30 October 2012

The Political Debates of Hockey: Three NHL Issues on which I am liberal

This being a presidential election year, politics are at the forefront of the minds of many (myself included, which is depressing when you think about it.)  I do try and keep my personal beliefs on the politics of politics out of my hockey blog.  However, there is no denying there are a lot of controversial issues in the NHL that can be political in nature.  And we’re in the middle of the 3rd lockout in 18 years to prove it.  This is the first of a four part series this week, where I share my NHL political beliefs.  Please leave your comments.

Today’s installment: Three NHL Issues on which I am liberal.

In the politics of politics, everyone likes to frame the words liberal and conservative into definitions that suit themselves best.  For my purpose in this piece, I am defining a belief as liberal if it represents something in the NHL that I would like to change, or represents the support of a recent change in the league.

         Increasing Penalty Calls and Discipline
There are many areas in which I think the NHL should step up enforcement.  I support the change to try and remove clutch and grab tactics that were prevalent in the 90s.  I think there should be more suspensions for dangerous hits.  (The joke that is the Department of Player Safety does not accomplish this, which I will cover in part four.)  I think diving ought to be asuspendable offense, not this let’s embarrass the players by making a list weak sauce.  (And in liberal fashion, suspending divers without pay would punish players with bigger contracts more.)  Seriously, publish a list, when did the NHLPA become "Harriet the Spy" writing down nasty things about their peers in a secret slam book?

Nothing makes me madder than people (usually old-timers) that hate penalty calls.  They dismiss penalty calls with some variation of the phrase “let the players decide the game.”  Any version of this quote, frankly is crap.  Players that commit penalties are deciding they game, the defender didn’t have to reach around a forward just because he’s slower.  He choose to commit the foul, the consequences should be the same, regardless of if it’s the first minute or the last in a game.

End Touch Icing

My by definition, support of touch icing is a liberal belief in NHL teams, whereas it would be a conservative belief in reference to just about every other level of hockey in the US, or internationally, where it is the norm.
The purpose of icing in the rulebook is to punish teams for failing to carry the puck over the center line.  I don’t see any reason to give a team that commits this violation an opportunity to cancel the violation by winning a race.

Furthermore, I find attacking face-offs far more exciting that icing races.  Let’s save those three seconds on the clock on the dozen or so icing violations in the game and use them on attacking faceoffs.

I think the hybrid icing being tested in college and the AHL is a step in the right direction, but I would say it's a very small step.  At least hybrid icing will save those few seconds where the violating team doesn't even contest the race.  However, the close plays are the ones that are most likely to cause injury, and it's the close plays that are still being played to a touch.

(Since I am advocating for touch icing everywhere, I suppose since college used automatic icing for years before, switching to hybrid is actually a step in the wrong direction for college.)

It's a no brainer to me, and the extent to which icing races are defended as exciting play is just baffling to me.  Blow the whistle, pushing the dumping team, back to their zone.

Penalty Shots

Of the three views I’m presenting this one is the most controversial.  I am anti-shootout, but I wouldn’t mind if there were a few more penalty shots called in NHL games.  One instance that I would consider would be allowing teams to opt for a penalty shot when they would otherwise get a power play in the final two minutes of the 3rd period or overtime.

Penalty shots have about 1 in 3 success rating, whereas power plays are about 1 in 5.  So maybe this idea would backfire because that would make refs less hesitant to call penalties at the end of the game.

Maybe a compromise would be to allow a defender to chase the shooter from outside the center circle on these penalty shots as we see when the Wild put on free scrimmages.

This would definitely put more drama in the final minutes of close games.  It also seems a better way to compensate for a minor penalty commit with 8 seconds left, than giving a team an 8 second power play.

I am glad to share my views with you.  I will have the third installment tomorrow, but what say you, State of Hockey?

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