I Don't Like Mondays (On Thursday) — November 12, 2015
There ain’t no party like an NHL GM party. Like the politicians at the Republican debate on Tuesday, NHL general managers have a lot of interesting ideas. The chance that any of their brain waves come to fruition has about the same odds as a flat tax replacing the IRS anytime soon. The overarching issue that the GMs will discuss is how to get more shooter biscuits in the goalie basket.
They know that fans like offence in all sports. That’s why the NFL monkeys its rules to guarantee that scoring doesn’t drop below a certain threshold. While scoring isn’t non-existent in the NHL, GMs would like to see a few more plays result in the red light instead of faces red with frustration.
There are plans to modify nets and adjust the scoring zones. But the pervasive theme is the bloated equipment used (to great effect) by netminders to stifle scoring. It’s not a new idea. The expanding gloves and pads have been a source of debate for almost a generation. Anyone can see that they’re too big — the catching glove has a flap with the not-so-subtle name of the “cheater. You get the drift.
Goalies tell you that they need the added bulk for safety reasons. Please. I’ve thrashed this safety issue out online, asking why a goalie needs so much more than a baseball catcher who takes on 100 MPH fastballs, foul tips, sliding runners and errant bats with not much more than shin guards, a chest protector, a mask and a protective cup. Abuse would describe the responses from goalies to this logic.
What’s missed in the debate is the fact that goalies need the bulk so they can play the butterfly style close to the ice, the style that eliminates the entire bottom of the net. Butterfly goalies use every inch of their bodies to stop pucks. Ergo, they need protection everywhere. Lots of it.
But in the old standup style, the prime scoring zones were low, on the ice. Goalies took almost all the shots in their legs pads, gloves and, sometimes, the chest. Their heads were consistently at or above the cross bar. As such the need for huge pads was lessened and goalies opted to be nimble with lighter gear.
Perhaps the answer to the equipment dilemma lies in a return to standup goalies. Make it a delay-of-game penalty to go to the ice and stay down for a goalie. The same with defencemen. Force them to get back on their feet again, the way the sport started. You’d see the old windmill catches, the kick-save-and-a-beauty and the stick used to direct the puck again. There would be less risk to goalies, fewer hip and groin issues and less equipment.
You’d also see more scoring. Imagine that.
Throwback wisdom could also be the answer to the epidemic of quarterbacks getting injured at all levels of pro football. Andrew Luck is the latest star QB gone for the season. Sure, defenders are superior athletes and trained far better. But the main reason QBs get hurt so much is they’re holding the ball all the time in modern offences.
Terry Bradshaw never threw that much. Nor did Roger Staubach or Bob Griese nor Kenny Stabler. What they did was hand off the ball 50-60 percent of the time. Maybe the cure for QBs is to simply hand off the ball more often again. A quarterback without the ball is a healthier quarterback.
The proposed boycott by Missouri University football players over a purported racial crisis on campus represents uncharted territory. And it will likely end badly for the notion of sports as a refuge from the politicization of life.
Without going into the veracity of the claims of racial strife at Mizzou, the success of the decision of black players on the team (supported by white head coach Gary Pinkel) to threaten a boycott in the heated atmosphere of a PC campus is likely to produce a rash of copycats.
In NCAA Division One football, the football program funds most of the athletic programs as well as other activities on campus. It is also an easy target. The dollars involved at a national championship school can run into the hundreds of millions. Television contracts, logo merchandizing and ticket sales depend on the reliability of the product being played. As Missouri demonstrated, faced with the loss of these dollars, backbone disappears rapidly.
As campus groups such as #blacklivesmatter and Occupy recognize the economic cudgel they can wield in service of their dubious proselytizing they will soon pressure players on the teams to toe their line in service of intimidating schools and government. Because no groups in society are more vulnerable to the sophistry of these arguments than government and educational institutions, you can rest assured that capitulation will be the order of the day.
Some might say that college athletics are due for reform. While true, that is a different argument from the mess at Missouri. This is about extortion of sport in the service of radical political activism. Extortion that seemingly meets no resistance from those entrusted with being the grownups.
Bruce Dowbiggin @dowbboy @NPBroadcaster