The Perils of Diving

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Kadri-Girardi DiveA couple of recent on-ice incidents got my attention. During a game between Toronto and New York, Maple Leafs forward Nazem Kadri lifted his right leg high in the air after getting bumped by Rangers defenseman Dan Girardi. Kadri went down, had his skate blade up, and got the back of the neck of Girardi. It wasn’t a deep cut but the incident took the steam out of the Air Canada Centre. The Flyers’ Luke Schenn had his head down when he was pushed into the boards by Avalanche forward Nathan McKinnon during a game. It was hardly a push on McKinnon’s part and Schenn put himself in a bad spot. But he went down and McKinnon got a 5-minute major and was kicked out of the game.

The recent acts by Kadri and Schenn trying to draw penalties through embellishment should be a lesson to young hockey players: diving can kill you or you can end up killing someone. Just ask Richard Zednik. In 2008, Zednik’s Panther teammate Olli Jokinen tried to draw a penalty by lifting his skate and inadvertently got the blade under the neck of Zednik. The cut Zednik suffered was more severe than Girardi’s. He had to be rushed to hospital and missed a considerable amount of time. Max Pacioretty is another example. The Canadiens forward got caught trying to get around the Bruins’ Zdeno Chara during a playoff game in 2011. But instead of getting out of the way, Pacioretty allowed himself to be drilled into the boards. Chara got ejected from the game and received some death threats from Habs fans.

Then there’s Steve Moore. I don’t have to repeat myself how his dive ended his career.

Diving happens in every sport. Players that do it are an embarrassment to the game. But it’s also dangerous particularly in hockey where you have skate blades, sticks, ice and boards that are solid as a rock to deal with. If this continues, one of these days a player will try to draw a penalty and it will end up getting someone killed. I understand it’s a competitive environment and you have to do what it takes to win. But is it really worth it to dive and risk endangering the lives of your opponents or teammates for a 2-minute power play? I can’t understand why players dive in the first place. Believe it or not, diving takes planning and practice. No one I know considers exaggerating an injury at the very last second. A lot of effort and energy is needed to dive. That could be better used to help improve a player’s ability to play hockey the right way.

Too bad there is no push to eliminate diving like there is with fighting. But I also believe people need to learn things the hard way in order for them to change their habits. Time will only tell if Kadri and Schenn will learn from their experience.

 

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The Latest Futile Attempt to Ban Fighting in Hockey

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Hockey Fight 2

I’ve lost count the number of times there have been calls to eliminate fighting from hockey whether it is in the NHL, AHL, or Major Junior. I can tell you there were calls after Steve Moore was sucker punched by Todd Bertuzzi in 2004, after George Parros hit his head on the ice during a fight in 2013, and when Don Sanderson died after a fight in 2009. Those are just 3 examples and there are plenty more. Did any of them resulted in a ban on fighting in hockey? Not even close.

The recent news of the injury to Erie Otters forward Connor McDavid has renewed calls for a ban on fighting in hockey. Now let’s look at this objectively, McDavid was the first to drop his gloves and engage in a fight with Mississauga’s Bryson Cianfrone. The fact that he broke his hand as a result should not mean fighting should be banned. McDavid is going to be a target and, until OHL Commissioner David Branch implements no contact rules, he is going to continue to be in the crosshairs of opponents. But before you accuse me of blaming the victim, I will say that I was glad that McDavid fought back. We need more players, especially star players, doing that rather than turning the other cheek.

Vladmir Tarasenko of the St. Louis Blues is arguably one of their best scorers on the team and in the NHL but one night he confronted a player after being blind-sided by an open-ice hit during a game. The threat of being ejected from the game didn’t stop Tarasenko from fighting. In fact, he finished the game with the Gordie Howe hat trick and seemed really proud of that accomplishment, much to the chagrin of the anti-fighting crowd.

I read where one broadcaster felt hockey can exist without fights. But he also suggested that leagues should eliminate all actions that lead up to fights in order to make it work. Twitter limitations prevented him from explaining his idea in more detail but I would hazard to guess that eliminating all actions means body checks, crashing the net, pretty much any physical contact that makes hockey the exciting game that it is. Yeah, it will put fans to sleep but at least no one will get hurt from fighting. Give me a break. When that happens, say goodbye to hockey, not just the NHL. I can tell you there are leagues that have outlawed fighting but also have teams that are struggling to hold their heads above water. Teams end up folding but at least there’s a league where there is no fighting, right? By the way, going back to Sanderson, he played in a league that prohibits fighting. So tell me how well the ban did to save his life?

Some newspaper writer said the debate from the pro-fighting crowd has been lost a long time ago. Really? Then why are we still talking about it? Because fighting in hockey, like rock and roll, is not dead. Don Cherry is not a lone wolf in this argument. Players, fans, and yours truly, believe it keeps them honest when they are on the ice. In fact, the anti-fighting side is becoming so desperate that they have resorted to using incidents that were NOT caused by fighting in order to make their case (i.e. Zdeno Chara’s hit on Max Pacioretty during a playoff game).

Don’t hold your breath if you think fighting in hockey will be gone soon. But I won’t do the same expecting pacifists to surrender, even though it is in their nature to do so. So carry on with your fight to ban fighting in hockey. I’ll just throw your next argument in the pile with the rest of them.

Waste Paper Basket

 

The Blue Jays Should Get A-Rod

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Alex Rodriguez

The Blue Jays have been known to get the most out of other team’s outcasts. Jose Bautista, Melky Cabrera, and Edwin Encarnacion are just a few of the names who have achieved a high level of success, if not all-star status, after they joined the Blue Jays. It may be time to go back into that well and use that formula again as the Blue Jays look to shore up their offence for 2015. And I think the one player General Manager Alex Anthopoulos should be targeting is Alex Rodriguez.

You say, “huh?” Others will say, “not going to happen.” I say, “why not?”

A-Rod certainly fits the outcast criteria. Like Cabrera, he is also linked to use of performance enhancing drugs. The Yankees are looking for a way to get rid of Rodriguez and his hefty contract as quickly as possible. I think the Blue Jays can get him cheap. Perhaps if Anthopoulos can make his counterpart in New York, Brian Cashman, pick up say about 80% of the remainder of the contract, he would more than gladly take Rodriguez off his hands. Even if the Blue Jays have to assume the remainder of the contract on their own, A-Rod is worth the hassle.

I know I have said before that the Blue Jays really need a left-handed hitter with some pop and Rodriguez is a righty. We already have Brett Lawrie at 3rd base so where are we going to put A-Rod? Look, with Adam Lind gone that opens up a spot at DH and if the Blue Jays want to entertain the idea once again of Lawrie at 2nd base next season, you now have 3rd base open for A-Rod. As for the left-handed bat, isn’t there a hole in centerfield that needs to be filled? What about the Yankees worried about trading him to a division rival? Well, let’s see how bad they really want to see him out of New York.

Rodriguez will have no trouble adapting to the metropolitan lifestyle of Toronto. It’s like having all the fun of New York, but on a more smaller scale. He also went through the media scrutiny in the Big Apple. So Toronto should be a piece of cake. The one area of concern is the clashing of egos in the clubhouse. Rodriguez wants to be “The Guy”. He was second banana to Derek Jeter in New York. He is going to be third on the depth chart behind Bautista and Encarnacion in Toronto. But I would hazard to guess that Rodriguez will just be satisfied with the fact that, at least for one year, he is playing baseball once again after serving a season-long suspension.

Toronto is becoming a sanctuary for outcasts. Kyle Lowry and Joffery Lupul are just a couple of more players who have benefitted by coming to the Big Smoke. I bet the Blue Jays will get the same result with A-Rod.

People Don’t Watch Sports, Fans Do

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Raptors Fans

It was interesting to learn that this year’s World Series between the San Francisco Giants and the Kansas City Royals drew a record number of television viewers. Not bad considering 20 years ago there were people who said they would not watch another baseball game after the 1994 strike. I suppose even after a year of some exciting baseball they still won’t come back. And that’s fine with me. In fact, I hope they stay away. Let’s leave the seats open for real fans of baseball (and hockey, and football, and basketball). It is not just labour strife, some people simply don’t like the nature of some sports.

To me, the definition of a fan is they must like one’s work whether it would be in sport, music, art, literature, etc. Something attracts people to their work and in return they get some enjoyment of it. If there comes a time where that enjoyment is no longer there, they move on. It’s as simple as that. They don’t take a terrorist approach and hold their money hostage unless their demands are met. During the NHL lockout, I question those who say they won’t watch when the league resumes. Why not boycott all leagues affiliated with the NHL, that includes major junior hockey and the American Hockey League? These leagues rely on the NHL, and vice-versa, for the development of players and the overall health of hockey. It would do them a disservice to go to these games but they still go. Stupid doesn’t even begin to describe these people.

Sports leagues feel there needs to be changes in the game in order to keep their fan base or generate a bigger one.  What they are actually doing is trying too much to attract the lowest common denominator. That to me has ruin the game and the enjoyment of watching sports. To use hockey as an example, there have been those who say the NHL is too violent or is not that there is not enough offense. Over the last number of years, we’ve seen the implementation of video review, the removal of the red line, and hefty punishments for open ice hits just to gain a few new fans. Now, Commissioner Gary Bettman would never tell them to go find another sport to watch, that’s our job as fans. But there are some in the league office who feel they need to bend over backwards in order to get them to like their product. I don’t have to tell you that I would never watch professional or international soccer but you won’t hear me demanding changes be made in order for me to don a red Toronto FC scarf.

Sure, these people have lots of money but they are not genuine fans of the game, not even close. I would doubt they would even know one player on the team they are supposedly cheering for. We have also allowed doctors, lawyers, and the media to run sports. The game is being changed just to appease these people who wouldn’t pay a dime to buy a ticket. Their demands may have made sports less violent but all it really did was water it down to point where it is becoming more interesting to watch paint dry. And to think they have university degrees and diplomas. Not only has sport been devalued by their actions, so has post-secondary education.

So, who’s really a fan of sports? Certainly not those who wear lab coats and 3-piece suits. It is those who come wearing team jerseys, painting their faces, grow beards, scream at the top of their lungs, celebrate after a goal, and hang their heads after the team loses. Do more to satisfy them and tell the rest to not to let the door hit their ass on the way out.