Friday, February 18, 2011

Mario's manifesto still echoes one week later

It's been seven days now since the Penguins and Islanders engaged in a small scale gang war on the ice at the Nassau Coliseum, a much documented brawl that hearkened back to an era many thought had long been dismissed.

That bit of nastiness, combined with other recent on ice incidents involving the Boston Bruins, the days of the seventies that were marked by the anarchy of the Flyers and brawling of the Bruins of the day seemingly are back for a return engagement.

The review of the recent troubles however has been highlighted by the high profile interjection (and rather stern objection of) Mario Lemieux, the Penguins owner and long time champion of a less violent game.

His most recent deliberations and declarations suggesting that he may be giving a second thought as to whether he wishes to remain part of the ownership stable, offering up his concerns over where the game seems to be heading once again, reprising the refrain from his playing days of allowing the less skilled players to dictate the terms of the sport, at times to the detriment if not danger to those stars that play the game.

There has been much review of his comments of the last week, some valid points that Mario perhaps is tossing his rocks from a glass house.  Particularly considering the rather high amount of penalty minutes that his own team owns, not to mention his employ of Matt Cooke who has provided for more than a few injured players on opposing squads.  Some of whom may end up leaving the game for good after suffering successive injuries that could have been avoided had the culture of violence not taken hold of the play at times.

In that instance, there is a semblance of a double standard in the running commentary of the week from Lemieux, but that should not let the larger message not be allowed to go to debate.

The cascading mayhem on the ice, combined with the number of high profile injuries of late among the star players of the game is something that needs to be addressed by the NHL.  The attraction of the game is still in the hands of a Crosby, Ovechkin, Malkin, Stamkos or a Sedin, to run the risk of the permanent removal of that calibre of player thanks to a needless injury should be paramount to the league.

Beyond that, which should be the main talking point on the issue, the idea that hockey is going to return to the sideshow era of cartoon like violence brought life in the recent brawls of the last week isn't a direction that the game should entertain.

Recent numbers from Hockey Canada show that enrolment is on the decline across Canada in minor hockey,  a trend that has the organization seeking ways of attracting children of immigrants to join in on the game to try to stem some of those losses.

A laudable goal in itself, but if they ever hope bring those kids into the rink to join in with children born to Canadian parents as part of the plan to bring those numbers back up, having professional teams showcase the pugilists over the puck handlers certainly won't be a helpful trend.

The point counter point debate on Mario's manifesto can be found below.

Pittsburgh Tribune-Review -- Lemieux's words reverberate
Pittsburgh Post Gazette-- Lemieux justified in criticism of NHL
Globe and Mail-- NHL engages ridicule defence
Globe and Mail-- Players, management have Mario Lemieux's back
Globe and Mail-- NHL thirsts after the same blood and dollars as UFC
Montreal Gazette-- Both sides resort to myths in debate over fighting
Vancouver Sun-- Brainless NHL needs to crack down on violence
Vancouver Sun-- Mario Lemieux angry at NHL's stance when it suits him
Vancouver Province-- How can we clean it up?
Vancouver Province-- Lemieux’s rant may actually do some good
Edmonton Journal-- Do NHL a favour
Toronto Sun-- Lemieux blasts NHL for "sideshow" fallout
TSN--  Lemieux losing big in court of public opinion
TSN-- Yzerman encourages Lemieux to continue getting involved
Sportsnet-- Yzerman wants more from Mario
ESPN-- The vindication of Andrew Ference
Halifax Chronicle Herald-- Smug in his glass house, Lemieux biffs rocks at NHL
Canadian Press-- Bettman not getting into a public debate with Mario Lemieux over league discipline

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