Wednesday, April 16, 2008

A crisis in hockey writing (with bonus: "Dave Maloney is an idiot")

(see amendments to the bottom of the post, 5:57 p.m.)

The ongoing disaster and oh!ffence to the game that is Larry Brooks.

Typically, I am the first to jump on the Canadian media for vilifying what it views as non-traditional markets and dumb American fans (a true fan of the Nashville Predators has to overcome many more obstacles to his fanhood than a Maple Leafs fan living in Hogtown -- a point easily lost on most of the Canadian media), but the reaction this week to the "Avery Clarification" has been overwhelmingly dumb in the States, and remarkably measured and smart in Canada. And this outburst of terrible writing has driven me to do something I'd rather not -- support Gary Bettman, which I found myself doing for a flicker last night during the Wild/Avs game.

Dear Larry Brooks, stop arguing the NHL "changed" the rule or wrote a new rule because of Sean Avery's little goal-crease dance. In a rare moment of clarity and responsiveness, the league clarified an existing rule -- unsportsmanlike conduct -- to include instances such as this, which had never come up before because Sean Avery is the perfect storm of douchebaggery and defies previously held human expectations.

There is no new rule. And, the oh!fficials in the game warned Avery in the act and told him they would call unsportsmanlike if he proceeded. The league simply backed them up post hoc. Even the oh!fficials were right! It's Christmas in hockeyland!

The same writers would have bitched about the league's inactivity and lack of responsiveness if this was ignored.

Sports journalism is a waste.

Another tired argument: This one I saw from Jim Kelley yesterday. He argues you can't call Avery's mime dance a "mockery" in a league allowing face washes, hits on the boards, and various other minor acts of violence throughout the playoffs. Oh, and he remembered to bring up the boot-stomping incidents, which, if I recall, led to significant suspensions for the oh!ffending players. The people who cry when Sean Avery gets the hose because he has a history of being an asshole are the same people who said Chris Simon should be put out on the ice floe because he is a repeat oh!ffender. Well, Sean Avery is a repeat asshole, hence the attention.

Kelley may actually have a good point, but he's not smart enough to know it, and masks it by trying to defend Avery's actions with the "if the league lets everybody do dumb things, they can't single out this dumb thing " argument.

Wrong. That's exactly what leagues (all sporting leagues) and officials are charged with accomplishing. Saying "I agree with Sean Avery because I disagree with Chris Neil" is incongruous and wrong. You deal with these on a case-by-case basis, because they are different actions. I can say, "I think Chris Neil shouldn't be penalized for punching players in the back of the head because I think a moderate level of violence is acceptable in an intense, physical environment, although I think the officials should warn him should he do it more than once; I also think they should take into consideration how hard he punches the player." And that's assuming the officials see him do it, which Kelley doesn't address! Similarly, I can say, "I think Chris Neil should be penalized for throwing a flying elbow at someone's head, as well as I think Dion Phaneuf should have been penalized for head-ramming Patrick Marleau the other night -- because these plays are far more inherently dangerous than face washes and rabbit punches to the back of helmets."

Also, bringing up the Roger Neilson and Hasek incidents is pointless, because the Hasek thing became a rule, and resulted in a near-equal amount of criticism to Hasek at the time. Or, at least consternation. Hasek isn't a petulant asshole, so people didn't accuse him of "mockery," but your history as a player and a person is an integral part of how you are perceived and how you will be dealt with in the working environment. To assume otherwise is baiting the reader.

So, I will say, with that cleared up, "Sean Avery's actions in front of Martin Brodeur constitute unsportsmanslike conduct and are not consistent with the spirit of competition. And because he consistently shows himself to be an asshole, someone big should punch him in the face." That is reasonable. So is calling it a mockery, because he was dancing around like a three-year-old asking for mommy's attention. I've seen it. I know it.

Go Devils.

Amended at 1:19 p.m.

Why I don't write about hockey professionally, Exhibit E

John Buccigross nails it. Much shorter, too.

"New Jersey vs. New York Rangers
What stands out in this series is Sean Avery's bizarre "Dancing With The Stars" routine with Martin Brodeur in Game 3. There is a term for him -- clown. That kind of stuff, coupled with the detached demeanor Avery seems to have toward the rest of the team's battles, has the potential to drain the Rangers. Maybe I'm reading too much into it, and maybe his teammates are largely ignoring him, but playoff hockey is difficult enough without having to try to manage some out-of-control, fall-out frat boy. It's even worse when he drags Brodeur into his sideshow. He's the Terrell Owens of the NHL, polluting the Rangers with his individuality. Can you imagine what Scott Stevens would have done had he seen Avery waving his stick like a giant windshield wiper in Brodeur's face? That also is partially an indictment of the contsruction of the Devils' roster."

Another amendment, 5:57 p.m.

Dave Maloney is an idiot. He was on HNIC radio using Kelley's "Roger Neilson was considered a genius when he 'tested the limits'" argument.

Yes, he was. Because people did not universally hate Roger Neilson. He was, at times, a creative, sly, and entertaining individual who devised some clever, funny (the flag on the stick), and memorable methods that created some pleasant and memorable memories for hockey fans. Sean Avery says things about players' families and acts like a jerkoff every time he is on the ice. He dives, whines, cries, and wears emo douche clothing. Roger Neilson didn't do these things. He coached hockey, revolutionized advanced scouting, and wore crazy ties.

Comparing Roger Neilson to Sean Avery is stupid. Dave Maloney is stupid. The Rangers suck.

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