Beantown's verdict on the NHL's latest CHARAde (get it?)

Alright alright alright.

I know you're all waiting for my perspective on the whole Chara thing.  And it's this: what Chara did was sketchy, but, outcome aside, it was well within the norms of regularly accepted you-get-a-penalty-for-that NHL sketchiness.  I see no strong evidence of any heightened malice, and although there are plausible allegations out there, I've seen no explanation that has evidence suggesting it is likely to be more correct than "he just happened to hit him a little bit late, and it happened to be a perfect storm of a hit which resulted in an atrocious injury".  So, based on the rules and the precedent, I don't think he should have gotten a lengthy suspension, but I agree with the logic that he should have gotten a game or two or three just because people would (and clearly have) gone batshit if they don't.

But honestly, the problem is simply that the rules vis-a-vis violence and player safety in the game have not kept pace with the times.  Players are bigger and stronger and faster, as are their pads, all of which clearly contribute to the severity of potential injuries when things go awry.  But I think the bigger issue, and one that is equally valid, is that the public appetite for violence in sport has changed, and concern about safety in sport has increased.  And an increased expectation of professionalism amongst high-paid athletes influences how we think about the way they play the game.  It seems these are far more salient issues today than they have ever been in the past.  I'm not sure exactly why this is the case, but probably part of the reason is youtube and bloggers.

So what do we do?  Either the NHL changes how the game is policed, and therefore how the game is played, in response to changing public attitudes, or it doesn't.  That's basically the long and short of it as far as I'm concerned.  There's no other way I can think of that will change player behaviour- and how the NHL polices the game clearly will influence decisions made on the ice.  Just compare today's game to the game of 8 years ago (obstruction anyone?).  

It's taken me a while to admit this, but I think it's time, I've had enough.  Let's change the rules.

My proposals:

1. Fighting.  Gone.  It's not necessary.  The only argument I've heard is that it allows players to police the game themselves.  Well they've done a shitty job of it, so done.  No more.  I enjoy it personally, but it's not necessary, and players do get hurt, both in the short term (Hall) and long-term (Probert).  And it really does send a bad message to kids.  It really does.

2. No blindside hits, or hitting from behind, ever.  Automatic game misconduct.  Automatic multi-game suspension.  The main argument against such a rule (or so I understand) is that this will encourage players to turn their back to the opposition when playing the puck, especially along the boards, because they know that either the other team will get penalized for hitting them, or they'll be free to maneuver.  But you know what?  I don't care.  Players will adjust.  At worse, we're encouraging pussies to be pussy, but no one gets hurt because of it.  It also clearly gives an advantage to the person playing the puck, i.e. offense, over the person trying to knock him off the puck, i.e. defense.  It'll be different to what we're used to, but it will become the new normal.  And increased offensive output isn't a bad thing.

3. No anything-to-the-head.  No elbows, no knees, no sticks, no pushes.  You may not intentionally touch another player's head in any manner whatsoever, even something as simple as a facewash. This is to hit home the point that the NHL is serious - the head is a no-go zone.  Never acceptable.  Automatic game misconduct.  Automatic multi-game suspension.

And the NHL needs to enforce these rules vigilantly and without apology.  That's my two cents.  It's time to get radical.

Now if you came here thinking my punny title was cute, and you now feel ripped off by the serious tone, sorry!

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