It’s almost ironic that the National Hockey League let its collective bargaining agreement expire to try and write another one with the intention of eliminating the long-term, back-diving deals that circumvented Gary Bettman’s salary cap.
Not in that the NHL would look for ways to get rid of the deals. It was bad for players, mostly, who had to eat up the difference between what teams spent and what the players’ share of hockey-related revenue. Not to dwell too much into those terms; I’ve already mis-read the document this week and don’t have any sort of legal training or economic training that allows me to properly understand these terms.
That said, had the NHL simply extended the existing agreement, situations like Roberto Luongo’s this week would have become more common. It would have been the norm for players with multiple years left on their deals found themselves in limbo with no team wanting to pay them.
On March 5th, in a game between the New York Rangers and the Philadelphia Flyers, Rangers defenseman Marc Staal took a deflected shot to the eye. This is old news- last month might as well be the 17th century in the information torrent of a hockey season- and, since it looks as though Staal will recover fully, is of little interest to anyone other than fantasy hockeyists and Rangers fans. It did, however, add some color to the recent Board of Governors meeting, where the subject of a mandatory visor rule was again revisited. Perhaps in light of Staal’s injury, certainly in light of all the other eye injuries that have befallen important visorless players over the years, the League came out with a strong statement in favor of mandating shields for all new players.
This statement received a wave of support from the hockey commentariat, among whom the mandatory visor rule has long been popular. But, as always, there’s a catch- despite favoring the rule, the NHL also stated that they wanted to work with the Players’ Association on the issue. The Players’ Association, as one would expect, promised only to put the matter to their membership for a vote.
Needless to say, the Association’s position was not popular among commentators. The PA has a history of supporting the principle of individual choice when it comes to equipment selection, and all previous votes on mandatory visors have reflected this. If history is any guide, the PA won’t support the rule and the BOG will drop the issue. Adam Proteau suggested, paradoxically, that giving players choice was evidence that the League doesn’t care about them. The astute Ryan Lambert wondered why, immediately after a prolonged, nasty labor dispute, the governors are so willing to play nice with the PA on safety concerns. If the owners are willing to f*&k the players for fun and profit, why not f*&k them for their own good and the good of the game as well? Our own Glorious Leader Bourne noted that teams put all sorts of regulations on their employees, and contended that visors should be no different. At the furthest extreme, Cam Cole waxed nostalgic for the good old days, when the NHL unilaterally imposed whatever rules it wanted without having to consult the players at all. It would be so much easier, so much better, if the League would just command the players to protect their eyes.
unable to be touched or grasped; not having physical presence: my companions do not care about cyberspace or anything else so intangible.
• difficult or impossible to define or understand; vague and abstract: the rose symbolized something intangible about their relationship.
• (of an asset or benefit) not constituting or represented by a physical object and of a value not precisely measurable: intangible business property like trademarks and patents.
noun (usu. intangibles)
an intangible thing: intangibles like self-confidence and responsibility.
There’s our official Apple dictionary on the word “intangible” which gets thrown an awful lot around hockey conversation. Google “intangible NHL” and you get about 23 million results, compared with 15 million for the NBA, 843,000 for the NFL and 412,000 for MLB.
I am going to do my very best to not turn this into a screed against Don Cherry as I really don’t intend it to be one. Okay, I kind of do. But, still, bear with me. I have made it known in no uncertain terms that I am not a fan of Cherry. I think he’s a xenophobic, semi-racist, ignorant, militaristic, and possibly slightly senile old man who once served a purpose but is now just a beacon for ratings and money. And that’s kind of my point.
On Saturday, Cherry went on another one of his patented tirades that don’t make any sense claiming that there is no crime nor drugs in hockey because of the level of respect that is prevalent in the NHL. And because hockey players wear ties to the rink. Or something. I’m not going to get into the depths of how factually untrue this statement is as it ignores decades of hockey players with drug abuse problems (Derek Boogaard and John Kordick spring immediately to mind and the rest of the list is a long one), we’re used to Cherry saying ridiculous and false statements. At this point, the exercise of slamming Cherry or calling him ignorant or pick your adjective is an exercise in repetition. We know. The interesting point to come out of all this comes from our own Drew Fairservice who tweeted this on Saturday night:
Someone explain how Don Cherry is entertaining if we aren’t taking him seriously? I don’t think satire works like that.
Whenever there’s a fight in a hockey game, invariably one of three things will happen:
1 – The player who won the fight sees his team score in the next five minutes
At this point, the goal is credited to the fighter, who did a sufficient job rallying his troops with his fists, bringing his scorers to life, and pumping them with the necessary amount of confidence to get the goal.
2 – The player who lost the fight sees his team score in the next five minutes
Now the broadcasters are crediting the lost fighter with the goal. You see, they saw their teammate sacrifice his face for them. That’s, really, what got the team going. They felt like they just couldn’t lose it for their teammate after he’d put himself in harm’s way for the team.
3 – Nothing, in which case the matter is forgotten about completely
A broadcast will completely forget about a fight if it fails to have any impact on the game. This happens in most cases after a scrap, but are consistently ignored when a commentator tries to make the illogical link between fighting and wins.
Brian Burke will address the media today to discuss his dismissal as General Manager of the Toronto Maple Leafs.
We learned yesterday that Burke was “stunned” by the news, according to a report in the Toronto Star, but we will here from the man himself at noon, and will have as many quotes as possible from the presser.
In case you missed it earlier this week, here is a look back at the reaction to this massive news from editor Justin Bourne and the contributors to Backhand Shelf.
Burke’s dogged pursuit of Kessel, meanwhile, is probably the clearest indication yet that the Leaf GM isn’t looking to effect a slow and gradual building process like what turned Ottawa and later Pittsburgh into elite clubs.
Nazem Kadri might be the lone first-round pick the Leafs select for a while as Burke aggressively tries to first get this team back into the Eastern Conference playoffs next spring and then pushes hard to make it a serious contender quickly.
The irremovable stone monument representing Brian Burke’s signature move in Toronto is covered in pigeon shit on one side of it. No matter what evidence you attempt to offer to the contrary, the Toronto Maple Leafs would be far better off today with what they gave up for Phil Kessel than Phil Kessel himself.
Yet the numbers don’t add up. Kessel has played 234 games in Toronto since the trade, and has scored 99 goals. The players that the three picks used to acquire Kessel became have combined for 175 National Hockey League games in Boston and 45 goals.
(Should mention: Kessel is 25 today, and was just 21 at the time of the trade.)