Friday, February 09, 2007

Brian Burke’s Old Time Hockey Travelling revival hour

All this talk about the New NHL, the fancy skating, excuse me please land of pretty plays and no contact hockey, well it’s a land of which word never made it to Anaheim.

Brian Burke’s Ducks, who handed in the Mighty last year, may wish to ask for it back, so far this season there is no tougher, meaner and pugilistic operation in the NHL than the one that hails from the OC.

With 53 fighting majors recorded already and counting, the Ducks are by far the one team playing the old time hockey and the team most guaranteed to be featured in a Don Cherry video for next Christmas.

If they’re looking for a dance partner they’ll have to seek out the wallflowers of Nashville who trail them by 22 majors so far, mere pacifists when compared to the bellicose fowls of California.

It’s a strategy that Brian Burke makes no apologies for, preferring to see his team keep the opposition accountable for their actions even if it means running the risk of conjuring up the spirits of the Broad Street Bullies.

Back in Philly, they must look lovingly across the land and see a team they wish they could call their own. Anaheim forwards Teemu Selanne and Andy McDonald must feel like they're in the witness protection program, if anyone so much as makes mention of the colour of their uniforms someone on the Ducks will make sure that they never bother the duo again.

Sidney Crosby can only wish for that kind of assistance while on the ice, Pittsburgh clocks in about midway down the fighting major list with 24, which may surprise the Penguins franchise player, since he frequently seems to be under attack and fending for himself.

The last month has seen a more physical tone arrive on the NHL scene, the body checks seem harder and there has appeared to have been more frequent instances of players squaring off and expressing their opinions with their fists.

For those scoring at home, a game featuring the Ducks will most likely end up with some kind of physical altercation taking place, while any game which brings the Red Wings into the picture will probably be a most peaceful affair, the Wings to date have accumulated but 6 fighting majors, putting the Ducks almost 9 times more likely to drop the gloves than the Wings.

If the league thinks it may be an anomaly this sudden rise in fisticuffs, they may be in for a surprise, the simple success of the Ducks who have shot to the top of their division and provide some of the toughest opposition on a given night most likely means an increase in the arms race instead of a decrease.

The long rumoured demise of the enforcer may have been a tad pre-mature, while teams such as the Sens and Wings may suggest that the teams won’t want to run the risk of a parade to the penalty boxes, their competitors are seemingly going in a different direction.

The Rangers brought Sean Avery over from Los Angeles to provide a spark and some muscle to the line up and perhaps is an indication of a change of attitude at the GM level as the season winds down. Nobody was suggesting a spot in the ice capades for Avery, who will be expected to help send a few advisories to the Eastern Conference opposition.

It is most likely a welcome task for Avery, who is probably just as well glad to be away from the Pacific and Burkes Battling Bullies of Anaheim. Then again maybe not, a good Gladiator always wants to face the toughest and the meanest, this year it seems that all roads go through Anaheim!

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