Interesting revelation in this Slap Shot piece on headshots:
But Rutherford told Chip Alexander of the Raleigh News & Observer that the managers heard from Scotty Bowman, the Hall of Fame coach who attended the meetings as part of the Blackhawksâ€™ delegation and had spoken out against the O.H.L. rule
â€œScotty Bowman said it had taken hitting out of the game in that league and taken away from the game,â€ Rutherford said. â€œOther N.H.L. people who have seen O.H.L. games say the same thing.â€
That was a factor in how the vague language of the proposed rule came to be. But is whatever Bowman and the other NHL folks referenced here are looking to keep in the game worth protecting? Or should we be more concerned with the long-term health of the players?
One of the things covered in that Globe and Mail podcast I linked to earlier is the effect the proposed headshot rule could have on players who “play on the edge” because that’s their ticket to staying in the NHL. In other words, we’re talking the less talented players. If a harsh head contact rule leads to an emphasis on skill at the expense of those players, why is that such a bad thing?
Or, as Andre put it earlier this week,
If a player doesnâ€™t have the technical ability to play physical hockey without overly endangering others with headshots, they should be viewed as not having enough talent to be in the league.
I agree, but I wish it were that easy. There’s an obvious shortage of real skill in the League, not only in offensive talent, but in hitting as well, and there must necessarily be lesser-skilled elements. Unfortunately. Another reason to wish Olympic hockey could be the norm, I guess.
And then you have an ostensibly skilled player like Mike Richards utilizing these types of hits, when he should know better.
Anyway, taking it back to the Bowman anecdote, are the guys making these hits worth keeping in the game as a result of working so hard to enshrine what Scotty and so many others see as an integral part of it? To me, they’re what the Old Guard is really protecting, even if unintentionally while thinking they’re keeping the game pure.
Hitting’s part of the game and there’s no way I want it all gone. But the really good hitters, the ones we appreciate for their timing and precision, are not the ones making these hits. The guys making these hits are entering the frame at the lowest bar. There’s nothing about their particular brand of hitting worth applauding, at least in my mind.
I think that’s recognized, but there’s still this idea that the true craftsmen of the hit are going to stop their work out of fear if we come down too hard on the cheap imitations. I guess I feel the players who really know the art of the hit, the guys who really know what they’re doing and who have been doing it cleanly, will still have the confidence to continue doing their work regardless. If the total sum of hits goes down, but the overall quality percentage increases, isn’t that a gain?
I think so. Unfortunately, GMs and the Old Guard seem more concerned with keeping up the number by holding firmly to some unarticulated but fully understood ideal of the Game they’ve got.
Are the jobs of the Matt Cookes in this League worth protecting over the health (and jobs) of the Marc Savards? Is unskilled brutality worth protecting over rarer skill? The GMs may feel secure in the belief that their answer to those questions is “no,” but in my mind, by refusing to propose a much clearer, inclusive rule, they’re really saying “yes.”
And I’m disappointed Bowman, one of the game’s great thinkers, is there saying it with them.
(note: this post ballooned in to much more than I intended it to be originally, so that’s why it may seem a little disjointed and stream-of-consciousness. Still, I’m leaving it as-is)