Tuesday, May 2, 2017

Ovi/Niskanen/Crosby Hit: A Fan's Side

Dear NHL, NHL Players, Pittsburgh Penguins, Player’s safety (or lack there of);
                As a hockey fan since I was a child I have to ask you some serious questions.  You see, I am what your marketing team dreams of.  An American that has caught the hockey bug at a young age, and even though I haven’t played the game past dek hockey, I am addicted to it.  I have watched every game I can since I was a child.  I was there during the Martin Straka era; buying my student rush tickets weekly just to get in the building.  I buy several games a year off of friends or through whatever means I can.  Playoff tickets when I have the extra money.  Watched Geno’s hat trick game in the upper bowl of the Mellon in a little thing called the Eastern Conference Finals in 2009, ticket still hanging in my office. Suite 66 ticket signed by Mr. Lemieux hangs in my home office. The Caps game where Arron Asham knocked out Beagle.   I have the Mario poster in my basement from 1984 with my god damn height marked on it from when I was 7 until 13. 
                God damn it, last year I was getting married on June 11th. We had the wedding venue ensure us that we had a cable connection and a projector to watch the third period at our wedding reception in case it fell on a game day, (I had a backup rented as well).  I told my then future wife that if we don’t have it, most of the guests will be in the bar watching it…. And she knows where we would be too (she caught the bug from me).
                Before we get to the injury, let’s talk about how you call the game.  The first period, we have a 5 minute power play.  A ticky-tacky call is made on Geno for closing his hand on the puck, an iffy call in the regular season.  Fast forward to Overtime.  Puck is caught with a closed hand on it and carried from the redline to the blue line, not called.  Then Daley makes a great defensive play on the puck, the type you should have highlighted on sportscenter, but instead it’s a penalty.  The refs got in the way of the game and assisted in deciding it again!  Another one, Cullen, on a breakaway is hooked RIGHT INFRONT OF THE REF IN THE MIDDLE OF THE NEUTRAL ZONE. The beer guy, pouring a beer in the top row could see it out of the side of his eye that it was hooking. Nope, nothing called.. Swallowed the whistle, we have decided to “let them play”.  Would this happen in the NFL? Nope. We all have watched games and yelled about the officiating. But when you really go back and look at it, they are usually right, might be a tight call, but you can watch the game and its evenly called.  The call in the 4th quarter on 4th and 1 on the 1 would be the same then and the 1st quarter. 
                Now the injury…. So your top player does what you want him to do, go hard to the net.  Play the game tough.  Be that beacon of how hockey is a mix of skill and being tough..  The toughest game out there.. Basketball players get a cramp they are carted off.  Hockey players break their god damn foot blocking a shot and finish the game; they might come back if they can within a week if the swelling goes down and the skate holds it together enough.  Another player, a top player, but one that you won’t discipline after many dirty knee on knee plays and such; swings a stick at a players head, misses but hits him with the follow through. NOTHING CALLED.. This causes him to go off balance and rather than another player dropping his stick and not planting the guy because the play is dead, crosschecks him in the god damn head.

Part 1 by Ovi, anywhere else except the WWE, where it is scripted and is a stunt, would be considered intent to injury if not assault (I do that on the Dek hockey rink, it can be called assault).  Part 2 by Niskinen is just as bad.  He should have held up, instead he jams his stick to his head, look at the replay and the pictured posted by Tie Domi and tell me different.  It was full of intent! When Tie Domi says that is not a hockey play, you need to reevaluate what you think of it. James Harrison took shots, what happened? Suspensions.  So what happened after that? He changed how he played.   This is not the game I, as a fan, want to watch. If Ovi beats us by scoring a hat trick so be it.  I guess Tom Brady should be okay with taking a shot to his knee after completing a pass because it’s “part of the game” and is a “football play”, or McCutchen should be okay with taking a baseball to the head at times because it’s “part of the game” and is a “baseball play”.  The other leagues protect their stars and enforce the same rules on the rank and file for their safety.  Why? Because that rank and file will one day sue your billion dollar company for head trauma.  Crosby is out for at least 1 game, probably more. A player cementing himself with the greats with a possible back to back cup run is now sidelined for “Old time hockey”. 
Well “Old Time Hockey” is about to lose my money.  I won’t pay a red cent for any of your merch, I’ll cancel my cable and Roots Sports subscription and stream it from NHL streams.
Now the hard questions.  Why should I continue to watch this game?  Why should I continue, not as just a Pens fan, but more importantly a hockey fan, watch your product anymore?  Why should I devote over 200 hours a year without play-offs watching my favorite team? How about the other 100 hours a year of watching other teams? How about all the time watching the playoffs of both the east and west?  Spend the money on cable to keep the sports packages to watch all the games I can?  Why the hell should I spend 400 plus dollars on 2 damn tickets for tomorrows night’s game?  After all the years and thousands of dollars I have put into this, I demand an answer! A real answer, not some bull! People put their hard earned money and more importantly their time and heart into watching this game and when you do this you sh*t all over it.
                Now you want to move to Vegas; the gambling capital of the world! Or at least North America.  With this officiating you expect the sportsbooks to push hockey?  You want to expand the game and fix markets that you probably shouldn’t have moved into.  But you want to keep the same old Original Six game.  It’s one way or the other…  Either get your head on right and showcase the greatest game there is, or allow an old mentality keep it the niche sport it is. Here is your Pete Rozelle moment Bettman; don’t sh*t all over it.

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