Category Archives: Penalties

Goons be gone

Fighting…it isn’t cool anymore. It won’t change the game, but maybe hockey fans need to change their perception of fighting. Very few hockey players earn the position of Enforcer. The tragic deaths of Rick Rypien, Wade Belak and Derek Boogaard have raised serious questions on depression, drug abuse and violence. The focus needs to be on the individual certainly, but as a hockey culture the promotion of violence sells.

Columbus defender James Wisniewski has been suspended four times since March 2008. He’s a repeat offender because his job description implies this. The regular season hasn’t started, yet Wisniewski will sit out the rest of the preseason and eight regular-season games for his hit to the head of Minnesota Wild forward Cal Clutterbuck. Clearly, James needs a performance review. His job is defender not retaliator. But how far apart are those two skills really?

Minnesota Wild forward Brad Staubitz was suspended for the rest of the preseason and three regular-season games for a hit from behind on Columbus Blue Jackets forward Cody Bass. His intention is as follows:

“I was on the forecheck, and it’s obviously not the outcome I wanted from the hit. I say I play hard but not dirty. … You’ve just got to be conscious all the time of what you’re doing. It’s tough. You’ve got to play hard, especially in the role that I’m in. It’s a narrow line.”

The Enforcers are the emotion of the team, raw emotion. These guys didn’t have character flaws as most read in tributes for Rypien, Boogaard and Belak. Their roles were to carry and defend the burden of the team’s angst. Being a defender isn’t being the emotional misfit of the team who can’t cope, rather they are the guys who go out every night watching the other guy’s back.

Rypien, Belak and Boogaard were the “burito” on the team. Teaching in urban Denver, I befriended many gang members who sat in my classes. These were not stupid guys, rather appeased at what their role was in society. “Burito” is the man in the gang who cleans up and does the dirty work, always involving someone who crossed the gang or a gang member’s family. That’s a “team” in North Denver who face poverty, murder and gun violence.

What about the team at the Pepsi Center? Cody McLeod is the goon for the Avs, and if you’ve ever seen him smile you’d doubt he’d pop a fist at all. The Colorado Avalanche are in no danger on the ice with poverty, murder or guns. Let Cody play his game, if he has one. Enforcers have a tough time breaking out of that role partly because their other skills on the ice don’t ring to the same tune as a Pavel Datsyuk or a Ryan Kesler. Both Kesler and Datsyuk have thrown down despite their excellent puck skills.  

Ryan Kesler

Ryan Kesler

Once the fighting is gone, then the NHL will be healed, right?  Apparently, not so. Preseason hockey has left a few tough guys out of the first week of regular play via suspension for blindside hits. It all evolves from the same defensive job.

There are always the guys who have to do the dirty work. Belak said he was okay being the fighter because that was his place on the team. How many men and women in the military prefer the raw combat? Tough as nails ones do. How many cops are eager to patrol the beat in Bayonne? If it’s a spot on the force, then they do it willingly knowing it will harden them. Rookies in the NHL do not succumbed to the enforcement pact. Only experienced goons take the slugs. Rookies make hits, which leads to more hits.

Police, soldiers, and hockey players all play an emotional game. Each career choice asks them to hand over their heart and dedicate it for the team. The NHL needs to protect the Enforcers to save their lives, is the nature of this beast. Bear hugging has been the alternate for hits and to a brawl taking the NHL from pissed to polite. Good sportsmanship never gets old.

The NHL wants to monitor the physical and mental health of its employees; other companies could benefit from joining this bandwagon. Corporate values have always been about the money, and if you don’t think the NHL is a corporation then you haven’t heard: our society has moved to care about money, not people. In today’s workplace you are replaceable if you are mentally or physically not tough enough, so goes it on the ice.

Blood, sweat and tears.

Playing Rough Costing Players

Fines for players and suspensions are growing in the NHL, so is this a case of protecting the integrity of the game or funding the newly acquired Phoenix Coyotes?  Or something else?

Boarding, roughing, hits, that’s what you expect when playing hockey. Speed of the skater directly impacts his ability to control hits, but a skilled player should have the brake power necessary to avoid injury.  Things happen, though.

When Alexander Ovechkin became the latest player suspended for a hard hit, the debate turned to the physical type of play Ovechkin demonstrates.   He’s not a mean guy trying to take someone down, but rather athletically fast and dangerous.  Coach Boudreau has the greatest player today on his roster, but at what cost?  Ovechkin had to pay just shy of $100,000, however his reputation of being a good player hasn’t been lost.  Unlike other players whose paychecks include hits and big penalty minutes, Ovechkin should not be perceived as a fighter or bad guy on the ice.

Fans love the physical nature of hockey.  That’s why we watch Alexander Ovechkin play.

Don Cherry has criticized Ovi in the past for grandstanding, and his egotistical emphasis of his play.  But when you are born to play, the play becomes you.  Alexander Ovechkin maintains his identity in truth.  Some have jumped on this suspension as an opportunity to vilify one of the greatest players to play hockey, in other words, “we told you so.”   The stance taken is that Ovechkin would eventually crash and burn because of his charismatic style of play and his karmic attitude toward life.

The NHL wants to be a positive influence, especially for the younger crowd, so Ovechkin’s nonchalant attitude needs to be reprimanded before kids seek him as a role model. Too late.  Good sportsmanship is not Ovechkin’s problem.  His problem, apparently, is that he doesn’t care what others think about him.  To kids this means he doesn’t buy into peer pressure or conformity to be true to who he is and who he has become.

Yes, Alexander Ovechkin plays aggressive hockey and a suspension isn’t surprising at this point in his career.  But the villainous character of Ovechkin only exists in the imagination.  His hit on Tim Gleason is just many that will happen in his career.  For any player a hard hit will occur and a scandal will brew on whether it was a low blow or accident.  Hockey fans have lost count of the suspensions this year due to nasty hits, and frankly support those deserved suspensions.  But these players are not evil.

Hockey has always had the defenders as the tough guys; the blue line was the dangerous point of no return, but as hockey has evolved all players are expected to defend their zone.  Look at left-wingers Sean Avery and Daniel Carcillo, who are the scrappers and cause chaos on and off the ice.  Perhaps the NHL is trying too hard to present Disney on Ice rather than Rangers vs. Flyers, or Capitals vs. Canes.

Glows and Blows- Week 8


Wonder guy Marian Hossa returned to the line-up for the Blackhawks Wednesday night.


Would the Windy City have something to be thankful for?  Hossa showed up with a short-handed goal and a goal, but by weeks end, three shots on goal weren’t enough to deliver Friday night.  Half glow, half blow.

Avs rookie Matt Duchene scored his first home-ice goal at the Pepsi Center Saturday, but not enough to beat division rival the Minnesota Wild, but staying in the hunt for tops in the West.


Sid the Kid roped up his fourth hat trick in a slugfest against the New York Rangers.


A two game suspension for Flyer Daniel Briere for a hit on Avalanche defenseman Scott Hannan.  Those Avs fans were mad.


Buffalo Sabre Craig Rivet, 35, and Philadelphia Flyer Daniel Carcillo, 24, took out frustrations twice on each other posting 20 minutes for fighting. Carcillo topped that with a game misconduct call for 10.


Out 4-6 weeks winger David Clarkson is a huge deficit for the Deveils. But Clarkson isn’t the only bruiser; Saturday, the game tallied 20 minutes of fighting with Pelley vs. Thompson and Corrente vs. Jackman.  Deep bruisers.


The New York Rangers have been turning the fists and digging in.  First, fighting with Tampa Bay earlier in the week posting 8 for roughing, 20 for fighting and 30 for misconduct.  Next night against the Pittsburgh Penguins, both hooked for 15 for fighting and 30 for misconduct.

Keep Fighting!

Welcome to Hockey Heidi’s blog Don’t Cross My Blue Line, dedicated to the enforcers of the game of hockey, as well as enforcing tough talk.  Players of the game from Avery to Zajac, defensemen to wingers  will all be on the roster as well as their scrappy play and penalty minutes.