What has the NHL learned? We’re about to find out

Did you see this assault with a deadly weapon in the Ranger-Islanders game last night?

Chris Simon should be suspended for life, and he needs to be arrested and booked this morning as soon as the police can get to his house. No sport should tolerate an intentional swinging stick shot to the face, and I’m not the least bit interested in “he was aiming for the chest and it got away from him.” You go pumping rounds into the schoolhouse, you’re responsible if you happen to hit a kid.

But the NHL won’t suspend him for life because it’s run by some of the dumbest fuckwits in all of sport. Really, if they were any worse they’d be the WWE. Failing that, he should be out as long as Todd Bertuzzi should have been out when he maimed Steve Moore three years ago. That won’t happen, either. So he should be suspended at least as long as Bertuzzi was suspended? Nope – Hollwig didn’t even have to go to the hospital, right? Get ready for “it wasn’t nearly as bad as it looked.”

Well, what can we expect Simon’s punishment to be? Something in the range of a $50 fine and he has to carry his own bags for a week, maybe?

I didn’t watch the NHL for a year and a half after they returned from the strike because of how they bungled the Bertuzzi gooning (and I still haven’t spent a penny going to games, buying merch, etc.). This hit is worse in some respects. If Chris Simon plays again this year, I’m done with the NHL for good. If he plays before the middle of next season I may be done for good, as well. I hope I’m not the only one. Maybe a mass abandonment of the game will drive the point home that hockey needs to join us in the 21st Century. Otherwise, somebody is eventually going to die on the ice.

This is a big moment for the league, which is currently considering the somewhat counter-intuitive possibility that weakening the instigator rule will help bring freedom to Iraq decrease on-ice violence. Really, did they learn anything from the Bertuzzi debacle? The changes made in the rules during the strike dramatically improved the flow of the game and helped drive significant attendance increases (although it cost them dearly in the TV contract department), but they didn’t get serious about the UFC element. And it’s not like it takes a rocket surgeon to figure it out, either. If When they fuck this one up, I wonder how many people like me are going to say enough is enough.

Who am I kidding, huh? Simon will get a few games, pay a fine and sales of his sweater will probably double. I hope that later today I can post a comment here noting how unbelievably wrong I was. I’d like to be able to praise the front office for getting serious about cleaning up their game, because the truth is that I love watching hockey.

But call Vegas and see what kind of odds they’ll give you on Simon being suspended a year or longer. My prediction? He pays the max fine, sits the rest of the regular season and is back for the playoffs.

And I’m a former hockey fan.

:xpost:

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31 thoughts on “What has the NHL learned? We’re about to find out

  1. That was fucking disgusting. IMO, this incident is worse than the Bertuzzi/Moore incident – which was a cheap shot of the highest order, but Bertuzzi used his fist. Simon turned his stick into a weapon – full-on premeditated assault, with intent to commit grevious bodily harm.
    Action should be a minimum one year suspension, and criminal assault charges. Ideally, this goon should never step on the ice again.
    And I’m in Detroit, still aghast that my beloved Red Wings signed Bertuzzi.

  2. I can imagine. I was ready to riot when the Avs signed Brad May, and that wasn’t nearly as bad as bringing Bertuzzi aboard.
    Nothing personal, but I hope you never win another game until he’s dead.

  3. The only thing that could have been worse in my hockey world is if Claude Lemieux came out of retirement and signed with the Wings.
    We lost Yzerman and Shanahan, my two favorite Red Wings ever – and ended up with Bertuzzi. This year, I’ve paid less attention to the Wings than I have since I was a kid.
    Can’t even divert my attention with the Pistons either, because I despise Rasheed Wallace.
    Wake me in September when the Tigers are in the playoffs, please.

  4. Ah, so you’re a Bengals fan, eh? 😉
    (inside joke with Sam – he’s razzed my loathesome Bungles for years and still likes to get a rise out of me)

  5. Agreed. I haven’t even seen the play.
    It’s funny that it should happen on the anniversary of the Steve Moore hit. In ’04, Colorado and Vancouver were fighting for the division lead. There was a sense that whoever came out on top would have momentum going into the playoffs.
    This time, it’s between two teams lingering within a couple of points of being in or out of the playoffs. There’s a sense that tensions run so high that one practically expects this sort of goonery at this time of the year. Perhaps the timing isn’t a coincidence.
    Sure, paring back the instigator rule (at former Vancouver GM Brian Burke’s request, no less) was a lunkhead move. Even more worrisome, though, is the league’s recent insistence to stick with the current division rivalry-laden schedule. Owners see it as win-win. They get to cut down on their teams’ travel expenses and artificially inflate the intensity of more games, to boot.
    It would be a big moment for the league if the league hadn’t bungled this issue (and others) so many times before. Rather than viewing it as a proud organization during a moment of introspection and adversity, I can’t help but feel like I’m watching bums attempting to pry cemented quarters from the sidewalk. They’ve become so focused on their greed that they don’t even know that they’re the butts of jokes.

  6. That didn’t take long. I said:

    Get ready for “it wasn’t nearly as bad as it looked.”

    From today’s ESPN.com story:

    “It always looks worse,” [Islanders defenseman Brandan] Witt said. “I saw the guy after the game, he looked fine. That’s enough to tell me that it wasn’t that bad. You know what I mean?
    “The ref obviously thought it was clean,” Witt said of Hollweg’s hit. “Maybe if there had been a call, it would have never escalated to that.” (Link.)

    Wow – I’m, like, psychic or something….

  7. Just saw on the news that he’s out for the rest of the season, including play offs. If I heard it right, it’s a minimum 25 games, carrying over til next year even if they don’t make the play offs.

  8. A verdict which is:
    a) better than I expected from the NHL, and
    b) wholly inadequate.
    Anything less than a full season would be wholly inadequate for an attack that could legitimately have killed Hollwig. Imagine if that stick lands a couple inches lower, hitting him full in the throat.
    Something I would be arguing in this case is that you have to punish the criminal act, not the fortunate result. A real flaw I see in our criminal justice system, for instance, is that it treats attempted murder really differently from murder. You pump a clip into a schoolhouse attempting to kill 10 kids and somehow manage to miss, you get a lot less time than if you had spent a little more time on the target range.
    Same thing ought to apply here, but no.
    Of course, I’m not arguing this here because not only does the NHL not adequately punish the intent, they don’t punish the result, either. (For more on this, see Moore, Steve.)
    So really, all this does is leave us with an important unanswered question: What do you have to do to draw at least a season’s suspension in the NHL?
    Here’s the good news – thanks to the front office’s terminal case of Head Up Ass Syndrome, we’re guaranteed to find out eventually. And when we do, the estate of the victim is going have a slam dunk case for damages that put the NHL into bankruptcy.

  9. I agree with your “B” above and with your subsequent reasoning. I would just add that it’s not as if Simon deserved Youthful Offender status, given his career.
    Did you see the statement released on Simon’s behalf? Near as I could tell, he apologized to everyone except the player he hit.
    As for Witt’s comments, I think his surname is actually Haffwitt.

  10. I think A whole 82 games plus playoffs should have been given. I also think hits to the head need to go. I can’t believe you can his a person in the head with a shoulder and it’s legal. They need to get rid of the instigator rule so the tough guys on the team can take out the chumps who give out these cheap shots. So far the only owner who’s had the balls to call out Gary Betman is Tom Golisano. It’s one thing to fight man to man and get it over with, it’s another to hit a guy in the face with a shoulder, or even worse a stick, what’s next a skate to the face.

  11. No, they don’t need to get rid of the instigator rule. They need to:
    a) ban fighting – fighting = at least a 3-game suspension
    b) crack down on dirty play, and use video replay to do it. A player takes a cheap shot and serves at least 1 game the first time, at least five the second, 15 the third, 30 the fourth, etc. I say “at least” – these are minimums.
    c) Actually, make that last one a little tougher. A cheap shot that results in injury, you’re suspended indefinitely. You’re out at least until the player you hurt returns, and then the remainder of your suspension begins. So it’s your fourth offense and you hurt a guy. He’s out 20 games. You serve those 20, then 30 more.
    By this rule, Todd Bertuzzi would probably be out for life. That magnitude a hit he’d still be out – would be until Steve Moore returns to the ice – and then would be serving at least a year past that.
    Trust me, you could clean the game up in a hurry. But you’d have to be serious about it.

  12. The ban fighting rule is out of the question. Fighting is the one of the greatest parts of the game, no one has ever gotten seriously hurt or had a career shortened because of a fight, NEVER. If you have guys who are willing to enforce what the refs aren’t then players will think twice about cheap shots. If you have that stupid instigator rule guys can’t jump in to help their star players. If some one took a stick to Gretzky’s face you’d have brawl and then it would never happen again. It’s one thing for two dudes to square up, it’s another to take a blind sided punch to a guy who keeps playing. I’m all for heavy suspensions for guys like Bertuzzi and Simon they are hacks. The one thing that NHL tough guys cherish is ice time, if you enforce cheap shots then they will almost all disappear, if you get rid of that bogus instigator rule then they can enforce any “close call” that may have gone unnoticed by a ref. I’m not saying the game needs to be like “Slap Shot” they need to stop trying to appeal to everyone. If you don’t like fights then don’t watch, not that you can watch anyways because it’s not on TV. The NHL is in the stadium building business and they need to get back to the game and bring back the pride, and that starts with the getting rid of the instigator rule. Some one needs to enforce what the league is not.

  13. I love the “it would never happen again” argument. Really, I always get a kick when people say this. Because we didn’t used to have the instigator rule and it ALWAYS HAPPENED AGAIN. Usually the very next time the teams met.
    There are guys like you out there who think that fighting is the greatest part of the game. And right now the NHL can’t let go of those guys. But if they don’t, they’re going to be functionally out of business, because the audience they need to grow and thrive doesn’t share your enthusiasm for the pugilism.
    So they have to choose between the dwindling fight crowd and the much larger crowd of people who want to see, you know, hockey.
    So far they’re choosing the gooning and UFC fans. And their televised games are outdrawn by the WNBA.

  14. So the 20k fans in HSBC Arena who show up to see the most talented team in the NHL are there just for the fights? The fact that I think fights should never leave the game doesn’t mean that I only watch the Sabres or Hockey Night in Canada for fights, and the fact that you pulled that assumption out of what I wrote is just insane. The fact is the the games I watch rarely have fights. True the Sabres were part of one of the greatest games I’ve seen this season where there was a cheap shot, a fight, another fight, then a great game with tons of drama. All that did was create a huge buzz and made the next meeting so intense and heavenly watched. You’re one of these people who canoize their self by proclaiming that they are above fights. The fact is you know that it is fun to watch and no one is buying the fact that you don’t. The same people who bitch about fighting in hockey are the same ones who can’t look away from a bar fight, car accident, welding torch, and titties. Go to any football game and when your team is driving for the game winning touchdown and there’s a fight in section 313, who stands up to look? You do! The NHL is trying to market the entire sport, and the fact that they’re on a network that no one watches and it’s on channel 276 of 5 billion is the reason no one watches. The fact is the stadiums are full in most markets, especially traditional markets. So although it’s the “cool” thing to make fun of the NHL it’s doing great at the gates. I can care less who watches it, or what it’s rep is. In fact I think they should get rid or teams and put teams back in Hartford, Quebec and Winnipeg. I don’t remember the NHL every really making a splash in TV ratings anyways. And YES there were way less cheap shots before the instigator rule. As far as never happening again name me one person who hit Gretzky after his first few years?

  15. The fact that I think fights should never leave the game doesn’t mean that I only watch the Sabres or Hockey Night in Canada for fights, and the fact that you pulled that assumption out of what I wrote is just insane.

    Dude, you said: “Fighting is the one of the greatest parts of the game…”
    As long as we continue to insist that fighting is part of the game the sport isn’t going to go any further than it has to this point. You’re going to see a worsening erosion of the fan base, I imagine.
    Or maybe I have it backwards. Maybe the NBA, NFL, MLB, golf, bowling and WNBA, all of which I think have better TV numbers than the NHL, need to make fighting a part of their game. This is a testable theory, as one of my profs used to say.

    You’re one of these people who canoize their self by proclaiming that they are above fights.

    Bitch, please. This has nothing to do with whether I’m Mother Teresa or not. It has to do with numbers. It has to do with whether the NHL is serious about marketing itself as a sport that can attract a new audience. The goonfest has not, can not and will not do that. This isn’t theory – this is a recitation of the numbers.

    The fact is you know that it is fun to watch and no one is buying the fact that you don’t. The same people who bitch about fighting in hockey are the same ones who can’t look away from a bar fight, car accident, welding torch, and titties.

    Lately I have this series of cases where people present me with ideas that masquerade as conditionals when they’re not. If X happens, people will flock to it. The problem is that X is happening and people aren’t flocking to it.
    If what you’re saying is right, then we ought to be able to prove that I’m wrong, huh? It’s not like we’re proposing adding fighting and we don’t really know yet. We’ve had fighting – as you say, it’s part of the game – so if you’re right, all you should have to do is point to the ratings and prove me wrong.
    But you don’t seem to be doing that.

    Go to any football game and when your team is driving for the game winning touchdown and there’s a fight in section 313, who stands up to look?

    I’d look if somebody whipped out a pistol and started throwing shots in my direction, too. But trust me, I ain’t buying a ticket for it.

    The NHL is trying to market the entire sport, and the fact that they’re on a network that no one watches and it’s on channel 276 of 5 billion is the reason no one watches.

    Nice try, but again, the facts are not your friends. The NHL was getting waxed in in the ratings back when they were on ESPN. They don’t have bad ratings because they have a bad TV deal, they have a bad TV deal because the game doesn’t draw. Again, there’s no hypothetical here – these are facts that are on the record.
    Ultimately, the NHL’s problem isn’t whether or not fans like you love the game. It’s about whether they can attract anybody besides fans like you. We know what the baseline numbers look like for the game as it is, and sadly, it’s a small niche sport that shows no signs of exploding any time soon. If the league is comfortable with what it has, then leave the game alone and deal with it.
    If, on the other hand, it wants to grow and reach the point where its fan base outdraws the LA Sparks and Phoenix Mercury, it needs to evolve.
    Really, it’s as simple as that.

  16. Actually the NHL had pretty good ratings when it was on ESPN. I’m not talking Superbowl ratings but a fair share of the market espically when the big teams like Detroit or NY are in the playoffs. It’s rating were more around or a little below the NBA numbers if I recall. Remember it was considered one of the four major sports before the lock out. It did bring in some cash but it was never huge. I’m actually completely unconcerned about TV revenue. Everyone wants to be like the NFL. Frankly the more TV the more commercials, I like the NHL as a niche sport and so do most people who follow the sport. I can care less how cool it’s become to make fun of hockey. Sure I think it over expanded, but when Mark Cuban is saying that he wishes the NBA should be more like the NHL they must be doing something right. I’m not saying that the NHL will be huge, but I’m seeing it back in the top 4 (5 if you count NASCAR.)The NHL took a chance with VS and we’ll see if it ever pays off, they decided to go the big fish in little pond route. Again I’m sure the NHL wants to be a big dog, but that’s not really the point, the point is that the NHL is out doing really good at the gates and is generating new fans. Having 3 game on a week on a channel no one knows they have isn’t going to bring your sport back in the black. They’re marketing there superstars and they’re doing a pretty good job of it.
    back to the original argument:
    I don’t know where you draw the conclusion that fighting is making people not watch the sport, since when did people stop watching something because of violence. I’m not making the argument that fighting will help make people actually watch the sport, but I’m a 100% sure it’s not making people not watch it. Hockey also continues to kick ass at the gates in traditional and some non traditional markets (I heard Columbus is doing great along with a few others). The WNBA is absolutely not out drawing the NHL at the gates, and most NBA teams are doing extremely poor at the gates. Your argument about ratings moot to me because I can care less and most fans like myself think the sport is just fine. Your argument is based on quantity and not quality, if that’s your rational behind things then I’m sure you own a copy of Britney Spears first album. After all it was really popular and the numbers support that theory that it must be better because a lot of people bought it.
    If you actually attended a game you would see that most of the fans are children, high school and college students. I also notice the season ticket people are in my age range too. That’s kind of funny because I live in an area where the younger people leave in droves for better jobs so you think it would be filled with old people. Tickets ain’t cheap either. In areas where water freezes in winter there will always be hockey fans. So again traditional markets are doing quite well.
    And yes fighting is one of the greatest parts of the game, but it’s not the reason anyone buys tickets. This argument comes up on slow news days on sports talk radio every once in a while. Never have I heard of anyone going to hockey games to just to see a fight.
    I think your looking at the NHL as half empty right now, and me as a fan I’m looking at it as half full. I think it’s doing a great job appealing to younger markets and I actually believe that they are doing a great job despite being the laughing stock of the sporting world. I think the situation that they are in they are making the right moves. I don’t know why some people don’t enjoy hockey. But I do know that fighting is in hockey and it’s not creating protests from people. People just don’t like hockey, it has nothing to do with fights. It’s the same reason I don’t like basketball, it bores me. If basketball had fighting I still would not watch. Frankly because I think the sport sucks and I have no respect for the game. The same way people don’t respect hockey, and I’m fine with that. I’m not going to argue about people “not getting it” because that’s the same for all sports.

  17. pt 1

    Actually the NHL had pretty good ratings when it was on ESPN. I’m not talking Superbowl ratings but a fair share of the market espically when the big teams like Detroit or NY are in the playoffs. It’s rating were more around or a little below the NBA numbers if I recall. Remember it was considered one of the four major sports before the lock out.

    Its ratings on ESPN weren’t as great as you’d imagine – these are the sub-WNBA numbers I’m talking about. Sub-golf numbers. And yeah, it was considered a top four sport, but the operative word there is “considered.” The reality of its popularity never bore out the perception.

    I’m actually completely unconcerned about TV revenue. Everyone wants to be like the NFL. Frankly the more TV the more commercials, I like the NHL as a niche sport and so do most people who follow the sport.

    D, look at the argument I’m making and the absolute failure of your responses to address it. I know you’re not worried about TV revenue. Bet your ass that opinion isn’t shared in the league office. I know this opinion is shared by many who watch the sport. Of course, those “who watch the sport” are a small, non-growing number. That’s my point. If you want a goon-fest for a few thousand happy folks, go for it. But you’re limiting your growth, and a failure to capture a broader audience is going to doom the sport because up-and-coming fans aren’t like the current NHL core.

    The NHL took a chance with VS and we’ll see if it ever pays off, they decided to go the big fish in little pond route.

    They didn’t “take a chance.” They said yes to the only guy who asked them to the dance.

    …the NHL is … generating new fans.

    Whoa. You apparently have access to numbers that nobody else does. This is where the real pain sets in. There’s a generation of potential new fans out there who aren’t being turned onto the game in the kinds of numbers they ought to be because their parents don’t want them subjected to a goon-fest.

    I don’t know where you draw the conclusion that fighting is making people not watch the sport, since when did people stop watching something because of violence. I’m not making the argument that fighting will help make people actually watch the sport, but I’m a 100% sure it’s not making people not watch it.

    Have you taken a look at the Millennial generation and the hyper-protective helicoptering soccer moms making the decisions on what they get to watch? Yes, D, violence does keep some people from watching – millions of kids aren’t being socialized into the sport for this very reason.

    Your argument about ratings moot to me because I can care less and most fans like myself think the sport is just fine. Your argument is based on quantity and not quality, if that’s your rational behind things then I’m sure you own a copy of Britney Spears first album. After all it was really popular and the numbers support that theory that it must be better because a lot of people bought it.

    Nice try, but no cigar. Art vs. sports marketing isn’t even apples to oranges, it’s apples to the Ant Nebula.
    Yes, the survial of a revenue sport – brace yourself – is about quantity. You have salaries you have to pay, rent, employees. If every game is attended by eight hard-core, quality fans who revel in the hard-core authenticity of the hard-core quality of the experience, you’re very soon going to be in the hard-core unemployment line. Part one – get them interested. Part two – convert the causal fan into a dedicated fan.

  18. pt 2

    If you actually attended a game you would see that most of the fans are children, high school and college students. I also notice the season ticket people are in my age range too.

    Yeah, my wife worked at Pepsi Center. Do you have any idea how many games I have attended? Bunches. I know all about the live experience and the live audience – and let’s not lose sight of the fact that I was a pretty serious fan. You know, one of those fans who spent money on merch and everything. But I’m turned off, and I don’t even have any kids that I’m concerned about.
    What you fail to see is that you’re the reason the NHL is flying into a very dark alley. They think like you do. Nobody minds the violence. The game is fine. Look, we have lots of new fans.
    Well, maybe I’m wrong. Maybe you’re right. But there aren’t any actual facts that support your argument, at least not that I’ve seen. As I said last time, fighting has been a part of the game, as has all other kinds of thuggery. So really, if you were right I shouldn’t even be able to make the argument at all.
    Looks to me like facts vs. faith. But we’ll see.

    I think your looking at the NHL as half empty right now, and me as a fan I’m looking at it as half full. I think it’s doing a great job appealing to younger markets and I actually believe that they are doing a great job despite being the laughing stock of the sporting world. I think the situation that they are in they are making the right moves. I don’t know why some people don’t enjoy hockey. But I do know that fighting is in hockey and it’s not creating protests from people. People just don’t like hockey, it has nothing to do with fights.

    1: I see the glass as having a big-ass hole in it and nobody seems to notice or care that all the beer is running out.
    2: The shame is that the league has made good changes in the rules to open the game up and it has some exciting young stars (although, sadly, too many of them are in non-media markets like Pittsburgh). That should be all we’re talking about. But it isn’t – great games are only news among the small core of fans. What stories have broken through to the mainstream in recent months and years? The strike. Pittsburgh to KC? The anniversary of the Bertuzzi mauling. Which would probably have passed unnoticed except for Simon’s timely attempted murder of Hollwig on the fucking anniversary of the Moore killing. Which opened the door to a spate of “they still don’t get it” stories written by guys who love hockey.
    3: Yes, it is creating protests from people. And when people say to me that they don’t watch hockey because of all the fighting, I guess – what? – they’re just making shit up to fool me? When hockey writers for ESPN and the guys who cover hockey for the Denver radio station that carries the game criticize the league for not addressing these problems, they hate hockey, too?
    You keep kidding yourself. You’re really locked into defending the game from people who “don’t get it,” “don’t like it,” or whatever, but what you’re failing to see is that the people you’re hearing from are the people who do love the game and want to save it from itself. A lot of people you don’t hear from at all because they’ve already walked away, taking their dollars with them (where do you think that salary cap came from, any way? – did you see the size of the pay cuts some guys had to take?)
    I’m not trying to bury the NHL. I’m trying to get the shovel out of the league office’s hands.

  19. Re: pt 2 part 2
    I’m still not understanding where you get your facts. I’m a round people in the business, former players, coaches, and minor league players who basically I trust a lot more then some radio personality like Colon Cowherd. These guys know that they are facing an uphill battle with TV, but as far as youth hockey, attendance, and younger fans they see an increase. Sure this is one area that is a little more rich in hockey history then Atlanta, but expansion isn’t really the argument. Again let me reiterate, you think hockey sucks because it has fighting in it? If you were a fan back in the day there was probably more fights, when did you stop watching?
    One more thing, I won’t ever use the phrase “you don’t get the game,” thats what soccer fans resort to.

  20. Re: pt 2

    So if I get your point right it’s this,
    Fighting in hockey is morally bad, and it’s causing people not to watch.
    I mean we are totally sending a message to the youth that it’s ok to………..
    Cheat in baseball by doing roids.
    Gamble on your NCAA brackets.
    Kill someone, get arrested a bunch of times, sell drugs. All while playing in the NBA or NFL.
    Most of these offenses get limited suspensions, and are forgotten.
    But it’s morally wrong to go toe to toe with someone who slashed your goalie?

    Seriously, you’d be better off if you stuck to addressing what I’m actually saying instead of making up ridiculous shit that I never even thought. In fact, you read the Pit enough, you know that I have pretty much ranted against most of those things, in some case quite specifically.
    When you start flailing like this, it makes me think you’re losing confidence in your position.

    The last I checked the fights in baseball are a little more brutal. A bunch of dudes bats, elbows, feet.

    Ummm, no. To the best of my knowledge I don’t think there have been any bat fights in baseball. And the brutality – such as it is – has more to do with the fact that it’s easier to keep your feet when there’s no ice.
    And if you get in a fight in baseball, your ass is gone for a few games, not a few minutes.

    So the NHL has 3 moments in the last decade that are considered repulsive (McSorley, Betruzzi, Simon) while the other sports have 3 a week.

    Okay, now I’m just going to have to call you out. I need you to point out three examples per week where something that bad has happened in baseball, football, soccer and basketball. Hell, I’ll go easy on you – three per month.

    The fact about this argument is that you have not presented facts either! You’re regurgitating old news from radio hosts that don’t like hockey and most likely got beat up in Gym class. You’re using a conversation you had with 3 friends who agreed that hockey needed to get rid of fights and thats the sole reason the NHL isn’t doing good.

    Man, I’m not sure what happened, but all of a sudden you acting like I have an IQ of about 60. You take one small point, pretend I made it the only thing that matters in the world, ignore 85% of the evidence I offer, and all of a sudden I’m the Grinch Who Stole Hockey.
    I know you’re smarter than this.

    I remember in class you talked about a successful marketing campaign, and you discussed the milk campaign. Remember you said that that campaign was successful because it they only lost a certain percent less then the year before. So Milk takes a hit every year, but with efforts it’s less and less. Well the NHL went into last year with that mentality and they exceeded what they wanted to do. This is a league who didn’t play for a year! So they pissed off fans, restructured the game, and put out a great product that continues to fill most stadiums without a major market team reaching the finals. All of this WITH fighting in the league!

    The point about the milk campaign was that it’s regarded as this huge success, but that the numbers show milk is losing ground. Now, does this make it a success? Well, if this is the best that could be done and otherwise milk would be losing 10%, maybe. Or maybe there’s a better campaign out there that would be driving increases.
    Regardless, if I buy your use of that example, you seem to be saying that it’s okay to lose ground. And yeah, they sell some tickets, but I don’t hear anybody – anybody – that’s happy with the state of the TV situation. That small-market Cup last year was death even in the NHL’s better markets.

  21. Re: pt 2
    “Seriously, you’d be better off if you stuck to addressing what I’m actually saying instead of making up ridiculous shit that I never even thought. ”
    My point was that two guys fighting toe to toe isn’t the worst thing in sports!
    “Ummm, no. To the best of my knowledge I don’t think there have been any bat fights in baseball.”
    Yes there was, and offhand I can’t remember the teams, but I remember seeing the bench clearing brawl. Before the hitter hit the guy the ump got a hold of the bat. Actually there was something on HBO sports about the ref who stopped it and his referee sons.
    Here’s a link to some good baseball fights, little karate kicks mixed in with bat throwing. http://youtube.com/watch?v=92gmSTUK29s
    “Okay, now I’m just going to have to call you out. I need you to point out three examples per week where something that bad has happened in baseball, football, soccer and basketball. Hell, I’ll go easy on you – three per month.”
    Ok I probably shouldn’t have said repulsive because some of these are not, (i.e dwi or having a bag of weed.) However theses would get “normal” people fired from a job.
    3 in a month that’s easy, but I said 3 in a week so I’ll do my best.
    NFL: Pacman Jones gets arrested for the 10th time, Joey Porter got arrested. Jags’ Sensabaugh arrested for speeding, illegal firearm. the last 2 were just this week. Pac Man Jones qualifies cause he almost got stabbed which is funny.
    MLB: Seriously do I need to mention the roid controversy and the numerous people that it’s surrounding every freaking week. Well here’s some of the news makers. Jays pitcher Chacin arrested, charged with DUI, Matthews Jr taking HGH, and of course Pete Rose betting for the Reds.
    NBA: I know Lindsey Hunter got a suspension for banned substance. Actually the last week the NBA has been quiet so good for them. Guess you win with this sport.
    Soccer: Um I think the fans are the ones we should be worried about, but I don’t follow it so I don’t know.
    NHL: Tootoo punched Stars defense man Robidas in the face gets a suspension. Yeah this one is tricky. It wasn’t a clean fight where both guys agree to go, so I agree with the NHL, on the other had Robidas looked like he was going to punch him but was a little too slow. This was a cheap shot and the league did what they should have. Either way thats only one for the NHL this week.
    “And if you get in a fight in baseball, your ass is gone for a few games, not a few minutes.”
    So what is your take? Is it ok to fight in a sport if you get a few game suspension or should they be banned for the season/life? Is the message to our youth that it’s ok to fight but you may get a slap on the wrist and miss the KC Royals series.
    “Regardless, if I buy your use of that example, you seem to be saying that it’s okay to lose ground. And yeah, they sell some tickets, but I don’t hear anybody – anybody – that’s happy with the state of the TV situation. That small-market Cup last year was death even in the NHL’s better markets.”
    First off I said that last year it seemed like the NHL was trying to cover losses not gain new fans. I also stated that the NHL is happy with the increase at the gates. They most certainly aren’t happy about the ratings and I never said that they were. And I believe their ratings are a little better then you think. Here’s a great article with some quotes from Mark Cuban that I agree with.
    http://www.thestar.com/columnists/article/171418
    My point is that they did better then expected and they are still working on ways to get the product out. It took baseball a long time to get back after the strike and they had a much larger audience.
    “Man, I’m not sure what happened, but all of a sudden you acting like I have an IQ of about 60. You take one small point, pretend I made it the only thing that matters in the world, ignore 85% of the evidence I offer”
    Still waiting for your evidence. I’m waiting for the numbers that you say exist that prove that people don’t watch hockey because there are fights. That’s it. If I misunderstood your blog then let me know.

  22. Re: pt 2
    Oh, look – hockey is on the front page again:

    My point was that two guys fighting toe to toe isn’t the worst thing in sports!

    I never said it was. The cheap shots and gooning are far worse, but the overt sanction of fighting and frontier justice damages the sport’s ability to market itself. I think I’ve been pretty clear on this.

    Yes there was, and offhand I can’t remember the teams, but I remember seeing the bench clearing brawl. Before the hitter hit the guy the ump got a hold of the bat. Actually there was something on HBO sports about the ref who stopped it and his referee sons.

    If true, it represents the .0000001% exception, and the should ban the offender for at least a year or two, if not life.

    NFL: Pacman Jones …’ Sensabaugh arrested for speeding, illegal firearm…MLB: … roid controversy …Jays pitcher Chacin arrested…Pete Rose…NBA: … Lindsey Hunter…Soccer…

    I’m sorry – I just thought it was clear from what we were talking about. I need examples of on-field atrocities. You know, things that are “part of the game.” Off-the-field crap is another issue.
    As it turns out, though, I’ve been really vocal about these kids of issues, too. This blog has gone straight at the NBA’s thug problem (just a few days ago, in fact). My position on the MLB’s roid ball problem has been really clear. And I’ve had plenty to say about some of the issues facing international soccer (fan violence needs to be stomped, and hard, and UEFA and FIFA need to get serious about the sport’s really nasty little racism thing).

    So what is your take? Is it ok to fight in a sport if you get a few game suspension or should they be banned for the season/life? Is the message to our youth that it’s ok to fight but you may get a slap on the wrist and miss the KC Royals series.

    One size doesn’t fit all, but there have to be minimum punishment guidelines that make clear what is and is not a “part of the sport.” I’ve felt for a long time that most pro sports are way too tolerant of all kinds of stuff, whether it’s in-game behavior that should be punished harder or extra-curricular criminology that ought to result in people being banned for life. (Ron Artest is damned lucky David Stern is nicer than I am.)

    My point is that they did better then expected and they are still working on ways to get the product out. It took baseball a long time to get back after the strike and they had a much larger audience.

    Unfortunately, they did it the wrong way. The big comeback was fueled by the underground pharmacology industry – steroids were going around locker rooms like juice boxes after little league games, and while Mike McGwire and Sammy Sooser got fans back to the park, the game is paying a price for it now. Congressional hearings? Raffy Palmeiro and horse tranquilizers?! Ongoing investigations, and we now know that the gummit has the records of all the failed drug tests. Now Gary Matthews, Jr., a lifetime .124 hitter, gets rung up in the same HGH sting that implicates 11 pro wrestlers. Bud Selig all of a sudden equals Vince McMahon? (Let me know when we get to the part where I’m letting other sports off the hook.)
    The price is going to be really evident if Barry “The Asterisk” Bonds approaches and/or passes Aaron this summer.
    You have to let go of the idea that since I’m pounding hockey, I must therefore think other sports are okay. You have to let go of the idea that because one sport is horrible, others can’t be pretty bad, too. You have to let go of the idea that when a guy criticizes something, it either means he doesn’t know anything about it or hates it. This ain’t an either/or blog.

  23. Re: pt 2
    “the overt sanction of fighting and frontier justice damages the sport’s ability to market itself. I think I’ve been pretty clear on this.”
    Ok, so where is your data to back this up.
    Why all of sudden are people not watching hockey because of fighting. Especially when in the ’80s there was far more of it.

  24. Re: pt 2
    We know there hasn’t been a depth study on this (actually, we know that if it has been commissioned its results haven’t been made public). You might enjoy this, which addresses the public perception issue in interesting ways: http://list.msu.edu/cgi-bin/wa?A2=ind9612c&L=aejmc&T=0&P=5013
    And your use of the word “data” suggests that you think we need quant and statistics to “prove” something that’s actually not all that hard to figure out. In fact, your own criticisms of people who aren’t fans suggest to me that you know it and just aren’t willing to admit it.
    But since the evidentiary thing seems so important to you, here’s why I think what I do.

    Anecdotal – lots of people have told me directly that this is why they don’t watch hockey. I’ve read plenty where people say this. And while you can’t generalize anecdotal evidence, you’d be silly to ignore all these cases and pretend there aren’t a lot of people like this.
    The league’s own rules have attempted to cut down on fighting (note the 29% number in the study and the instigator rule itself seems designed -however poorly – to curb violence). So the notion that want to cut down on it without getting rid of it entirely tells us … something.
    A lot of sports and hockey analysts have made the assertion. I’m to assume that they’re ignorant?
    TV viewership tells us – conclusively – that the sport isn’t growing. Why?

    There are other issues, to be sure, but instead of clapping your hands over your ears, let’s get you on the record. I need you to say these words out loud:

    “I don’t believe that widespread public perceptions of the violence in hockey have any effect on the sport’s ability to attract new fans.”

    Also, let’s not lose sight of where this started. While I think that fighting is a big problem, the gooning is an even bigger issue. The Bertuzzi and Simon incidents are simply death to the league’s attempt to market itself, and its pathetic version of “punishment” sends a clear signal that the league doesn’t think behavior that, if it happened off the ice would land you in prison for years, is really that big a deal. Bertuzzi and Simon (and McSorley) should have been suspended for life. And the league should have made a lot of noise about it.
    And here’s the part that baffles me the most, maybe. I’m a guy loves hockey. Always have, from the first time I saw it on TV back in the 70s. Have been to lots of games and spent way too much money on merch. Nearly cried when my Avs won that second Cup and I watched as Joe Sakic, the classiest guy in sports history, turned and handed the Cup to Borque for him to raise first. I fucking love hockey. I’ve tried to bring others to the game, teach them what I know of the finer points, explain things they don’t get, dismiss misperceptions.
    So I get mad when I see the league tolerating things that hurt the game. I hate it when the game takes a set-back. When it does, my chances of being an effective ambassador for the game are diminished even further. You know what motherfucking Bertuzzi did to any chance I’d ever have of promoting hockey to anybody who wasn’t already a hardcore fan?
    And yet, you treat me like I’m some prissy church lady with a broomstick up my ass who just faints dead away when boys play rough. Why? Seriously, why? You’re acting like George Bush here – anybody who criticizes anything about a bad military policy, well, they’re giving aid to al Qaeda. To be against Dubya’s war plans is to hate the soldiers.
    Sometimes you criticize because you love. You’re trying to make it better, not destroy it.

    Why all of sudden are people not watching hockey because of fighting. Especially when in the ’80s there was far more of it.

    This is really a pretty bad question, D.
    1: We know that the hardcore fans love fighting. And that’s all hockey had back when there was more of it. They were a small niche sport, and the product on the ice sustained that level of fandom.
    2: Now’s where I need to make another pronouncement, based on all you know about American culture now vs. how it was back then: “I do not believe that culture and audiences change over a period of a generation.”

  25. Re: pt 2
    I like this, great article. From what I read it explains what I feel about the question “why isn’t hockey popular in the US?” In the article it states
    “The subject of sports violence has received special attention in recent years
    due to increased fan and player violence in all sports (European soccer games,
    for example), but also because “sports journalists widely believe that sports
    fans love violence” (Bryant & Zillmann, 1983, p. 204). So it is not surprising
    that the way sports media treat violence on the field and in the broadcast booth
    has been the subject of some scholarly discussion.”
    Then they go on to talk about how the news only shows a few highlights and then the fights. Remember when they went through that TV phase for a year when the cameras would pan away from the fights? Yeah that didn’t last long. The article pointed out this which I think is right on……….
    ” Perhaps reducing the coverage of hockey’s inherent roughness can be
    accomplished through educating sports anchors and news editors about the rules,
    context and traditions of the game. This may be an important direction to take
    because television reporters tend to be generalists while newspaper reporters
    tend to be specialists who write exclusively about hockey. If television news
    could somehow provide hockey information more similar to newspaper reports, the
    perceived level of violence might be reduced.
    Limitations of the Study”
    There there’s the old standbys some of which I agree
    “ There are a number of theories why professional ice hockey has not attracted a
    wider audience in the U.S., especially in light of the sport’s popularity north
    of the border. These theories have ranged from the game being a Canadian
    import, to the difficulty in seeing the puck on television, to the overall
    complexity and length of the game (Swift, 1992). One major factor offered by
    some to be hindering hockey’s popularity is its inherent violence and fighting.
    While it has been reported that league leaders have indirectly promoted this
    violence in years past (Jones, Ferguson & Kent, 1993), a number of rules have
    been instituted to curb violence and fighting on the ice, as well as to control
    hockey’s image off the ice. In fact, “Tougher rules reduced fighting by 29%
    last season, and you’re more likely to see a bench-clearing brawl at a baseball
    game” (DiGiovanna, 1993).”
    Like I said I agree with some of this, but let me tell you first hand with HDTV out of all the sports hockey benefits the most, it is unbelievable how clear you can see things. I would also like to add
    1) That hockey is pretty pricey for the amount of games in a season, newbies aren’t going to drop $60 on a ticket for game 38 in an 82 game season. Sure a Sabres ticket can be sold to a Leaf fan for 200 bones (ahh how I love capitalism) but some dude down south aint going to spend more then 25 bucks on something he can care less about. Also the way we do ticket prices here are tiered, ie if we play the Coyotes, tickets start at $28, if we play the Canadians they start at $58. Still a lot of money, but at least they’re making an effort here, unlike Nashville where for years they’ve had the worst product to price ratio in all of sports. They can’t sell out and they have one of the best teams in the NHL.
    2) Although kids in my area are playing hockey like crazy, the travel, practice schedule and money are unbelievable. I’m not sure if they carry the same schedules or seriousness with youth hockey in non traditional markets, but if they are, they may want to change that approach. The above reasons are why my parents couldn’t afford for me to play as a kid. Spending $100’s of dollars on equipment, 5am practices, and 3+ games a week didn’t fit into my moms plans.

  26. Re: pt 2 part 2
    Here’s a nugget of info I found interesting………….
    “Jones, Ferguson & Stewart (1993) examined
    attendance data from the 1983-84 NHL season and found evidence that violence and
    roughness increased attendance in both Canadian and American cities.”
    Like I said I’m sure fights aren’t causing people to stray from the sport, and although I agree with your statement
    “Now’s where I need to make another pronouncement, based on all you know about American culture now vs. how it was back then: “I do not believe that culture and audiences change over a period of a generation.”
    I don’t’ think it’s changed that much since then, actually I would think that within the last few years we’ve become more violent on TV. Just an observation.
    Did not call you a pussy, and I don’t know whats would be worse, being called a pussy or George Bush. After all you actually called me George Bush, you somehow took out of my writing that I called you a pussy. I simply disagreed with your take.
    It’s funny that after a week or so of writing about this the perennial “should fighting be aloud in hockey” debate is coming up on Hockey Night in Canada again, so either we’re pioneers or just lucky. Don Cherry had some great comments about the subject as usual, and Colin Campbell chimed in on “whether or not it should be looked into.” of course everyone rolled their eyes at Campbell.
    There needs to be NFL like head shot rules first. It blows me away that that guy doesn’t get it. It’s the one thing fans, players, coaches, writers, and analysts actually agree on.
    I just think that there are other major pr problems with hockey now. Yes I agree the Gooning is giving it a bad rap, I also think that with today’s media,24/7 sports tv, and internet coverage it makes it hard to avoid a story when someone takes a stick to a face, therefore the casual fan may think that this is a daily occurrence. The gooning actually get’s me pissed, I bet the casual fan actually enjoys seeing that on tv. It’s the same reason people watch Skate board crashes on break.com, it hurts just to watch it. Like I said there are tons of reasons people in the US don’t watch this sport and I think they have more to do with the game itself and what people grew up on, not fighting. Besides if you took a look at the article I sent you Mark Cuban made the point that if you combine US and Canadian TV ratings the NHL is ahead of the NBA on some nights.

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