Let’s Play Fair


It’s a really good thing I’m not a hockey player. Aside from my total inability to skate, I just think it’s not a good idea for me to have a stick in my hands while in a competitive environment. Not that I’m a violent person. I’m not. I’m also, actually, not all that competitive. I am, however, human with human instincts and I have a feeling that if someone were antagonizing me and I had a stick in my hand…Well, let’s just say my first instinct may be to try to behead my antagonizer. In the end, my instincts may end up doing more harm to the team than good, especially now that the NHL is starting to crack down on the offenses that players commit against one another.

I for one, despite my penchant for stick swinging, am all in favor of these stricter consequences. Players should be free to play the game without the fear of serious physical harm done at the hands of a frustrated opponent. True, this is a fast paced game and things happen, but they shouldn’t happen deliberately. Although I’m sure no one would admit it I think there are a lot of people, Pens included, who know exactly what they’re doing when they take a cheap, often illegal, shot at someone. They’re just hoping that they’ll get away with it.

Come on, we’ve all pushed boundaries trying to see what we can get away with and the further we get the more we push until we ultimately go too far. Unfortunately, in this kind of environment too far can result in serious, permanent injury if not death.

Sid is already the face of the NHL. I don’t want him to also become the poster boy for how an injury can kill a promising career. When I heard it mentioned during the last game that Sid wasn’t skating much I became concerned. When I heard through sources I consider reliable that he has slurred speech and almost passed out in the shower in Tampa I became really worried, not just for the team, but for his life. It would break my heart if Sid’s health was in real jeopardy and his career had to end. I couldn’t even imagine how hard that would be for him and I hope he never has to experience it. As it is I’m sure he’s going out of his mind between worrying about getting better and wondering if this is it for him. I wouldn’t wish that anyone, let alone a guy like Sid.

People love to point out how things were different back in the day. They mention how goalies never work masks or how this bad hit or that cheap shot was perfectly acceptable. Well, my friends, the times they are a-changing. As time goes on we discover that some things, even some things we may really enjoy doing, are actually harmful to us so we should probably stop doing them. We are starting to learn that injuries like concussions can have serious long term effects on people and that we shouldn’t just blow them off as being little more than a headache. Concussions can really do some damage and the effects can last a long time. So, to the people that are complaining that these new standards from the NHL are making the game less manly I say stop whining and grow up. How manly do you think you’d feel if you had to start wearing adult diapers while you were still in your 30s because you could no longer go to the bathroom on your own?

However, what’s frustrating about these stricter punishments is that they need to be consistent. If a certain hit or action is an offense worthy of a disciplinary hearing for one player then it needs to be for every player. It can’t be based on who’s liked or who isn’t and who’s considered a “good guy” and who isn’t. I understand that the circumstances surrounding the events may be different and I think those differences should be evaluated before any decisions are made. But, it’s not right to punish one for something and to let another get off scott free for doing the same thing.

Watching hockey games is one of my favorite things to do and I enjoy the fights and the hits as much as the next person (maybe even more so), but when it comes down to it there is something bigger at stake here than just who gets to hold up the Stanley Cup this June. I loathe Scott Hartnell, but I would never want to see him forced to use a breathing tube because someone snapped his neck during an illegal boarding penalty. (If forced to later admit this I will deny!). Karma can be ugly and I think it’s better to not wish ill upon others, especially when our guys are already so prone to injury.

Let’s face it, whether we like it or not, there are rules for a reason and those rules need to be enforced. But, keep in mind that these rules are not meant to piss us off or to make hockey seem lame. These rules are to make sure that our favorites, like Sid, can keep working and thrilling us for a long time to come.