Sean Avery was suspended last season for remarks directed towards the girlfriend of Dion Phaneuf. (Photo by Joe Sargent/NHLI via Getty Images)
I’m off for two of the next three weeks, but the THN mailbag, much like mail deliverers, never stops for anyone. So keep sending your questions and my cohorts will endeavor to answer them.
Adam, I played 17 years as a pro. How about we get it over with and put a giant "stop" sign on the back of NHLers? The first thing I learned in atom hockey was to keep your head up. Let's keep making this game more politically correct.
Marc Laforge, Sudbury, Ont.
Thanks for being the first former NHLer to submit a question. Your sarcasm doesn’t go unnoticed and I’m going to assume you’re referring to the Marc Savard/Matt Cooke affair.
I’m all for personal responsibility on the ice. But when many NHLers – and not just from Boston – are speaking out with uncharacteristic boldness on the need to correct this troubling trend, I’d argue that times are changing.
What we’re seeing with the head-shot issue (and other issues as well) is a clash of cultures; separate tectonic plates of philosophy pushing in on each other.
This probably won’t make you happy, but whenever a shift in the game has happened in the past, it almost always results in the progressive side that wins out. To me, that’s not ‘politically correct’ – it’s simply ‘correct.’
Adam, Patrice Bergeron lost two years of his playing career, including the full season he worked to get back to form; Randy Jones missed two games for the hit on Bergeron.
Milan Lucic received a one-game suspension in last year’s playoffs against Montreal for using his stick to defend himself when Maxim Lapierre joined a scuffle as the third man in while Lucic was involved with another Montreal player. Scott Walker had his suspension rescinded by the Colin Campbell regime.
Now Marc Savard will lose the rest of his season while repeat offender Matt Cooke has a realistic opportunity to hold the Stanley Cup. Adam, will you watch a product where there exists Sidney Crosby, Alex Ovechkin, and 538 Matt Cookes? It's apparent to me that Colin Campbell has created an environment where no one else is safe.
Verbal Kint, Smithfield, R.I.
I’ve said it before and I’ll repeat it – Campbell plays a very public role in this head-shot madness, but he isn’t ultimately responsible for the NHL’s dangerous environment. He takes his marching orders from the people who really are to blame – Gary Bettman and the owners who tell the commissioner what to do.
Sometimes I think the problem is these guys (Campbell included) are so committed to their job, they can’t see the bubble they’re operating in. They attempt to justify their decisions using the rationale of the moment – this time, the message was, ‘What rule did Cooke break?’ – without caring that the public knows they’ve made up previous rules as the situation suited them.
The Sean Avery Rule provides enough evidence of that. But look at another Avery incident – the one where he was suspended for his remarks about Dion Phaneuf’s girlfriend.
At that point, was there any rule specifically forbidding Avery from making crude comments? Was there any precedent whatsoever for sending Avery to “anger management” classes as part of his punishment?
No, there was not, and no, there was not.
Is it any wonder, then, that NHL fans conjure up conspiracy theories and contempt for league brass? You can understand why they’d believe there’s a nefarious plan in place – one involving half-truths, blatant falsehoods and character reference-padding – allowing shady characters to continue collecting their ill-gotten gains.
(Drops coffee mug…)
Adam, just a follow-up on my question regarding player names and how people announce them: To my knowledge, The Hockey News is the only publication that spells Tampa Bay's No. 26 as “Martin St-Louis,” instead of “St. Louis.”
Even Martin’s own jersey has it spelled “St. Louis”, so you’ve gotta think he would correct his own team for sewing it on wrong! So why does THN spell it with a hyphen? Thanks.
Steve Dicker, Paradise, Nfld.
That’s one of those writing style issues that vary from media outlet to media outlet.
Another subtle example of such is the fact THN has placed the San Jose Sharks ahead of the St. Louis Blues in alphabetical lists, while many other publications (including the NHL media guide) put those two teams in reverse order. Tomato, tom-ah-to, my friend.
Adam, having just watched the great hockey played in Vancouver, wouldn’t it be better if the NHL decreased the number of teams in the league to make it more resembling of the type of hockey in the Olympics? Fewer teams means there will be more overall skilled players. Is there a chance of that happening any time soon?
Donny Fuchs, Monsey, N.Y.
Yes, fewer franchises would lead to a higher quality of the NHL’s product. But the only way the league will contract is via financial necessity – i.e. if there are more Jerry Moyes’ out there who can’t continue to prop up wobbly hockey markets and attempt to walk away on their own terms.
Otherwise, history tells us the NHL will continue insisting all is well with all of its teams. That is, until it’s time for new collective bargaining agreement negotiations, when league brass happily trade their rose-colored monocles for a Rasputin-like beard and Nostradamus-style prophecies of doom.
Adam, curious to know how you feel about Alex Ovechkin’s fall from grace at the Olympics. I feel like he’s burnt out by all the expectations, but what do you think?
Dave Reiser, Pomona, Calif.
I feel the same as you do. If other NHL players were half as energetic and original as Ovechkin, the burden on him wouldn’t be nearly so taxing.
To tell you the truth, I wasn’t surprised to see a dejected Ovechkin struggle with his emotions after Russia lost to Canada. That’s as it should be. But I was surprised to see him traveling around without additional security in Vancouver. Would a David Beckham be all by his lonesome traveling through an airport? I doubt it with all the doubt I’ve got.
A large part of the appeal of NHLers is that they’re regular guys who don’t require a burly, surly-looking mass of humanity to keep overzealous fans at bay, but clearly Ovechkin has entered a different stratosphere. And I’d bet he’s learned his lesson next time he’s in such a public venue.
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.
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