Sunday, December 8, 2013
Thornton vs. Orpik: plus ca change...
The Shawn Thornton-Brooks Orpik incident has a chance to be a seminal moment for the NHL, but it won't be. Wayne Maki pole-axing Ted Green didn't stop Dale Hunter from ambushing Pierre Turgeon, which didn't stop Todd Bertuzzi from bushwacking Steve Moore. Thornton mugging Orpik won't prevent the next round of thuggery, because the league won't do the right thing, which is send the message that criminal conduct on the ice is intolerable. That would mean kicking Thornton out of the league, which will never happen, because the NHL doesn't have the stomach for the legal battle that would inevitably ensue with the Players Association. If there's ever going to be real change to hockey, it's going to have to come from outside the game - specifically, from elected lawmakers with the resolve to legislate changes to a game that's lost the ability to govern itself.
Not to harp on Ron MacLean, who's done a credible job for a long time, but the veteran hockey host has been coming visibly unglued since the announcement that Rogers would assume creative control of Hockey Night in Canada. Last night, MacLean congratulated colleague Rob Pizzo on being "very smooth" in Pizzo's Hockey Night studio debut, but then added, "it's irritating" - an apparent reference to the much younger Pizzo's polish and poise. I can understand MacLean's insecurity over potentially being usurped by younger talent in a time of transition, but referencing it on the air was as unprofessional as it was bizarre.
I read a letter to the Montreal Gazette sports editor yesterday from an elderly gentlemen who noted that there were far fewer head injuries in the NHL when the overwhelming majority of players didn't wear helmets, in no small part because of a much greater mutual respect than exists among today's players. The letter didn't give me pause for thought on concussions as much as it made me wonder what element of the game today's generation of hockey fans will pine for in 50 years. Younger generations who condescend to their elders for pining for the good old days would do well to remember that these are their good old days, and 50 years hence they'll be derided for their long-held convictions, unless they set an example of courtesy and respect for the voice of experience.
Speaking of which, when I read that Jacoby Ellsbury had bolted Boston for a 153 million dollar free agent deal with the Yankees, my first thought was that Yaz would never have signed with the Yankees, nor would Fisk nor Dewey Evans and especially not Bill Lee. Thirty-five years ago, voluntarily jumping from the Red Sox to the Yankees was the closest thing in baseball to high treason. Today, it's business as usual.
I'm Old Man Bird.