Tuesday, October 30, 2007

The Culture of Recklessness

The NHL suspended Randy Jones for two games on Monday, his punishment for a boarding call that resulted in the Boston Bruins' Patrice Bergeron to spend a night in the hospital and could see him miss more than a month of action while he recuperates.

The hit, which saw Bergeron fall awkwardly into the boards and remain motionless on the ice for far too long, was the talk of most of the hockey world the last two days or so. The latest hit from a Flyer player that left a player injured on the ice.

In his decision, Colin Campbell determined that Jones had no intent to injure in his play, in effect that the injury was the result of a hit that went terribly wrong.

The suspension considered light by more than a few, should prove to reopen the debate over whether the NHL is dedicated to protecting its main assets, the players who play the game.
Already this year there have been a number of high profile incidents involving the Flyers which have sent players to the hospital. Other teams have also had their close calls as respect for each other seems to be at a near all time low for the NHL's players.

In their reply to the suspension, the Flyers expressed disappointment suggesting that with the exception of Bergeron being carted off the ice on a stretcher, this was the kind of hit we see all the time in the NHL. Which may actually be the problem with the game today, far too many players are but one bad hit away from being forced out of the game, perhaps permanently.

Whether this is a result of coaching or just indicative of how the game has evolved, the simple fact is that nowhere does it say that the need to intentionally injure or take a cheap shot on a player is part of the fabric of the game.

Yet body checking has given way to assault, interference has turned into mugging at times and full scale brawls seem to be on a steady increase. A rather swift swing of the pendulum from just a few seasons ago.

One person that probably won't be sold on the length of Monday's suspension and the unwillingness to address the increase in rough and dirty play, would be ESPN's Scott Burnside.

In his ESPN column on Monday he called the Flyer style of play a "culture of recklessness", we suspect that the Flyers comments on the suspension Monday, nor the leagues decision, will not have exorcised his fears.

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