is quite a talent, indeed.
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