It’s really nice to see my hard earned tax dollars at work.  For the better part of two weeks, the Canadian Government has taken more time discussing what drastic measures, if any, should be taken about Don Cherry’s on air comments than actually doing something to better our way of life.

Unless you live in a cave or under a rock, or somewhere without access to a CBC feed, by now you’re probably well aware of the recent tirade from the man they call “Grapes” on his weekly Coach’s Corner segment in which he said most players who wear protective visors are “Europeans or French Guys”.  He was merely trying to say how the introduction of mandatory visors in the NHL would do more harm than good.  Somehow I don’t think Marian Hossa would agree, but there’s a story for another day.

The funny thing is had Cherry simply left the French out of it, nobody would have been any wiser.  He’s made no secret of his opinion of players from overseas and from down East in the past, so why now all of a sudden is there concern?  Give me a break!

I’ve had this discussion with a few French Canadians over the past week or so and none of them, I repeat, none of them were offended by Don’s comments.  I realize this doesn't reflect the views and opinions of everybody, but somewhere along the line people need to just get a grip.

Most everyone I talk to have come to expect these Archie Bunker-ish remarks from the former NHL coach who not so long ago lost to Montreal in the playoffs over a too many men on the ice penalty.  There’s no question Grapes still holds a grudge over this, but what’s more laughable is how his comments are more often than not interpreted way out of context.

There’s a simple solution to all of this, if you don’t like what Grapes has to say, do what I do during the first intermission on Saturday nights.  Watch another game.

But now, thanks to official languages commissioner Dyane Adam, who in all probability never watched a segment of Coach’s Corner until her e-mail overflowed with complaints, said she's launching an investigation into whether Cherry’s comments disrespected the Official Languages Act.

Excuse me?

With all due respect to our prestigious language commissioner, doesn’t Ms. Adam have a hospital to save or something?

Now all of a sudden, the CBC ombudsman, the Canadian Broadcast Standards Council, the official languages office and a few select politicians have gotten involved.

Jean Augustine, the Liberal government's junior minister for multiculturalism, said Friday she doesn’t understand all the fuss, but had this to say about the whole situation:

"I think each body has its own realm of jurisdiction," Augustine said. "Most Canadians who value diversity, who commit to ensuring respect for each other, would feel . . . that kind of language is not really acceptable.  The government will not tolerate statements that create dissonance in our society and disrespect for others." 

Oh really?  And what kind of “language” might that be?

New Democratic Party leader Jack Layton was not so democratic in his statement:

Cherry should be ashamed of himself”, Layton said, "It's disgusting and unacceptable. He should certainly be apologizing, and maybe something more than that. Who knows? I'm in shock."

Conservative Member of Parliament Peter MacKay said everyone should just chill out and let the CBC deal with the matter. "This is a bit of a gag order on color commentary," said MacKay. "Color commentary - not to mix metaphors - gets a bit into the grey sometimes."  I couldn’t agree more.

The CBC, obviously feeling the heat, placed Cherry’s segment on a seven second delay and publicly reprimanded him over what management called an "inappropriate and reprehensible personal opinion" expressed on air. 

Enough Already!

Since when did it become illegal for one to speak their mind, especially on T.V.?  Did I miss something here?

Do these people realize the can of worms they’ve now opened?  Don’t they realize this is merely going to boost Cherry’s already high enough ratings?  Aren’t there more pressing issues the government could address?

Talk about the pot calling the kettle black.  Maybe the politicians should stick to what they know best, pretending to practice politics, rather than accusing Don Cherry of actually being a hockey commentator who sometimes wavers into the realms of real life.  Whether or not you agree with what he says, he certainly doesn’t deserve the bad rap he’s been getting of late.  After all, he’s just a good old fashioned boy from Kingston, Ontario, is he not?!

I think this comment from a recent episode of Conan O’Brien says it all:

U.S. President George W. Bush said America cannot stand by and hope for the best from a madman.  The weird thing is he was talking about Don Cherry!”


Assuming we even have NHL hockey next season, there are many significant rule changes in the works which should help increase scoring, or at the very least make the game more exciting to watch.  Now if only something can get done about the officiating…

In any event, for better or for worse, here are the changes proposed in Las Vegas during general managers meetings during the All-Star break. 

1) Goalies will no longer be allowed to handle the puck behind the goal line.  Apparently too many goalies are scoring goals, which clearly is taking away from the offensive prowess of the game's stars.  And if you believe that, I can relocate your favorite NHL franchise to Winnipeg.

Aren’t they trying to increase offense?  How many times have you seen a goal go into a yawning cage when a goalie blows a tire behind the net?  Forget about it if this rule gets implemented. 

Another concern about this is the prospect of a player getting injured as they try to rush into their own end to get the puck.  Oddly enough, there are no plans to implement the one rule which in my opinion is needed most – automatic icing.  A player will probably have to end up in a wheelchair before this happens.

2) Goalie pads are to be no wider than 10 inches, down from 12 inches today.  There’s no question goalie equipment has got out of hand, yet the goalies of today are also bigger than they were even five years ago, not to mentioned more skilled.  I have mixed emotions over this one.

3) The “Tag-up” offside rule will make a comeback.  Basically, an offside is still an offside, with a twist.  Rather than blowing the whistle the second the puck crosses the offensive blue line with a player trapped in the zone, if the player can get out of the zone without ever touching the puck, play will be allowed to continue.

If I understand this correctly, with less offside stoppages and faster face offs, they’ll be able to get us out of the arena and home sooner!  While we’re at it, why not change to two halves and four quarters?  Can I get a discount on my tickets since I won’t be occupying my seat for as long as I used to?  If I don’t ask I don’t know.

4) The goal line will be moved back to 10 feet from 13 feet.  I never quite understood why they moved it to 13 feet to begin with.  Why not just make it 20 feet, pull the goalie and see how many empty nets we can fill with pucks.  First team to stack pucks from the bottom to the top of the net wins.  Then we’d have to change the name of the game wouldn’t we?  Just a thought.

These are merely proposed changes at this point, so I wouldn’t read too much into them until they become part of the NHL rulebook, but you have to think at least one or two of these will become official.  The goal line move I’d say is as good as done.

A couple of changes you’ll see effective immediately as they have been officially “clarified”:

1) A penalty shot will be awarded provided a player has a clear play to the net, whether or not he has the puck.  Should be interesting.

2) Goals scored when the net is slightly off its moorings will still count, which means the Dallas overtime goal called back during last year’s playoff series against Anaheim would have counted.

The NHL will also work with the AHL to test both the “3 point rule” and wider blue and red lines.  We could also see a shootout trial.  As long as they limit this to regular season play, I’m all for it.  More emphasis would be placed on a regulation win, with a team earning 3 points for winning in sixty minutes.  An overtime or shootout win would be worth 2 points, and a tie or overtime/shootout loss would be 1 point.  This will eliminate the prospect of a team losing every game in overtime and still making the playoffs.

I see three groups emerging from this, the traditionalists who haven’t watched hockey since they introduced icing, the folks who say if it isn’t broke, don’t fix it, and those who are open to anything to increase the satisfaction of watching a game.  I fall somewhere in between, while I don’t see too much wrong with the game, I’m open to anything which won’t undermine an already beautiful game to watch when it’s played and policed correctly.

What do you think?

My colleague uLAr seems to fall more within the “if it isn’t broke, don’t fix it” realm, and is in the process of putting together an online poll on the subject, so head on over here to our poll page and cast your vote!

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