Wayne Simmonds of the Flyers has seen his name in the media this summer for the wrong reasons. (Photo by Andy Devlin/NHLI via Getty Images)
Monday musings for your dining and dancing pleasure:
Just thought we’d let you know if the kids in the Canadian League keep it up at the pace they’ve established so far, there will be around 2,000 fights in major junior hockey this season.
In fact, at some point this week, the CHL will have its 100th fight of the season. That’s this season. As in the 2011-12 season, which is just more than two weeks old. There have been almost as many fights (95) so far this season in the CHL as there have been games (96).
According to hockeyfights.com, the Ontario League is off to a particularly fast start with 29 fights in 21 games, with only three games so far this season that have been fight-free. The Western League has seen 21 fights in 18 games with only four games without any fights. The Quebec League, which began its regular season schedule two weeks earlier than the OHL and WHL, has had 45 fights in 57 games, but almost half of its games (27) have not had a single fight.
These kids are as young as 16 - 15 in the case of Barrie Colts defenseman Aaron Ekblad - and as old as 20. If everyone is all right with that, then let’s just carry on.
But you might want to remember that the next time you contemplate taking your family to a junior game for a night of wholesome entertainment.
There was much tongue clucking among the hockey establishment last week over the actions of a single moron in London, Ont., who hurled a banana at Wayne Simmonds as he made a shootout attempt. And there should have been. It was a disgraceful display of racism that has no place in a civilized society.
I wonder, though, how many of those people who were so outraged are the same kind of folks who don’t think European players have what it takes to compete for a Stanley Cup. There are people involved in this game who will openly say things such as, “So-and-so plays more like a North American than a European.”
They’ll also laud young European players for having the “courage” to come and play in the CHL - as though it doesn’t take any to play in their leagues at home - and believe many Europeans don’t have the heart or desire to play the game for anything more than the paycheck.
To that I say, show me a European player who’s a dog and I’ll find you 10 North Americans who are even bigger pooches. Find me a European who is afraid of his own shadow and I’ll come up with 10 Canadians and Americans who are just as timid on the ice. Show me one European who’s in it only for the money and I’ll come up with 10 North Americans who are more concerned with their stock portfolios and business ventures than they are with winning a Stanley Cup.
The outrage over the Simmonds incident was justified, but anyone who thinks hockey world occupies the moral high ground on matters such as this one is naïve. The fact is, while outward racism is confined to the isolated acts of idiots such as the one in London, xenophobia is alive and well in our little corner of the world.
Before we all go genuflecting at the feet of new sheriff Brendan Shanahan for coming down so hard on the NHL’s miscreants in his first days as the league’s director of hockey operations, consider the following:
Last season, Chicago Blackhawks defenseman Nick Boynton was suspended one game for making a throat-slash gesture at an opponent during a pre-season game. He went on to play three more friendlies for the Blackhawks before sitting out their first game of the regular season. Brad Boyes, on the other hand, drills his shoulder and elbow into the head of Joe Colborne of the Toronto Maple Leafs and gets two pre-season games, but will be in the lineup for the Buffalo Sabres when they open the regular season Oct. 7.
So much for the league being so concerned about player safety and headshots. The Boyes suspension was almost as laughable as the ones back in the 1990s when then NHL president Gil Stein came up with the brilliant idea to suspend players for off-days, but to allow them to participate in the games.
And the league and its boosters can frame the 10-game suspension to Jody Shelley any way it wants, but it was a five-game suspension for a repeat offender who drilled an opponent from behind and broke his nose. Pierre-Luc Letourneau-Leblond’s five-game suspension was actually a one-game penalty.
Does the league really think it’s going to send a message to veteran players by forcing them to sit out pre-season games for which they don’t get paid? Yes, Boyes will be considered a repeat offender if he steps out of line again, but his suspension was nothing more than a mulligan.
Over the next little while, you’re going to hear a lot about how obsessed the league is with player safety and ridding itself of the head shot scourge. Unless and until Shanahan and the league start suspending players for a significant number of games that actually mean something, the words are hollow.
For more great profiles, news and views from the world of hockey, subscribe to The Hockey News magazine.