A few Sundays back, I was watching The NHL on NBC from my couch. I don't recall who was playing, but at about midway through the 2nd period, two guys started to fight. Gloves dropped to their sides, scowls were exchanged, posturing was set and right when the two gladiators began to exchange punches, I heard a bell. As in a ring bell. I was like WTF was that? Are they playing that at the arena? That's some theatrical game presentation they got going on there.
About a week later, I saw a different game on NBC and once again, two gladiators got into it and that same old bell rang. Then it hit me. This wasn't some sort of game presentation, it was the home of the Olympics playing the sound effects. The network that has The Nightly News with Brian Williams and the "legendary" sports I.Q. of Bob Costas.
I think a few other people on Twitter noticed this as well. This is what we've come to in the grand schemes of stopping concussions and head shots? By having a bell effect ring in when a fight starts? What is next? Having Tweety bird animation go around Shawn Thorton's head when he gets knocked out by John Scott? This is hypocrisy of the NHL at its finest. A league in which being held accountable hardly exists in America because the likes of ESPN/Stephen A. Smith don't know if ties still exist and have better things to do like embrace debates of LeBron James dunking in warm ups.
Unlike the NHL, the NFL is being held accountable for head shots and bounty gate with law suits by former players and the media doing its due diligence in exploiting it. The NHL on the other hand is having NBC sports sensationalize fighting with corny sound board effects to go along with the Sabres and Carubba Collison awarding some guy getting his head caved in during broadcasts.
All for the mighty dollar, right?
Now, I don't want to come off as being sanctimonious when it comes to whether we should have fighting or boarding calls or whatever violence should be taken out of the game.
But what I do want is some clarity on this.
Why on earth is it OK to fight the shit out of each other, which last I checked, getting punched in the head without head gear could probably lead to a concussion, but it is not OK for Pat Kaleta to launch Brad Richards body into the boards? Anyone… We are trying to prevent concussions, right?
Maybe I've grown out the "fighting is awesome" phase when I was 16, but if the game is all about the players' health, why is fighting still allowed? It is the code, right? The code that the likes of Andrew Peters, Matt Barnaby, Rob Ray and any wannabe tough guy who wants to live vicariously through enforcers have been singing its praises. I've said before that the code is bullshit.
Why is this the only sport in the world where fighting happens because they have to protect the likes of Brad Richards? Did Marcus Pollard get beat up after he shattered Tom Brady's knee? No. When a player gets called for a flagrant foul in the NBA, does Bill Lambeer come out and flatten someone? No. Why in hockey? Why does protecting your star player have to correlate with fighting? Maybe some hockey players and the league in general are filled with a bunch of meathead a$$holes, that's why.
The problem is there's a confusion that lies between the old guard (Don Cherry, all of Canada, and Mike Milbury) and the new guard of people who actually care about the players' safety and want more skill. The confusion then carries on to Patrick Kaleta's worth.
On one hand, you got Sabres fans saying he's a scumbag and it was a dirty hit, but in the same breath it boils down to needing guys like him. I don't know whether to shit or go blind when it comes to this and neither does the NHL.
The NHL is serving way too many masters and not caring enough about the well being of player safety. They need to find their identity when it comes to hits to the head and punches to the face. I don't think you can lose one and keep the other if we are living in a world where a 50-year-old former player has the mind of a 85-year-old.
Concussions aren't going away anytime soon and one day the NHL is going to pay when someone croaks or pulls a Chris Benoit because the league was not able to separate health and entertainment.