Thursday, May 10, 2012

Leave hockey alone

Recently there has been this call to end shot blocking in hockey to facilitate more scoring in hockey. Here is the latest silly idea to be thrown out there. My suggestion is to leave the game of hockey alone and not start suggesting a bunch of gimmicks to make it more exciting.

Eric Duhatschek The Globe and Mail --- What’s on display in these playoffs isn’t hockey, it’s pinball.

Seeking a way to enhance offence, Pagé proposed that the NHL introduce a modified version of basketball’s three-in-the-key rule. The rule states that an offensive player shall not remain in the key for more than three seconds. Pagé’s application to hockey would affect both offensive and defensive players, with the primary goal to keep the area in front of the net unclogged.

It’s an idea worth considering, given how established the shot-blocking trend is today. Teams all collapse back toward the goal, with every player instructed to get in front of shots, even if they happen to screen the goaltenders. Under the Pagé plan, hockey could create a zone in front of the goaltender that perhaps only three, or even two, players a team could enter at the same time.

Naturally, purists would hate this innovation because it would mean drawing more lines on the ice, but for the sake of argument, let’s say the NHL designated the area from the goal to the outer edges of the lower faceoff circles as hockey’s key. If you permitted only two defenders to enter that area at a time, you might see some creative plays down low instead of the gridlock we have now.
You might be thinking the same thing that I am thinking? If you unclog the area around the net, the goalie is going to have a more un-obstructed view around the net and the goaltender is going to have a better chance of seeing the puck and you could end up with less scoring.

Getting traffic in front of the net and blocking shots can cause a variety of things to happen - the puck can be blocked and no goal is scored - the puck can change direction, or be directed into the net off the opposition or the defenders in front of the net.

Seriously! Defensive hockey is about teams collapsing around their nets and playing air tight defense, that’s what teams do when they don’t have the fire power to play run and gun hockey. If you watch the Capitals in this season’s Stanley Cup Playoffs this is exactly what they have done, they have effectively gotten into the shooting lanes and have clogged up the front of their net and the Capitals have blocked a ton of shots.
It even raises the larger question, which seems to have gone unasked in these playoffs. Is shot-blocking good for the game? Unquestionably, it takes courage to block shots. Nowadays, players can all rifle the puck, and as good as it is, today’s equipment cannot completely protect against the tiny gaps where the human body is exposed. If the puck hits you just right, it can do some serious damage. One of these days, a puck is going to deflect off a stick, into the face of a player and there will be a tragedy on the ice.
Hockey is a contact sport where people are going to get hurt, if you don’t want to get hurt play tennis. One of the problems is that a lot of people that have never played the sport of hockey on any level tend to be the ones that write about hockey. These are the same people that want to take fighting out of hockey.