September 28, 2011

Winter Classic in the NHL and other Good Stuff.

 The NHL announced that this season’s Winter Classic will pit rivals Philadelphia Flyers against the New York Rangers. The game is to be held at Citizen’s Bank Field in Philadelphia and will take place on Jan 2nd rather than the usual date of Jan 1st.
The press conference announcing the game saw Sather and Snider have a dig at each other’s organisation, setting the tone for what could be the game of the season.
Certainly a game I will look forward to over the New Year’s period – hopefully both teams will be doing well in the Atlantic division come face off and we will see a spectacle on ice that matches the setting of these classic games.

Brendan Shanahan. One time hero of mine along with the likes of Federov, Kozlov and the mercurial Stevie Y. Do I like him in this new role that he has taken up at the NHL? I’ll come back to you on that during the season.

Shanahan has been given a role which means he studies any checks / hits / incidents that are bordering on or breaking the new NHL rules.

He then gives his decision on them and hands out the punishment. It is very much like he is the new Sheriff of the NHL. His actual title is Senior Vice President Of

Player Safety.

He has already been dishing out suspensions during the preseason. Jean Francois Jacques of the Ducks being suspended the remainder of the preseason plus 5 regular season games for leaving the bench with the purpose of starting a fight, Wisniewski of the Blue Jackets getting the remainder of the preseason and 8 regular season games for an illegal check to the head and Brad Staubitz the remainder of the preseason and 4 regular season games for an illegal check from behind are just 3 of the suspensions he has already handed out.

A lot has been said, especially last season about hits to the head and illegal checks that have seen some of the stars of the NHL miss a lot of games. This is the way the NHL have decided to combat it, giving Shanahan the job to cast his eyes over the incidents, the rule book and then give out punishment as necessary. The way in which Shanahan is doing this is unique to me as he is giving out his verdict to the camera’s and how he came to the decisions. Speaking over footage of the hits and taking into account players positioning, visible intentions of the players and previous suspension history he is then ruling with an iron fist.

Whilst fans, coaches and players first comments on this seem to be positive I’m unsure myself. I’m not unsure with the way / style he is doing it, in fact I think it is an excellent idea and allows everyone to know why the decision has been made.

It’s a very good insight and way of analysing hits and checks and after seeing the Shanahan videos everyone should know what is legal and illegal and hopefully the players will take heed and the bad hits will become less of an issue in the game.
What I am unsure of is the length of suspensions and whether every little incident is going to come under scrutiny with this system. Maybe suspensions have been heavy preseason to try and make players think straight away about the hits they are making but surely you can’t give a player an 8 game suspension for an incident preseason and then have a similar incident later in the season that only warrants a 1 or 2 game suspension. The length of suspensions has got to be consistent and be applied all season. This could lead to coaches and fans becoming less favourable to the system when key players are missing big games.
I will remain sceptical for now and make my mind up a month into the season. Hopefully by then these sort of incidents won’t be a major talking point and the hockey flair will be.

Wayne Simmonds has certainly started life with the Flyers with some controversy. The first incident by no means was his fault with a fan throwing a banana onto the ice whilst he was taking a penalty shot in a shoot out. A fan has been charged with the incident and hopefully we won’t see anything like this again in the NHL.

What came next in a friendly with the New York Rangers was an allegation by Rangers forward Sean Avery that a homophobic slur was aimed at him by Simmonds.

Simmonds denied using the slur he was alleged to have said and with non of the on ice officials near the players hearing anything either the NHL hasn’t taken any action on this incident.

Both incidents are not needed in the sport and hopefully Simmonds will be mentioned in later blogs and news for his on ice play rather than stories like this. He had a good playoffs with LA last season and the Flyers will be hoping he starts this season like he finished last.

by Adam Yates

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