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Double standards

The Montreal Canadiens sit fourth in the Northeast Division with a 12-12-1 record. (Photo by Francois Lacasse/NHLI via Getty Images)

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The Montreal Canadiens sit fourth in the Northeast Division with a 12-12-1 record. (Photo by Francois Lacasse/NHLI via Getty Images)

A belated happy Thanksgiving to our American cousins.

So many great questions this week and not enough space to answer them all: my apologies to those who don’t see their inquiry here. But as always, be sure to check The Hockey News magazine – and listen to The Hockey News Radio Show on XM Home Ice 204 – to find out if I got to them in one of those forums.

Hi Adam. My question is in regards to the Montreal Canadiens. I find it a bit difficult to determine which direction Bob Gainey decided to go this season. While he seems to have maintained a large core of young guys with potential, he spent a lot of money on guys who are on the downward edge of their careers (or at least not of an 'elite' caliber).

At this point of the season, it seems obvious the Habs won't be winning the Cup, so it seems we can look at this year as a sort of rebuild. My question is this: Do you think, by the time some of these huge contracts have expired, the Habs will still have enough of that core of young guys to do a proper rebuild? My take is that Gainey had so much money to spend he was like a kid in a candy store and ended up buying stuff he likes, but nobody else does. Thanks for your time!
Tom Putnaerglis, Gosnells, Australia


Hi Tom,
 
Your assessment is very similar to mine. I said during the summer that, at least with teams that have the financial wherewithal, the temptation to use up a whack of cap room simply because they’ve got it carries a significant danger: spending for spending’s sake.

Of course, teams have to spend to the cap floor, but unless their extravagant purchases lead to the acquisition of a Vinny Lecavalier type of player – and everybody knows Gainey tried that route without success – most of the time they wind up handing out contracts they’ll regret in a year or less. I think that’s what is happening with the Habs.

Gainey’s shelves have been ably stocked by Montreal’s main talent identifier, Trevor Timmins. His presence should assure Montreal fans they will continue to have a steady influx of young, cheap talent for years to come. But they still lack a marquee player who can bump them up into the echelon of a true Stanley Cup threat.

Acquiring or developing that kind of player is Gainey’s biggest challenge.

Hi Adam, just wanted to get your thoughts on the controversy surrounding Brian Burke’s son, Brendan. There’s a pretty good debate going on the intertubes as to whether it is a valid news story or not. What do you think?
Peter Keatings, Vancouver


Hi Peter,

The issue of homosexuality in hockey has been an interest of mine for some time; I first wrote about it nearly three years ago when an NHL GM told me the following:

“A player or ex-player announcing he’s gay? No chance whatsoever. You’d have better odds of a guy coming out as a member of Al-Qaeda.”

As I said at the time, when hockey insiders have the audacity to compare gay people to terrorists, you know the sport (and the evolution of the human brain) still has a very, very long way to go.

But having someone like Brendan Burke spearhead the battle – and having his father react as any decent dad should: with unconditional acceptance and dogged determination to protect his boy – is an important first step. Both Brian and Brendan have much to be proud of.

Hello Adam, I was reading an article that had a quote in it from Darren Pang. In it he said that as far as TV coverage of hockey games go, we should do it like soccer does their games: they run the banner (or logo) of an advertiser at the top of the screen, instead of having to stop every few minutes for a commercial ad.

My question to you is this: Do you see that as a way to cover games better and somehow get the ratings up or do you see problems with that? I enjoy THN and the newsletters very much.
Jeff Wise, Pensacola, Fla.


Hello Jeff,

Thanks for enjoying our stuff. The always-affable Mr. Pang has come up with an interesting proposition.

My fear is that the NHL would adopt a running banner for broadcasts of all games and then still figure out a way to take commercial breaks. Never underestimate the ability of corporate suits to squeeze every last drop of fabulous moolah (R.I.P., Lillian Ellison) out of every available revenue stream.

That said, if the choice was between that broadcasting tweak and advertisements on NHL team jerseys, I’d take the first option every time. Keep your golden arches, beery mountain backdrops and oil company clamshells off of our beloved players’ backs!

I am wondering why you people are not showing more support for Theo Fleury in his bid to really expose Graham James for the monster he is? But I shouldn't be surprised since you didn't really support Sheldon Kennedy, either. This man needs to be put away for life for what he has done to who knows how many young men, not for just a few months.

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The people of Canada should rise up and support a change in laws that let monsters like him get away with a slap on the wrist like he did in the Sheldon Kennedy case; that was outrageous. Look what it did to Sheldon and Theo's lives and their families’ lives. I know how it affected Sheldon's family because his brother played here in Central Texas in the Western Pro League. I personally helped put together a golf tournament to raise money for Sheldon's Foundation to help sexually abused children and their families.
Susan Brown, Temple, Texas


Susan,

I’m tempted to bust out a Tropic Thunder-esque “what do you mean, ‘you people’?” but I don’t want you to think the issue isn’t important to me or anybody else at The Hockey News. It certainly is.

However, I have to take exception to the notion that “we” (by which I’m assuming you mean “journalists”) haven’t tried to expose the dark underbelly of player abuse in hockey. If you had read the large volume of pieces tearing into James (and also David Frost), you would understand why those men were made into pariahs and why their actions deeply offended all of us associated with the sport.

If you believe we should be picking up torches and pitchforks and heading down to the local law constabulary to demand they hunt down and jail James, I think you’re unfamiliar with the Canadian justice system. All decisions regarding prosecutions and punishments are left to our police services and crown attorneys.

Nevertheless, there’s nothing wrong with what you’re doing, either – i.e., raising awareness and money to help the victims and their families cope with the significant after-effects of the crimes that affected them.

The trick is to turn that awareness into the political will to take a long look at the problem – and as every other political effort shows, it takes time to get that job done.

Hi Adam, I work as a Detroit area firefighter. What's your opinion regarding the Georges Laraque incident?

Laraque is a big guy who has limited velocity and turning radius on his skates. The knee-on-knee was a needless and careless play, but it wasn't deliberate. Five games is overkill. Laraque did make a point that all four officials on the ice didn't deem the incident as a misconduct or match penalty, more evidence of the incompetence and inconsistency displayed by NHL officiating.

It's also ironic considering how the league is constantly harping on how there should be more discipline and attention to hits to the head and blind side hits. The side effects and consequences of a head injury far outweigh the stakes of a play like this; we're talking the livelihood of a player.
 
Also, look at treatment Laraque is receiving versus Matt Cooke and Alex Ovechkin. Laraque’s knee on Niklas Kronwall was equivalent to, if not less aggressive than the Ovechkin knee in the 2009 second round of the playoffs. How many games did Cooke get for his knee on Shean Donovan?

Thanks for your time.
Rick Jones, Royal Oak, Mich.


Hi Rick,

I couldn’t agree more with your notion that the NHL’s supplementary discipline priorities are out of order. Head shots should be their most urgent priority, but as I’ve noted on many occasions, this league is perhaps the least progressive pro sports collective when it comes to protecting its athletes.

It shouldn’t make a difference which caliber of player is behind any hit to another competitor’s head (or knee). But the longer the NHL dithers in dealing with it, the more players they will lose, and the more their hypocrisy is underscored.

It’s really a lose-lose situation for everybody except for the super-duper macho tough guys who get to play An Uncaring God anytime a talent is decimated.

Ask Adam appears Fridays on TheHockeyNews.com. Proteau also answers readers' questions in every issue of The Hockey News magazine and on The Hockey News Radio Show on XM Radio channel 204. To send us your question or comment, click HERE.

Adam Proteau is writer and columnist for The Hockey News and a regular contributor to THN.com. His blog appears Mondays, his Ask Adam feature appears Fridays and his column, Screen Shots, appears Thursdays.

For more great profiles, news and views from the world of hockey, subscribe to The Hockey News magazine.

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