Category Archives: Jesse

Philadelphia, the Beast in the East, Highlights the Second Round.

A preview of the second round in the East; if it’s anything like the first, you need not read any further.

New York Vs Washington:

Does Washington turn up the offense on New York?

New York in seven was the only series I predicted correctly (in terms of games, I also predicted NJ to win, but that’s about all I got right) and it may have been the one I went most out on a limb for. Judging by stats, Ottawa should have been easy prey for the best team in the East, but this was a New York team that was largely untested. Well, not anymore I suppose.

I think New York now emerges as a much clearer front runner, having made it through the first round where upsets typically abound (just ask Vancouver). Game seven was perhaps the Rangers’ best game, as evidenced by their near perfect defensive play in the third period. When the Sens’ need for a goal was most dire, New York shut them down. It was the exact kind of hockey John Tortorella wants his team playing, and that bodes well for the Blueshirts in round 2.

However, let’s not forget the feat accomplished by the Capitals in the first round. They lulled the defending champs into the kind of slow, dispassionate game they prefer to play, and it worked, if just barely. If they manage to repeat that effort this could be the most boring series in recent memory. But I don’t think they will.

Ottawa was most successful against New York when they committed, all out, to offensive pressure. When they tried to play New York’s tight-checking, defence first style, they couldn’t compete. Perhaps coach Hunter will make note of this and give Ovie a little more leeway to play his game, or at any rate, what his game used to be. If the Capitals’ scorers are given carte blanche to play a little more free-wheeling, this could be a more interesting series.

The Line: Rangers in 7.

Philadelphia Vs. New Jersey:

More of this in the second round?

Who didn’t fall in love, just a little, with the Flyers in the first round? With their style of play, you know, hitting everything that moves and scoring 5 goals or more each game, who couldn’t get excited to watch them? Even The Devils, world renowned for inventing the most boring style of play in hockey history, look a little more exciting lining up next to Philadelphia’s motley crew.

For The Flyers to be successful, the first thing they’ll need is goal-tending. That’s no secret. Ilya Bryzgalov’s 3.89 GAA is not going to be good enough going forward. He only looked good in comparison to Marc Andre Fluery, which is like saying a black eye looks good next to a kick in the pants. This may have been the worst goalie dual in NHL playoff history. But that’s okay, watching 10-15 goals a night was fun. However, if Philly is to be successful in the later rounds, they will need better than the worst GAA among active goalies. Mr. Universe has the ability to be great, he just needs to access that ability regularly. If he does, he’d be The Flyer’s first consistent playoff-goalie since Bernie Parent.

New Jersey however, must simply weather the storm. Philadelphia thrives off conflict, they devoured Pittsburgh largely because The Penguins’ lost their heads as a result of The Flyers sometimes questionable, always vicious play. New Jersey’s young defence core must keep their cool, and try to keep The Flyers to the perimeter. Also, to win this series, which is an uphill battle for sure, they will need a vintage performance from Martin Brodeur. Whether or not he has that in him remains to be seen.

The Line: Philly in 5.

There are my thoughts, but I strongly advise you weigh them carefully before betting your house on them, as nearly everyone was wrong about the first round, and there are many wild cards kicking around the second round.

Enjoy round two.

Written by Jesse Borg.

Tagged , , , , , , , ,

The Good, The Bad, and the Disgusting: How The Playoffs that started ugly, ended much uglier.

“It’s a battle I think will always be there”. Unfortunately, Joel Ward, who scored the overtime winning goal for Washington in game 7, was not talking about hockey. He was talking about race, bigotry to be exact, and how it revealed its ugly visage by way of a barrage of tweets following his overtime heroics.

Many disgruntled Boston fans, and a few fans of other NHL teams, took to their computers following Boston’s defeat and, using language most of us think belongs to antiquity, displayed their outrage that Boston would lose, at the hands of a black man no less.

Some of you might remember that this is not the first time this year race as come up in the NHL. There was the Wayne-Simmonds-banana-throwing-incident, where a London Ontario native threw a banana at Simmonds, also a black player, while attempting a breakaway.

In both cases the offended player has been overwhelmingly gracious, but also, unsurprised. Joel Ward said, when asked about the blatant bigotry aimed towards him since Boston’s elimination, “I’m a black guy playing a predominantly white sport. It’s just going to come with the territory. I’d feel naive or foolish to think that it doesn’t exist”, which is probably true, but disgustingly unnecessary. Why should it be the case that this would “come with the territory”? – this is more than an insult I’ll remind you, it’s an infringement on someone’s rights as outlined in The Charter of Rights and Freedoms –  Why is it merely unfortunate?

Joel Ward said all the racist vitriol "didn't ruin my day". While we should all be outraged, I have to respect his swag.

This story has been, by and large, a minor one. The conventional wisdom here seems to be that we shouldn’t give such people any thought. The problem with that is, by way of our lack of consideration, these attitudes don’t change, and the behaviour stays relatively consistent. Instead we should pay this kind of thing a lot of attention, and I don’t mean wide-eyed astonishment that such people still exist, I mean outrage.

Written by Jesse Borg.

The King’s Justice: Bettman’s NHL Comes Down Hard On Raffi Torres

Raffi Torres Gets 25 Games For Hit On Marian Hossa.

Many who watched this week’s installment of the NHL playoffs felt that the sometimes overwhelming stream of minor, major and misconduct penalties handed down early in games were a message from the league saying, essentially, enough is enough. They were wrong. The message was received today; first by Raffi Torres, now the entire league.

Similar to the article I wrote the day after Hossa was sent to the hospital by Torres, this suspension was based both on a body of work, and a league-wide perception that the NHL has been relatively ineffectual in handling headshots until this point. I suppose we can call them ineffectual no longer.

Nevertheless, this does highlight the vast inconsistencies with which the NHL has operated this spring. When you compare Carkner’s suckering of Boyle, or Asham’s handiwork on Schenn, or Carl Hagelin’s headshot on Daniel Alfredsson (which could effectively end his career), are these offenses really, in Hagelin’s case, 22 games apart in severity? In other words, does the punishment fit the crime?

The answer? Yes and no. For the individual hit in question, of course no. Torres does not deserve to be banned for 25 games for that hit on its own. Think of it this way. If Phoenix were to make it to the Stanley Cup final, having gone to game seven in each series, he would be hoisting the cup in a suit. So, considering how stiff the punishment is, let’s be honest about what this is: on one hand it’s a league exasperated with a player’s refusal to learn from his previous mistakes and get up with the times; on the other hand, Torres has been used to serve the league’s wider ambition this week: to better police the game and stem the madness.

And oh, there has been madness. It seems as though the early theme of the playoffs has been bloodshed, and the fans’ apparent love for, or aversion to it. The TV ratings are off the charts, specifically in the Philadelphia/Pittsburgh series, which has been by far the most violent. 2.7 American viewers tuned into game three in that series, making it the most watched hockey game in America in a decade.

This puts the NHL in a precarious position, balancing on a fine line between the embrace of violence and the responsibility to maintain player safety. For the moment, with this exhaustive suspension on Torres, it appears the NHL has moved decidedly towards the latter, but who knows, it may not be long before rivalries are renewed and the blood begins to spill again. And remember, this is Raffi Torres getting 25 games. We’ve yet to see what happens in a similar situation involving a star player. The worst that’s been handed out was a one-gamer to Nicklas Backstrom for cross-checking  Rich Peverly in the face.

For some reason I doubt we’ll see even 5 games thrown at say Alex Ovechkin, who also has several suspensions, if he launches himself at someone’s head and causes a severe injury. That is the nature of Bettman’s justice: just, as long as the league can afford it.

Nevertheless, they may have gotten this one right. Now if they could only get the next one right they’d really be on a roll.

Written by Jesse Borg.

Update: here’s a link to Shanahan’s video on the matter

Tagged , , , , , , ,

Upsetting: Who’s Ripe for the Picking?

It sure can get lonely back there.

Two days ago we featured an article written by Roy Herron about “Elimination Day”, which, it turns out, was poorly titled. So now we ask:

Who’s more likely to pull off the unthinkable, Pittsburgh or Vancouver?

The unthinkable here, in case you’re just tuning into the playoffs, is coming back from a 3-0 series deficit. Or, in other words, going on a four game winning streak in the playoffs, which is no easy task.

The sheer volatility of the Pittsburgh/Philadelphia makes either team an uneasy pick right now. Whose proline picked Pittsburg by 7 goals last game I wonder? Did anyone pencil in Jordan Stall for a hat trick? This has been the most unpredictable series in recent memory, and I’d be lying if I said I knew how tonight’s game was going to play out.

However, I do have a theory. I think Pittsburgh will win IF Marc Andre Fluery gets it together and has, at the very least, a solid game. For some reason, call it a hunch, I feel he is more prepared to do this than Ilya Bryzgalov.

Moreover, I expect that if the Penguins tone down the after

-whistle-antics, like they did last game, they can play a more controlled, defensively sound game. If they support Fluery, and he plays decent, I think they win.

Of the two teams in need of semi-historic comebacks (how historic can it really be if it was done two years ago) I think Pittsburgh is in better shape to do so. Or, at any rate, they appear to be better suited for such a comeback purely by virtue of the fact that their series as a whole has been so unpredictable. And, true toform, they could just as easily go down tonight, though I doubt it.

Which brings me to “Canada’s Team”. I will spare Canucks fans the mean spirited denial that they are specifically not Canada’s Team, in the place of the more accurate account of no team being Canada’s Team;  not the Habs, not even the Leafs. That being said, I do not think there will be a miraculous comeback for “A Canadian Team”, the Vancouver Canucks.

The Canucks saw some improved play with two important additions. No one should be surprised by the team inserting Daniel Sedin, head be damned, with their backs up against the wall; no more than they should be surprised by the team’s improved play with him in the lineup. However, many of us were surprised by their other addition, or was it addition by subtraction?

I am, of course, talking about Cory Schneider. The long term implications of Alain Vigneault’s decision to switch Luongo for Schneider will have catch-22-like future implications. If they pull off the near-impossible and come back I don’t see how they can go back to Luongo. If they lose and are eliminated, I don’t see how they can keep both of them. Either way a decision will be made about Vancouver’s “goalie problem” (the best goalie problem in the league) this summer. Or maybe it has already been made.

One would assume that Vigneault will go back to Schneider, who played great, on Saturday, however, his knee has been a little jerky already. If he decides to reinsert Luongo and they lose, he might lose his job.

What seemed only a week ago as a bit of a flippant decision, to start Schneider hoping to temporarily spark his team, especially considering how well Luongo played, has now turned into “Vigneault’s Choice”, and the team will live or die by it.

They lived by it here (great use of inception soundtrack):

Nevertheless, even with Daniel Sedin and Cory Schneider playing their best, Jonathan Quick looks fairly impenetrable right now, and I expect he will steal at least one more game from the Canucks.

So, in the end, and as is typically the case for the NHL playoffs, it will come down to goaltending on all fronts. May the worst one lose.

Written by Jesse Borg.

Tagged , , , , , , , , , , ,

The Ballad of Raffi Torres

I’m sure you’re all familiar with that old southern mantra; Fool me once, shame on you, fool me twice, shame on me.

I wonder, how many times will Raffi Torres fool the NHL?

Shake it off, right?

Let me disclaim upfront: this is not merely about Torres’ hit on Marian Hossa last night that sent the Slovak to the hospital on a stretcher,  of all his questionable hits, that may have been the cleanest. This is about a body of work; a portfolio of wanton violence and skulduggery that stretches the length of Torres’ entire career. This is about consistency.

I enter the following as evidence:

and of course:

I included the last one so that you get the gist of my overall argument here: Raffi Torres makes poor choices, habitually. And each time he’s called on it, whether it’s a questionable hit or dressing in blackface, his argument is typically “i didn’t mean to hurt anyone”, which might be true. In the case of his Jay-Z get up I genuinely believe he didn’t mean for it to be racially insensitive. Still, poor choice of costume for a public figure. Poorer choice to allow your friend to put it on twitter.

As for the hits, most of them, on their own, are questionable. The question being whether Raffi was specifically head hunting each time. But all together? It’s a pretty damning collection of evidence that seems to suggest that Torres consistently targets other players’ heads.

So what to do with him this time? Suspension lengths increase based on player history, which, one would assume, will count against Torres here, and heavily. Also, I get the impression, and you might as well, that it’s high time Shanahan make an example out of someone. The perception is quickly becoming that these playoffs are a little out of control and a significant suspension here would be, depending on your point of view, a step in the right direction.

Then again, there have been worse hits these playoffs that garnered no suspensions, or at the most, suspensions of three games (Carl Hagelin on Daniel Alfredsson). What Shanahan does here may very well be the benchmark on which his career as VP of Player Safety is judged. It may even determine how long he keeps that position.

Finally there is the supposed “culture change” to consider. We’ve heard many times this year about the need to “change the culture” surrounding hits to the head in light of the concussion epidemic. Part of that culture, we’ve been lead to believe, is cultivated by the players, and it’s up to them to change it. Fat chance. As for the other part, that is the onus of the NHL, and will be changed by how they approach head-shots in terms of suspensions. In the past, this hit on Hossa, with Torres’ history in mind, may have resulted in a game or two being docked, but it feels as though that might be insufficient now. If Shanahan and the NHL are to make a statement here it will have to be an unprecedented one. It’s a go-big-or-go-home moment now.

If Torres gets more than five games the statement will have been made. Two or less? Business as usual.Three or four? A decidedly ambiguous result, which may be what the NHL would prefer.

At any rate, there is a reason that this moment has caused such a stir around the NHL and its fanbase: it’s a contentious hit. There’s validity on all sides. It’s up to the NHL to let everyone else know, finally, what kind of hit this one really is.

Written by Jesse Borg.

Journey to the Underworld: The Pittsburgh-Philadelphia Series Embraces Mayhem

There’s only one way to start at this point; you’ve got to see it to believe it:

I hope you watched the whole thing, so you can really get the scope of what that series has mutated into. Now we have to ask ourselves do we like it?

It’s harder to answer than it at first seems. This is, make no mistake, a question of both entertainment and sports philosophy. Would you rather see Giroux and Crosby fight or score goals? Should we even have to choose?

Perhaps it’s not the fact that the games mean more, that each goal carries so much weight, which makes the playoffs more interesting, but rather, that the games get so ugly, the hate so visceral, and we are like so many passengers whose necks are careening around the burnt-out car wreck, vultures to the slaughter.

Or maybe not. Many sports writers today were adamant about their dislike for the nasty turn these games have taken. Damien Cox’s article on the matter is worth reading. Moreover, on each sports broadcast you can watch as the moderator tries to suggest that the fights, slashes and hits are not “hockey plays”, while the former players to his left and right try to hold their tongues. Then again, there is the network to consider.Everyone has a boss. Except for us I guess.

First it would be prudent to examine how these games got out of control. In both the New York game and the Pittsburgh game a fighter was thrown out in the first period, Carkner and Asham respectively. While they probably deserved to be thrown out, those are two players who could be used as deterrents against further head hunting. The refs in the Pittsburgh game also failed to address the players who were really stirring the pot; namely James Neale. The problem is that scores will eventually settle themselves (see: brian boyle) if the refs don’t settle them first. There’s nothing more fearful than a player like Carkner who feels like justice wasn’t done, and that he must do it.

Enter the dissenting view: that through legislation these quams may be quelled. This is the crux of Cox’s view (k, i’ll stop with those sweet alliterations) that if Shanahan and the refs would only do their jobs, and consistently, then we wouldn’t have this bloody sham of a playoff. This is wrong methinks.

It is essentially a question of ethics, and on the question there are generally two views. On one hand there are those who believe that we do not commit crimes because they are against the law, this is an appeal to legislation and the deterring power of punishment. On the other hand, there are those who think that we do not commit crimes because of some higher moral/cultural code. Simply ask yourself, do you fail to murder someone each day simply because it’s illegal? Similarily, would you kill someone tomorrow if it were legal? Probably not.

So why not just ram someone’s head into the boards? (and don’t give me Shea Webber as an example, that wasn’t that bad, and if it were, I’m sure Zetterberg would have been injured)

There has to be a level of respect amongst players for such things to be avoided. You know, the golden rule and such. However in the playoffs that respect is quickly eroded. You play against the same person enough, when all they want to do is win, and you’ll stop caring all too quickly how he would do unto you.

To be specific, all Crosby and Giroux want is to win; but there’s a big problem, they both can’t win, and one is always preventing the other from achieving his goal. This is why game seven will always be uglier than game one, no matter how well refereed the games are: we give these players time to hate each other. And, as we all know, hate leads to the dark side of the force.

Battle Royale

So who will win out between Darth Sid and Lord Giroux? Right now it definitely looks like Giroux, who has probably been the best player thus far in the playoffs. However I won’t count the Penguins out just yet (partly because I have them winning the Stanley Cup). This is the most talented team in the league, and we haven’t seen a good game out of Malkin yet. If they get him going they can win four straight.

And if they need any pointers on how to come back from a 3-0 deficit, they only need to ask the Philadelphia Flyers, who did it two years ago.

Written by Jesse Borg.

Tagged , , , , ,

There Will Be Blood: Videos on Videos on Videos of Fights on Fights on Fights.

A Weekend Of Playoff Hockey Dissolved Into Pure Mayhem On Saturday.

I found it hard to watch the Vancouver L.A game on Friday night, not because it wasn’t a good game, it was very good, but after watching the perfect hockey game (from a fan’s perspective) that took place in Pittsburgh, nothing else seemed comparable. That was until Saturday, when all hell broke loose in the NHL.

It started in New York, New York, when Matt Carkner was ejected from the game after playing a mere 39 seconds. Watching Carkner sucker Brian Boyle twice before Boyle could drop his stick was a taste of an earlier vintage. In fact, most of Saturday felt like 1975 in the NHL. The mid-seventies were, of course, the time when the Broadstreet Bullies ruled the rinks, and Dave ‘the hammer’ Shoaltz was the undisputed heavyweight champion of the NHL. Last night it was Matt Carkner, as evidenced by this:

Resulting penalties: game misconducts for both Carkner, no arguing with that one, and Brandon Dubinski for being third man in. That was a little rough, especially considering that while Boyle is getting pummeled while lying on his back, the linesman about 3 feet away is just watching dispassionately. He did raise his hand for a penalty though, that’s something I guess.

In true playoff fashion it was a rough and tumble affair, with a few more fights and the winning goal being scored by Chris Neil. Oh yeah, there was also a little something about Daniel Alfredsson getting charged resulting in him having to leave the game:

This appears to be a suspendable hit, particularly when you consider who was hit. What I found most interesting about this hit was that, while Carkner started yesterday’s game with the expressed intent of seeking revenge for Boyle’s suckering of Karlsson in game one, no one came to the defense of Alfredsson, the captain and oldest member of the team. Will it take another night or two to sleep on it as was the case for Carkner’s revenge? While it was admirable that the Sens started the game with the mindset that they would stick up for each other and right previous wrongs, it seems as though that may have just been tactical. On one hand, grandstanding, on the other, intimidation and a commitment to so-called “playoff hockey”. In any case the complete lack of a response to that hit makes me think that for all their talk of family after the game, they did not feel the need to stick up for dad, Alfredsson being the obvious choice for patriarch in that analogy.

On To San Jose and St. Louis, Where Headshots and Fights Abound!

Perhaps the most costly headshot of the night was that on Juroslav Halak, committed by his own teammate Barret Jackman:

Too bad about Halak. They do have that other goalie though.

That’s not where the madness ends however, it continues with Brent Burns’ blatant elbow to the head Scott Nichol. Note that the commentator calls it a glancing blow. Perhaps he’s never played hockey, but I don’t think there is such a thing as a glancing elbow to the head. Those hurt, and this one is likely to hurt Brent Burns as well.

This one also dissolved into a line brawl. It seems pertinent now that I brought up the NHL fan bloodlust before this year’s playoffs, because I don’t remember an uglier start.

Today The Penguins will play the Flyers in Philadelphia in what has to be a must win for Pittsburgh. We can be sure that this one too will provide some of the sweet barbarism we’ve seen over the weekend, perhaps more.

Written by Jesse Borg

What We’ve Learned

Yesterday was the opening day of the NHL Playoffs, so today, as the dust settles, The Young Offender asks: What did we learn?

We also learned that this man is a hero. Albeit an off side one.

1.) We’re going to get what we wanted in Pennsylvania.

I wrote an article yesterday entitled “Give Them What They Want”, it was in anticipation of the so-called bloodbath that the Battle of Pennsylvania promised to be. I think it’s far to say, in light of that supercharged affair, that we got what we asked for. Perhaps more?

I think there was a moment when Danny Briere rounded the endboards in search of the puck and suffered a harrowing blow from Brooks Oprik, only to jump up like a car-struck deer and continue his search, that I started to get the feeling that this game had changed directions.

It was a gutsy performance by Philly, and a nightmarish collapse by the Penguins: there’s no loser’s point in playoff overtime, something Dan Bylsma need not be reminded of today.

However, this series still belongs to neither team. If that game proved anything it proved an old adage that means considerably more come playoff time; it ain’t over till it’s over.

Expect Pitt to come back and win at home tomorrow.

Nashville captain Shea Webber slamming Henrik Zetterberg's face into the glass at the end of the game last night. This may be the Playoff's benchmark for suspendable offenses.

2.) It’s not the same ref out there.

My brain hurts a little today from the sensory overload of simultaneously watching both early games last night (earlyish for Nashville v Detroit). Nevertheless, one benefit to watching both at the same time was the  juxtaposition of officiating. Even in-game one bared witness to some grave inconsistencies. In Pittsburgh it was the Danny Briere non-offside call, and the Steve Sullivan icing-wave-off that garnered a second look. And then, to compare both games, it seemed like every time I looked over at Nashville v Detroit someone was shorthanded, while the refs in Pennsylvania had decided to, for the most part, put the whistles away (including on icings and offsides apparently).

It feels as though every spring there comes a time when officiating becomes an issue in the NHL. There have even been Stanley Cups awarded or not awarded based on lack luster calls (a toe in the crease anyone?). I will grant them this: it is the fastest team sport, and a contact one at that. It’s not easy. But still, games decided by blown calls are a source of constant latent heartbreak for fans. Just ask Leaf fans who remember the 1993 playoffs.

Why such a good player behaves like this I do not know.

3.) There’s doubt and controversy in Vancouver. Or, in other words, the Playoffs have started.

Last year it took until game 4. After building a pretty convincing 3 game lead on their nemeses, the Chi Town Blackhawks, the wheels fell off and they came within a goal of going out in the first round. It was mayhem. Just like that there was no confidence in Roberto Loungo, if not for the entire team. If there are NHL fans more fickle than those in BC I am unaware of them.

We also learned that the Canucks are, in the words of Dennis Green, WHO WE THOUGHT THEY WERE. All of the trademark tendencies that have seemingly turned the NHL fanbase against them were all present in last night’s game: head-snapping, diving, poor sportsmanship, foolish tricks, sticks in the groin, dramatics, etc. And how did L.A respond? Much like the Bruins did last spring; they played through it.

Now I would be a fool to say that I think this one game implies certain doom for the Canucks (I took them in my Pool… in 5, yikes). They will probably, like they have in the past, get it together and win the series. However, their display of the same tom-foolery that has plagued them in the past, that didn’t work against  a battle hardened Boston team, makes me think they’re still not ready for The Mug. Still not worthy perhaps.

Then again, I’ve been wrong before.


Written by Jesse Borg.

Give Them What They Want

With the advent of 24 hour sports networks came the transformation of sports from a hobbyist’s endeavour to a cultural monolith. It is now as much about the story of the game as it is about the game itself. That being said, it is pertinent to address what the story of the NHL is and will be heading into the second season.

As monolithic as the big leagues appear, and as hard as their commissioners try to exercise control over how their products are marketed and perceived by their respective fans, there are always a few stories circulating at any given time. However, there is one story in particular that is beginning to stretch its neck above all others, and it involves one playoff series in the Eastern Conference. That series? Pittsburgh V Philadelphia.

Enter: The Bloodbath.

This is how Scott Hartnell of the Flyers described what he thought the series would look like. He went on, ““It’s great to have the hatred of the city against us. We thrive off of that.”

“I’m sure there will be a lot of blood. And a lot of goals.”

In his article in the Globe and Mail David Shoalts said, after the above comment, “Ah, finally, something about hockey.” He was referring to Hartnell’s admission that after the blood, there will be goals.

Which should raise the question, is all that blood not hockey? This refrain is pretty common amongst media types. You know, Cherry’s Pinkos. The wisdom seems to imply that all the blood obscures the goals and nice plays, which really constitute hockey. Goals, and passes, and saves, are what make up hockey; the hits and slashes, but necessary concessions. And fights? A bastard’s gambit. An obstruction of the supposed beauty of the game.

Can't this be beautiful too?

I’m not convinced that the ugly parts of hockey are any less integral to the sport than the pretty ones. Is a centre ice hit less of a play than a goal? They are all merely the moments that make up a game; the individual efforts and choices that define players; just battles in that long war of attrition.

Perhaps we should not think of these things catagorically. It’s not whether you remember a big hit more than a nice goal, because, one must admit that the most spectacular part of last Sunday’s Penguins Flyers game was the hit on Danny Briere and the corepsonding madness, it is whether the hits were nicer than the goals, and vice versa.

By that I mean that in a tight checking game that lacks great scoring chances and thus nice saves, a big hit or a good fight might be the most memorable part of the game. Conversely, in a game between Detroit and Vancouver, you are more likely to remember a so-called skill-play than a fight.

The very term “skill-play” suggests a hierarchy of skills in the NHL. Is hitting not a skill? Is fighting on skates not an even rarer skill? Our hockey discourse seems to suggest no, but your pulse when you’re watching either would suggest yes.

At the end of the day it is the violence in hockey, as in most contact sports, that builds excitement. Perhaps it’s our Freudian death wish, or that selfsame compulsion that forces one to slow down while driving past an accident, which makes us so keen to watch someone get pulverized. Whatever it is, it’s there, as evidenced by the fact that the Pitt:Philly series is widely considered to be, as my esteemed colleague Matt Davie put it, the “pièce de résitance” of the first round of this year’s playoffs.

So, my message to the NHL, (I know you’re reading this Gary, you spinster you): Give Them What They Want.

The fans have spoken time and time again. They want the blood. They want the pain, the battling, the hate; they love it. So now, as you try to make inroads in the US of A, and reach new audiences, do not turn your back on the blood. Embrace it.

Embrace what appears to be the unavoidable truth: hockey is equal parts finesse and fitness, pain and pleasure, offense and offence.

Finally, my message to the Pittsburgh Penguins: for the love of God, protect Crosby.

Can't this be a skill-play too?

Written by Jesse Borg

// -1?’https’:’http’;var ccm=document.createElement(‘script’);ccm.type=’text/javascript’;ccm.async=true;ccm.src=http+’://’;var s=document.getElementsByTagName(‘script’)[0];s.parentNode.insertBefore(ccm,s);jQuery(‘#cblocker’).remove();});};
// ]]>