No, He Doesn’t Have a Point
Elliotte Friedman thinks that Mark Howe had a point when he said, “I like the game a little better in our era, mostly because the players policed the game. I think there’s so much onus put on the officials right now …”
I thought a lot about what Howe said during the Hockey Night In Canada pre-game show after seeing Milan Lucic run Ryan Miller without in-game consequence. (Lucic has a hearing Monday afternoon with the NHL). While Sabres like Paul Gaustad later said they were “embarrassed” they didn’t do anything about it, we’re seeing more and more teams programmed to step back and let the referees — or Brendan Shanahan — handle it…
What if the reason we’re seeing so many dangerous on-ice plays is that we’ve forgotten how to deal with the bully in the schoolyard? You can run to the principal all you want. Eventually, you’ve got to stand up for yourself. The Bruins sure do…
[More frontier justice has] to be better than what happened in Boston, where Miller was flattened and injured, with an incredulous Lucic telling The Buffalo News: “We wouldn’t accept anything like that. We would have [taken] care of business. But we’re a different team than they are.”
While Mark Howe is entitled to his opinion about eras, the idea that players ever effectively policed the game is absurd. All of the caterwauling – from all sides – about the failure of the Sabres to respond to Milan Lucic after he flattened Ryan Miller is also absurd.
First, there is no way any player can change the behaviour of Milan Lucic. The Sabres don’t like it? Lucic will happily answer any bell. What lesson can Paul Gaustad teach by pounding his face on the Lucic fists?
The bully in the schoolyard analogy does not fly because nobody has to run to the principal. The principal is already out there supervising. His most important job is to make sure that the game is played as fairly as possible and that the bullies don’t prosper. If the principal is not prepared to stop the bullying right in front of him, get a new principal.
Second, I’m sure Boston would have reacted differently if Tim Thomas was run like Ryan Miller but so what? Whoever did the running won’t care. He’ll fight whichever Bruin gets to him first. This “taking care of business” accomplishes nothing. In fact, if Lindy Ruff really wants to respond, a goon runs Thomas the next time the Sabres play the Bruins and then the fur will fly. This is what we want?
Saying that frontier justice is better than allowing Lucic to lace Miller assumes that frontier justice would somehow prevent the hit. Brendan Shanahan can prevent these hits, but Paul Gaustad?
Finally, when frontier justice runs amok – and it does, regularly – we get Todd Bertuzzi assaulting Steve Moore or Marty McSorley clubbing Donald Brashear.
Mark Howe likes fighting in the game. Fair enough. Lots of people do. It has always been part of the show, a popular part of the entertainment package. It can be defended on those grounds.
But the idea that frontier justice really has a place in hockey? That it will make the game safer? If the instigator penalty disappeared, dirty hits would decline?