NHL Playoffs and The Dreaded Instigator Penalty

We are about a week into the NHL’s playoffs and I’ve tried to catch as many games as I can.  There have been some good series so far.  Montreal Canadians vs. The Tampa Bay Lightening has been a wild ride.  Not as wild as Columbus Blue Jackets vs. Pittsburgh Pennguins and The Boston Bruins vs. Detroit Red Wings is showing a lot of promise.

With all this great hockey, you’d think there would be no complaints, but I have one major complaint and thats the damn instigator penalty.

I don’t know what Gary Bettman, The NHL and everyone else involved was thinking when they brought forth the instigator rule, but it needs to go and it needs to go right now.  Just watching the playoffs you see how valuable this would be.

The on ice shenanigans thats been going on in these playoffs is getting out of hand.  Players are laying cheap shots left, right and center.  Plenty of hits from behind and skilled players like Sidney Crosby just can’t do what they do best because of pests like Dubinsky.  Just look at a guy like Matt Cooke who is looking at a suspension for his hit last night.  This is just getting out of hand.

Time was, there was a certain respect amongst players in the NHL.  Even if you had a player without any respect for the game he had respect for his own well being.  You messed with a guy like Gretzky and you’d have your nose broken by an enforcer.  This is hockey and it should still be today.

Instead we are left with players running wild and taking all kinds of cheap shots.  And why wouldn’t they?  A mere 3-5 game suspension means nothing in the grand scheme of things and even less considering that the recipients of these cheap shots are looking at their playing careers ended or injuries that last weeks.  In the playoffs it’s even worse since someone will take a run at one of your players and the team is left defenseless.  There is no retaliation.  No retribution since teams are afraid of getting that extra two minute penalty for putting a clown like Matt Cooke in his place.  In the world of playoff hockey, a lot can change in those two minutes and a penalty can mean the difference between moving on to the next round or playing a round of golf in the off season.

Looking at a guy like Crosby, he is getting knocked around this playoff round.  Now Crosby is actually a pretty tough guy and plays his game without complaints even though he’s being rubbed into the boards and slashed every chance the opposition gets.  Now if we got rid of the instigation penalty, the Penguins could actually have a guy patrol the ice and be a warning.  If you mess with Crosby, I’ll break your nose.  You would then notice players lean off him a bit out of fear and let the man play his game the way he knows how.

And if Gary Bettman is really that concerned about fighting and the instigator rule and demands on keeping it, then the only real viable option would be to bring in more officiating.  Give the ref’s more power to give out double minors for gutless hits or force them to make more calls.

Because right now there is no downside to playing gutless hockey.  A two minute minor means nothing in the grand scheme of things if you can use it to either knock a team off their game, box in a star player or end someone’s career of playoff run.

You want to protect hockey players?  Then give them the power to actually fight back and get rid of this ridicules rule!

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Is This The End of The NHL Olympic Hockey?

As it stood, Vancouver 2010 was the last time the NHL was “supposed” to be sending NHL players to the Olympics.  Sure, they are going to attend Sochi for this years Olympics, but only because top stars like Alexander Ovechkin and Evengi Malkin called out the NHL and said regardless of their decision, they would be attending the games in their homeland of Russia.  With enough Russian players playing in the NHL, they had no choice but to head to Sochi for 2014 or face a mass exodus of Russian born hockey players for 2 weeks.

However, the 2018 Winter Games are being slated for South Korea and there is no deal in place at the moment to send NHL players to compete for Olympic gold in men’s hockey.  And I for one, don’t think there will be.

South Korea is not known for it’s hockey players.  I can’t think of a single player in the NHL whose heritage is Korean.  So the NHL will not be bullied into going to the 2018 games since only the fans will put pressure on the league.  NHL commissioner Gary Bettman barely bows down to his players and even less to it’s fans, so I doubt that would have any effect.  After all, the NHL HATES the Olympics.

But why does the NHL hate Olympic hockey?

Number 1 money.  As far as the NHL is concerned, it’s lost revenue.  Their players are playing for someone else and not making the NHL any money.  As well the league has to virtually shut down during the Olympics and cannot gain any revenue for over two weeks.

Another factor is injuries and insurance.  Even though the game isn’t as physical in the international realm or with the more open ice, injuries still happen.  Especially small injuries like groin pulls.  It happens every Olympics.  Some of the best players get injured and miss the last 20 games of the season or even worse the playoffs.  The leagues best players are represented in the Olympics and the best players are also at risk of injury.

Even though there is a risk and a loss of revenue, the NHL should think twice about not attending future Winter Olympics.  Right now Hockey is considered to be North America’s 4th largest sport.  The NHL is constantly trying to grow the game and revenues.  This can be witnessed by them starting the season with some teams playing in Europe or any of the outdoor style games.  You’d think that the Olympics would only raise interest in the game of hockey on an international level.

But it seems that Gary Bettman just doesn’t get it.  After all he is the man that’s been at the helm of the NHL for far too long and just doesn’t seem to understand what fans want.  Whether it’s trying to break into an American market that just doesn’t want a team or ignoring Canadian markets that do, Bettman only works for the team owners.  And the team owners do not want to see their players risk anything outside of their teams clubhouse.

Olympic hockey, I’ll enjoy you this year, because it might just be your last.