New NHLPA boss Paul Kelly and union ombudsman Eric Lindros are currently in the midst of a tour around the league and their recent stop in Washington yielded a fantastic interview with Washington Times blogger Corey Masisak.
Here are a few interesting passages, followed by my comments in parentheses:
â€¨On the over-coaching of the game:
â€¨KELLY: â€¨We think there are too many coaches on the benches and up in the box…they start preaching defense, defense, defense. That does impact the game and coaches adapt to playing a more defensive style of game.
â€¨LINDROS: â€¨All of the coaches that are coming from the junior ranks, the only reason they are coming in is if they were winning. Yeah, you have to win to play great defense, but what is it doing to the sport? Is it putting a lid on people's desire or imagination and their skill level? There is a coaching aspect to this and there is the trend of what wins. Are we helping the game, or are we helping ourselves get into the National Hockey League as a coach?
(Comments: Amen, especially to Lindros’ thoughts about capping creativity in the game. Career-minded coaches have been killing the league for long enough and mitigating their impact on future tweaks or bigger changes should be right up there on the union’s – and Gary Bettman’s – list of priorities.)
â€¨On the increasingly dangerous NHL on-ice workplace:
â€¨KELLY: Speaking for the Players Association, we want to see respect on the ice between and among the players. They've got to know when to pull up and not hit a guy from behind or hit a guy who is in a defenseless position. Guys that play know that. They've (got to) avoid hits to the head when they can, whether it is with a stick, or an elbow or a shoulder. When guys are forgetting that and doing that and causing serious injury to some of their fellow competitors that is something we as an association have to start addressing. We have to watch to see if rule changes are necessary to keep our guys protected.
â€¨LINDROS: We're representing not only the guy person who is going in to do the hit, but the person who is receiving the hit as well.
(Comments: It’s not only refreshing, but damn near astonishing to witness the NHLPA’s about-face on certain issues and this certainly is one of them. Refusing to wait any longer for the iceberg-quick NHL and taking responsibility as a union for their members’ actions can only better the image of players and their representatives.)
â€¨On the instigator rule:
KELLY: Guys have said they think deterrence is a key. If there is a guy who is a third-line player or fourth-line player who is trying to stay on the team and he thinks the way to do that is to come crashing through the neutral zone and slam somebody into the backboards. If a guy comes over the boards on the next shift and drops the gloves and pummels him a little bit, then he will think twice about doing that again. The instigator rule prevents that type of self-policing. I understand the NHL is trying to curtail the whole fighting issue.
There is a code to playing this game, and guys who played for years know the code. But the instigator rule affects the code and it removes a critical element of the code. The code has worked for decades, and I think people really need to give some consideration to whether or not the instigator rule has accomplished what they wanted to accomplish, or has it had a negative effect.
(Comments: I knew it couldn’t be all good news. It’s difficult to rip the union for actually listening to its members, but really, hearing a former prosecutor talk about the validity of extra-legal “codes” is bizarre indeed – not to mention a complete and utter condemnation of the NHL’s inability and/or unwillingness to properly enforce the rulebook and sufficiently punish those who egregiously break the rules.
As for Kelly’s line about the NHL “trying to curtail the whole fighting issue”: Very funny, Paul. Don’t ever let this job take away that great sense of humor.)