Monday, July 25, 2005

The Best Days of Hockey

Sheesh, why don't they just convert hockey into basketball and be done with it. Scording goals isn't supposed to be easy, it's supposed to be hard. And you don't make the game more exciting by adding goals, you simply decrease the significance of goals and turn the game into a dreadful back and forth monotony of goal scoring - just like basketball.

* No more ties - shootouts!

Ick. If you can't decide the game using the rules that define the game, then settle for a tie.

Oh, you don't like ties? Well, the whole point of sports is that you don't always get what you want.

The greatest hockey game ever played ended as a 3-3 tie between the Soviet Red Army and the Montreal Canadians on New Year's Eve 1975. Don't tell me there's something wrong with ties.

* Two-line passes - should keep things faster going from defense to offense

They give lazy forwards who won't backcheck a break and they eliminate the sustained pressure one team can exert in the other team's end.

Breakaways are exciting. Breakaways that happen every two minutes are boring.

* Restrictions on goalies - bigger five-hole, less out-of-net play

Why not just put up a sheet of plywood like when we were kids? Being a goalie isn't just about stopping the puck - a good goalie is (or was) a third defenseman, playing the puck, setting up breaks, etc.

Sure, if the goalie wanders out of his crease, he is going to get nailed. Welcome to hockey.

Or, I guess, hockey as it used to be.

Soon enough I guess we'll have a 'no goaltending' rule. Just like in basketball.

* Bigger offensive zone - biggest change here is shrinking the neutral zone, and moving the nets closer to the boards to reduce camping

The greatest player in the world, Wayne Gretzky, showed us what can be done from behind the net. He reminded us that hockey isn't simply a one-dimensional game where you skate at goalies and take slapshots a la The Mighty Ducks.

The point here is that this change reduced the complexity of the gamed, eliminates the nuance that an offensive strategy can 9and should have). What we'll see is the defense taking shots from the point, the forwards trying for rebounds.

Oh yeah. Just like basketball. Ex*yawn*citing.

* Changes to icing - preventing dumping

They should have adopted the no-touch rule, to same players from injuries. Instead they created the no-change rule, keeping exhausted players on the ice.

Dumb.

* Instigator rule - bigger penalty for being an ass at the end of a game. good move

The only thing that keeps people in the building near the end of a 5-1 game is the hope that the teams will settle some scores and try to make a statement for next time.

Now, at the end of a 10-2 game, there will be nothing but a boring 5 minutes of meaningless play. *yawn*

* Officiating - zero tolerance, and stuff to keep play moving fast

'Zero tolerance' has killed more games than it has saved. Good referees know when to put away the whistle. Set a tone early and make your calls consistently.

* Unsportsmanlike conduct - the Anti-Bertuzzi clause

Sure.

* Competition committee - good to see Iggie and Shanahan representing the players

They should put Don Cherry on the committee.

I hate his politics, but when he starts talking hockey he and I are in the same camp.

Hockey isn't a game of shooting and scoring. People who represent it that way misunderstand the game.

Hockey is a tough, gritty sport where physical presence is as important as skill. It should be hard to play, hard to score, and to win you pay a price.

Grit and emotion are as important as speed and skill.

People are trying to sanitize hockey, to turn it into some sort of Disney-esque basketball version of itself. But hockey didn't need sanitizing.

Because scoring is sometimes difficult in hockey - because, for example, teams can play the trap and stymie even skilled teams - it requires a more sensitive eye for detail. Good defense matters as much as good offense. You don't have the instant gratification of goals to know how your team's playing.

With the high-scoring all-shoot all-the-time version of hockey, this element is lost. Shoot and score. Shoot and score. *yawn* It needs to be HARD to score, hard to get into position for a shot, hard to break the trap.

I guess the best days of hockey are behind us.

1 comment:

  1. I've been a hockey fan for about 20 years, and I'm bewildered by recent accusations that the game has become dull and slow. If anything, I've enjoyed watching hockey more in the last few years than I used to a decade ago. Like you said, good defence matters -- an intense, rough, tight game can be as (or more) exciting to watch as a shooting-gallery game with 70 shots and 12 goals.

    So although I don't think it was necessary to make any rule changes (although actually enforcing existing obstruction rules would be great), I doubt they'll do much damage. The reasons we love hockey -- incredible speed, physical punishment, amazing skill, the personalities and storylines -- will all still be there. They'd have to intervene more dramatically (and ineptly) to reduce the intensity to the level of basketball.

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