Jumat, 20 Agustus 2010

Friday Reading

This was sent by my friends dad. Enjoy:

I’ve put some thoughts together about my “hockey career” which I hope you find amusing. Also from a fans perspective I think that the NHL should stop changing the rules every year and should consider the pre 1960 rules. Here goes:

I’ve been watching hockey since 1954 when my dad took me to Madison Square Garden to see the Rangers play the Bruins in front of maybe 6,000 fans. Since then I’ve probably seen over 700 NHL games in 10 cities including Montreal and Toronto. When my son Ted was 9 years old he started playing youth hockey which became travel hockey with teams on Long Island and in Princeton, NJ. Youth hockey games total over 300 from Marlborough, Mass. to Tysons Corner VA. Additionally he played four years of club hockey at Rider University.

Considering that my dad came from St. Catharines, Ontario I’m ashamed to admit that I don’t know how to skate. My dad, who attended the first ever NHL game in New York at the old Madison Square Garden in 1924 between the Americans and Canadiens, told me that Howie Morenz was the greatest player ever and I believe that his great grandson is currently playing hockey for the University of Wisconsin. Hockey is in my blood and after being married 30 years my wife Susie knows not to make plans for any night when the Rangers are playing. I’m always frightful of May or June wedding conflicting with Stanley Cup Play Off Games. I always tell people that after getting married and having two children the happiest day of my life was June 14, 1994 when the Rangers finally won the Stanley Cup.

Years ago in the old MSG they would permit fans to go down to the entrance of the Ranger’s room to see the team make their way on to the ice. My parents had just given me a new Polaroid Color Camera for Christmas and there I was ready to take a picture of Jacques Plante coming out of the Ranger room. Frank Paice the longtime trainer of the Rangers says to me “You’re not going to take a picture of the goalie are you?” to which I said yes I was. He asked me not to as the flash of my camera could conceivably blind the goaltender. Wow I’m sure glad I didn’t shoot Jacques Plante because he gave up two goals to the Bruins just moments after the Star Spangled Banner was sung by Everett Morrison with Gladys Gooding at the organ. The Rangers as I recall came back to win the game. Instead of getting a picture of Jacques Plante my photo is of a young Rod Gilbert. That picture with his autograph that I got many years later is in our home. Speaking about the Star Spangled Banner and O Canada it’s sad that they have been replaced by TV commercials. If it was this way years gone by I never would have heard Roger Doucet sing O Canada from the Montreal Forum

I grew up in Rockville Centre out on Long Island and my buddy from down the street was the late Pete Axthelm who about 35 years ago wrote a book about New York City basketball called “The City Game”. It was New Years Eve 1959 and our parents had given us permission and a few dollars to see the Rangers play the Bruins. At the Garden we buy a pair of tickets in the Side Promenade which was the three rows closest to the ice. At $4 a ticket even in 1959 it was pretty cheep. We wound up in Section R in the first row behind the Bruins’ bench. No glass – just a steel mesh screen. I was 17 and Pete was 16 and we had heard our share of fowl language at La Salle Military Academy and Chaminade by then or so we thought until hearing both “Bronko” Horvath and Vick Stasiuck. Their vocabulary didn’t prevent them along with Johnny Bucyk from forming the Bruins famous “Uke Line” as all three players were of Ukrainian heritage. Talk about being fowl mouthed - we could hear every word they said. Into the game the Rangers’ Camille Henry was injured and down on the ice when we hear the Bruins Jerry “Topper” Toppazani sarcastically say “Poor little boy got hurt” and my sidekick Pete Axthelm says to me “Topper why don’t you shut up” never thinking for a moment that his comment could be heard! Suddenly we are looking at each other as a hockey stick is being waived at our heads as “Topper” says to Pete “Shut up kid or I knock your f’ing teeth down your throat”.

So I feel more qualified than a lot of fans to offer my opinion of the National Hockey League since it resumed play in 2005 with several rule changes some of which I like and of course a few that I don’t. But before I start let me say that you think you’ve seen everything possible until you get involved in youth hockey. So let me throw this question at you. A penalty shot is awarded if the goal tender throws his stick at a player right? So the kid on our team taking the penalty shot skates toward the goal and, so help me you can’t make this up, the goalie throws his stick again! What’s the call? Well our kid was awarded an automatic goal and the goal keeper got two minutes for delay of game. It would be interesting for you go into your archives to see if this ever happened in the NHL.

Five years ago when play resumed there were several rule changes made in an effort to increase scoring and really this has not happened. That being said with there are more PP goals because of the increase number of power plays but at even strength goal scoring is about the same. To me the obvious reason is that the talent is spread too thin which might become a bigger problem with the Kontinental Hockey competing for European players. Anyway here is what I would do if I became the NHL Hockey God:

· Bring back the automatic icing as it was many years ago as Don Cherry has pontificated about this for several years & in the Olympics too.

· Eliminate the trapezoid. So what if the goalie handles the puck. Now they puck handle in front of the trapezoid anyway. We want play to continue don’t we and why should the goalie be penalized for demonstrating his puck handling ability?

· Put the Blue Lines closer to the goal where they were before. Currently with the Blue Line closer to the Red Line an attacking player is further from the opposing goal. With the Blue Lines in their pre 2004 position, a potential attacker is closer to the opposing goal.

· No more automatic Delay of Game minor penalty for putting the puck over the glass. Let the referees decide if it’s intentional or not. The automatic penalty is too severe for a simple mistake. Putting the puck over the glass is not a restraining foul like tripping, hooking, holding or interference nor can a player get hurt as might result from boarding, high sticking, elbowing, cross checking or charging yet the same two minute penalty is assessed! More power plays rather than speeding up the game was only reason for this rule. By the time the referee makes his call & the player goes to penalty box the game is delayed more! Finally do you really want a game seven of the Stanley Cup Finals decided by this type of call? Let the players decide who wins and who looses and not some foolish, gimmicky and Mickey Mouse rule!

· The enforcement against hooking and to a lesser extent holding is way too tight. There isn’t a game I’ve watched in the last 5 seasons in which the announcer or color man hasn’t commented about a penalty for either side being a phantom call or being too “ticky tacky” or being very weak. “Was that the penalty?” or “That can’t be it can it?” or words to that effect are uttered in virtually every game that I see! Back off a bit please.

· Eliminating the two line pass rule is Ok.

· Goalie Pads have to be made smaller!

· 15 minutes between periods not 17 minutes.

· You want to increase scoring then make a penalized player serve his full penalty time irrespective of the number of the goals scored as was the rule until about 1960 when it was changed to off set Montreal’s fabulous PP.

Now clearly the most controversial rule change has been the Shootout which some will argue is ridiculous….65 minutes of team play to be decided by an individual skills competition! But you can’t ignore the excitement that a shootout brings to the building. Therefore I’m onboard and support the shootout provided it is never used in the Stanley Cup Playoffs. One downside to the Shootout is that it takes away the excitement of a penalty shot during the game.

Many things have happened in this game that produced unexpected results. Years ago, before helmets, opponents had more respect for one another and now with advent of helmets and better equipment the game has gotten much rougher particularly along the boards where we now see major penalties and suspensions for hits to the head including boarding or cross checking. I was going to say charging but I can’t remember the last time I saw a charging penalty. Unfortunately the new equipment gives players from youth hockey on up a false sense of security and has made the game rougher than it ought to be. Make these guys take off the head gear & see what happens! That’s a bit too radical isn’t it?

One thing though was that without helmets you didn’t have to buy a program to see that Eric Nesterenko of the Blackhawks was No.16. If he was walking down 49th St. any NYR fan would immediately recognize him. No helmets? I don’t think so.

We definitely have a problem with players crashing the net and the goalie. This could be corrected immediately if the goal posts were anchored into the ice but while this isn’t as wacky as helmet elimination I couldn’t support this idea either. I’ll tell you what though. Make the goal crease its original size and change the rule so as to make goalies fair game if they are out of the goal crease. Again at one time this was the rule. I heard Dave Maloney on a NYR telecast use the term “frontier justice” meaning how the goal tenders like the Islanders’ Billy Smith policed their turf before the rules were amended. Now I know that you can’t come out and say it’s Ok for Marty Brodeur to slash an opposing player who is in his turf but maybe the refs should kinda look the other way unless it gets out of hand.

As for fighting – it’s part of the game! As a Ranger fan who can forget that Gordie Howe – yes Gordie Howe – broke Lou Fontanato’s nose. Then there was the war between Vic Hadfield & Henri “Pocket Rocket” Richard and of course John Ferguson against anyone. Unfortunately I was ”aweigh” in the USN for the battles between Ted Harris & Orland Kurtenbach. For the most part these fights were spontaneous and part of the individual contest. Hadfield and Richard had their battles but considering that there were 14 games each season between Rangers and Canadiens altercations between the two were few. Also Howe, Hadfield, Ferguson and Richard were skill players and goal scorers while Fontanato and Harris were dam good defencemen! These guys were hockey players first who could defend themselves and fight if need be. The same could even be said about Dave Schultz of the Flyers who once had a Hat Trick against the Rangers. But in today’s game it seems that most teams skate with a “designated” fighter such as Colton Orr, Georges Laraque and Donald Brashier all of whom are 4th line skaters. The difference is that these guys are fighters first and hockey players second. It’s one thing to see Vic Hadfield defending the honor of the New York Rangers while at the same time scoring 50 goals. On the other hand today’s designated fighters don’t see much ice when the game is on the line. To fix the problem I would cut back to 16 the number of skaters each team can dress. In this scenario you would have 11 forwarders and 5 defencemen and teams would not have the luxury of dressing a designated fighter. Good luck with the NHLPA on this idea as it would mean the elimination of 2 players from each team or 60 jobs league wide. Maybe 17 skaters could cure part of the problem.

Clearly the 2005 rule changes have not worked and the truth is that but for the two line pass rule and the shoot out maybe the NHL should consider going back to the pre 1957 rules when each team had 16 skaters and we had automatic icing with penalties being served in full and goalies could roam but at their own risk. By changing the rules every year the NHL looses credibility.

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