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Thursday, December 23, 2004

Can the NHL move past the Bertuzzi incident?


Here's an interesting read from Ken Fidlin of the Toronto Sun.

Basically, Fidlin points out that the NHL has luckily avoided ridicule on the issue of how the NHL - players and management alike - deals with violence, or as he refers to it, "the code". While I can't disagree with much of what he says, he takes it a little too over the top for my liking. I also have a quibble on one minor thing:

It is both curious and ironic that one of the important factors that is holding back the NHL from penetrating the lucrative markets it covets in the United States is its barbaric reputation.


I have to say that in the United States, the highest rated sport is the NFL and not too far behind is wrestling and the Ultimate Fighting Championship. American tv markets seem to drink up the 'violent' sports. So, it would seem to me that the more convincing argument at why the NHL has lagged in the south of the border is that it's just not a sport that is conducive to the majority of the US population. Hockey is not now, nor will it ever be, a major attraction to certain American audiences. It's not a culture like it is in Canada.

In addition to this, Steve Moore may not launch a civil suit against Bertuzzi.

"Steve has no intentions of commencing a civil lawsuit at this time because his priority is to get better and play hockey," Tim Danson, Steve Moore's lawyer, says.

So, does that go to prove Fidlin's argument that an NHL code exists and that players and league brass alike prefer to deal internally with hockey events, or is it merely the actions of a man who wants to shovel the past far behind him? At the same time, will the NHL continue on the path with such outbreaks of cheap shots and stick-work?

In my opinion, nothing will change. The evidence speaks for itself. Shortly after the Bertuzzi/Moore incident, several players continued down the same path.

On March 22, Mark Messier was suspended for two games for spearing Pittsburgh Penguin's player Martin Strbak. The same night, Wade Belak was suspended for a wicked slash to the head of Ossi Vaananen - although ask most Leaf fans and they will tell you that he simply lost his balance.

After that, Brad Ference threw a sucker punch that eerily resembled Bertuzzi's cheap shot, yet he received no suspension at all. The only difference in that incdident was that the receiving player gor right back up onto his skates (I believe it was Dan Hinote of the Avalanche, but please correct me if I'm wrong).

The point is, the game has always had, and will continue to have, incidents such as this. Stepping onto the ice for an NHL hockey game is an intense experience and emotions often fly out of control. That's the nature of sports. Is there a fine line that should never be crossed? Of course there is, but given the nature of the game, expect nothing less than the status quo when the NHL returns to play.

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