Monday, October 20th, 2014

No, He Doesn’t Have a Point

17

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?

Hogwash.

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Comments

17 Responses to “No, He Doesn’t Have a Point”
  1. rsm says:

    Not exactly the point I’d like to have made if I had the soapbox, but close enough for my full support (for what it’s worth):

    Since I’m too recent a hockey fan to have watched Mark Howe play I’m just going to add what I think is missing: I think the actual NHL Mark Howe played in, and the one he remembers playing in only have a passing resemblance. Memory is pretty malleable and these kinds of anecdotes really don’t have much value. It is also eminently clear that frontier justice doesn’t work, while consistent justice from the top seems to have had some effect.

  2. Here’s a look at the HHOF game pre ceremony with Ed Belfour, Doug Gilmour, Mark Howe & Joe Nieuwendyk!

    http://www.hockeybias.com/hockey-news-past/2011/November/Hockey-Hall-of-Fame-Ceremony-November-12th-2011-video.html

  3. PopsTwitTar says:

    perfectly said, Tom.

  4. Fauxrumors says:

    1) The whole Miller-Lucic issue could be avoided entirely (along with the silly trapezoid) if they went back to the old goalies are “fair game” if they leave their crease rule.
    2) Not saying that one should take illegal runs at wandering goalies, but I bet Miller, Brodeur, etc would think twice about leaving their crease to play the puck if they knew they could get bodied off the puck and get caught out of position. I don’t recall there being a plethera of goalie injuries back then
    3) By doing so get rid of the silly trapezoid and allow the goalie to skate where they want, but at their own peril (and within the rules other skaters have to abide by). Protect them when they are in their crease, but once they leave they are the same as any other skater.

    • Tom says:

      1) The whole Miller-Lucic issue could be avoided entirely (along with the silly trapezoid) if they went back to the old goalies are “fair game” if they leave their crease rule.

      2) Not saying that one should take illegal runs at wandering goalies, but I bet Miller, Brodeur, etc would think twice about leaving their crease to play the puck if they knew they could get bodied off the puck and get caught out of position. I don’t recall there being a plethera of goalie injuries back then

      I can’t even remember when they actually changed the rule, but I’m pretty sure it was done because goaltenders were getting creamed. In their equipment they are not nearly nimble enough to protect themselves.

      Coming out and handling the puck is an essential part of the goalie’s job. I think they will play the same way even if the rules say they are fair game. Not helping the team defense is unacceptable in the modern game. Not only would staying in the crease lead to more defenseman injuries, it will lead to more goals against. Goalies who want to win – all of them – will play the same way and accept the increased risk of injury.

      • The trapezoid was a rule brought in when the league re-launched after the lockout occurred. The league’s explanation at the time was that this would increase scoring as goalies were too good at handling the puck. The puck would be dumped in and the goalie would take control of the puck. The trapezoid was a region where the goalie could handle the puck. The rest of the region behind the goal line was off limits for a goalie to handle the puck and he would be assessed a minor penalty for delay of game if he handled the puck there. It was a reduction in the ability of goalies to handle the puck thus allowing teams a better chance to recover dumpins.

        • Tom says:

          The rule in question was not the trapezoid. It was the goaltender interference rule. when did the league decide to protect goalies outside the crease? When did they stop being fair game outside the crease? I can’t remember when the goalie was not protected.

  5. peanutflower says:

    Well, I don’t even remember Mark Howe playing. But I do remember that there have always been wandering goalies. It seems to me there are two sort of scenarios: A goalie coming outside his crease to challenge a breakaway, as in the Miller/Lucic scenario, and a goalie coming outside to play the puck like a defenseman, a la Turko. In the first case this is a part of the goalie’s play for on this particular action — it’s just him and the opposing player with no one between them. Looking at the video way too many times, it’s apparent that Lucic could very easily have avoided hitting Miller and that Mille was simply making his goalie play. If you were to say that goalies out of their crease are fair game in this scenario it would really change the way goalies have to play their game. If this becomes a frequent non-suspendable action then maybe more players will start bowling down goalies who are out of the crease challenging on a breakaway. I think Lucic should have been suspended or at least received a game misconduct for this hit. Boston gets away with way too many things like this. Lucic is a pretty borderline dirty player and this was an easily avoidable hit that shouldn’t have happened.

    As to the second scenario, viz goalies thinking they’re defencemen, I say they are fair game along the boards within reason of course. No dirty hits. A puck handling goalie like Turko can easily change the game — seen him do it many times. But that’s completely different than the Miller/Lucic incident.

    • Tom says:

      Well, I don’t even remember Mark Howe playing. But I do remember that there have always been wandering goalies.

      There were no wandering goalies before Jacques Plante. They all stayed in the crease. A common offensive play had one winger ring it around to the other. Plante starting to come out and stop the puck behind the net for the defense.

      One of my earliest hockey memories is the night my Dad took me to an event that featured Jean Beliveau. I don’t remember much about the night, but I do remember an older guy asking Beliveau whether Toe Blake was going to make Plante stay in the net where he belonged. Beliveau told him that Blake saw what he was doing and thought it was smart playing.

      Soon everyone was doing it. Then Plante started actually making passes and within a short time everybody started doing that too.

      • peanutflower says:

        You’re kind of going back a bit before I remember. By time I started watching hockey Plante had started wandering all over the place.

  6. Tom says:

    I agree that Lucic could have avoided the check and should have been suspended, but I can’t see the distinction between what you call the race and Turco (or anyone else) coming out to play the puck. If there is a difference it is that in a genuine race, the skater can run into the goalie if a collision cannot be avoided.

    Short of implementing a rule that prohibits the goaltender from playing the puck outside the crease, I think goalies will play the puck outside the crease whether you paint a bullseye on them or not. It is too costly for them not to come out and play the puck. The difference between Turco and Luongo is not really the number of times each plays the puck. The difference is how much better Turco is at playing the puck. (Marty will play it more, but only because he is better at it.) Nothing will change if you make the goalies fair game except goalies will regularly get creamed.

  7. ian says:

    Well, I find Elliotte Friedman to be one of the least knowlegable hockey “journalists” around. What a ridiculous point to make (agreeing with Mark Howe), in the midst of the current sea-change about fighting and head injuries. Not to mention the brain injuries with fighters like Boogard. I sometimes wonder if Friedman has any active brain cells himself! He is really just HNC’s version of rag journalists that seem to abound in the hockey media!

  8. dL says:

    I think this article is hogwash – no offense.

    Mark Howe is a Hall of Famer from a hockey playing family – his dad one of the greatest of all-time. I think he knows a thing or two about how the game should be played.

    You reference Bertuzzi-Moore as if thats an example of frontier justice but its actually i prime example of your “bad principal” philosophy. When Moore hit Naslund, the principal did nothing. He was the leading scorer in the NHL – concussed on a dirty hit. The Canucks gave the “principal” the opportunity to take action – they didn’t – weeks later the hit took place.

    With Mark Howe’s ‘frontier justice’ – Moore woulda been punched up right after the initial hit weeks earlier and left the ice bloody but on his own 2 feet. I think we can all agree that would have been a better outcome.

    Listen when Howe talks.

  9. Tom says:

    With Mark Howe’s ‘frontier justice’ – Moore woulda been punched up right after the initial hit weeks earlier and left the ice bloody but on his own 2 feet. I think we can all agree that would have been a better outcome.

    1) At the time, the hit was legal. That’s why the principal did nothing.

    2) Several Canucks tried to get to Moore after the hit, but nobody got a clean shot at him in the melee.

    3) If you are right, the officials should back off when a legal – but perceived to be dirty – hit occurs and allow a goon to pound on the offender for a while. We can have staged fights after every hard hit.

    That will fix things for sure.

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  1. [...] CANUCKS CORNER: Tom Benjamin takes issue with recent HHOF inductee Mark Howe’s suggestion players should be allowed to police themselves, pointing out that inevitably leads to frontier justice where incidents like Todd Bertuzzi assaulting Steve Moore and Marty McSorley clubbing Donald Brashear over the head with his stick arise. [...]



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