The Game Behind The Game - The uLAr Theory

Adam has written another classic in his latest, and final installment of Puckin' Around of the season, The Cream Of The Crop. I urge all of you who have not yet had a chance to read it to do so before reading this.  A job very well done my friend, especially the rant at the end ( The Game Behind The Game ).  Adam had warned us a rant was coming for a while now, and I was not disappointed when I read his views on the state of the game.  I've been thinking about it for a while too; it's hard not to, as it comes up after almost every single game.  Like Adam, I have come to a few conclusions of my own. 

    The main one is that there must be two trains of thought up there in the higher echelons of the NHL.  One that wants the Don Cherry "Let the players decide it" old school system, and a new school of thinking: "Let the Stars Shine, call it every time you see it".  Thinking that way has led me to a harsh & scary realization: Could Bettman be THE GOOD GUY HERE ? WHAT ? Did I say BETTMAN & GOOD GUY in the same sentence ? Before dismissing me as a joke columnist, consider this:

    It's already a known fact that Bettman wants to sell hockey, especially to the US, and mostly to the southern States.  I don't have to prove this, expansion & relocation has ( Tampa-Bay, Anaheim, San Jose, Florida, Dallas, Phoenix ).  Bettman wants better TV deals, so it's in his best interest to let the stars shine & have the scoring go up in the NHL.  More scoring = more ratings, or so we think, since the low-scoring affairs we are currently privy to have not.  One way to achieve this is to call obstructions & interference penalties to either deter players from doing it, or to force Power Play opportunities which should result in more scoring chances. I'll leave it there, because I'm convinced the goalies are better now than they have ever been.  Just because more Power Plays are awarded, doesn't mean more goals are scored.  As a matter of fact, I am prepared to say that more goals are scored 4 on 4 than with the man advantage, but that's an opinion, not a fact.  Long gone are the 8-7 Oilers vs. Islanders games of the early 80's ! Even the All-Star games are low-scoring now !

    So in comes the Big Cheese of officiating, Andy Van Hellemond. This guy IS old school. He's part of the Don Cherry era of "Let the players decide it, put the whistles away when the game is on the line".  Traditionalists agree with this.  It was them that we heard screaming this year when Anaheim went up 3-1 in the Anaheim-Dallas series when in Game 4, Mike Leclerc would score the winning goal on a Power Play awarded to the Ducks with less than 5 minutes to go in a 0-0 game.   Be it as it may, the call did decide the game, but can we complain ?  The old school sure did, and are sure to hold this as an example of why referees should let the marginal infractions go late in the game.  Factor in the "old school GM's", the Drydens, Burkes & Quinns, and you can kind of see why the changing of the guard hasn't yet happened as far as the rulebook is concerned.  But I am a believer that it's only a matter of time.

    I am actually starting to belie in Bettman.  The man is trying.  Although frustrating at times, I prefer watching the game slowly transforming, than staying years behind.  As frustrating as it may be, I also believe that for every call ( or non-call ) that comes one way, the same call will go ( or not go ) the other way.  Maybe not in the same game, but all in all, things even out by season's end.  Why ?  Because referees are always rotated & aren't assigned to specific teams.  Sure, there's confusion, and a definite lack of consistency, but it's exactly that lack of consistency that is showing a promise of change.  You can't go from one extreme to the other overnight.   Slowly, but surely, you can get there.  Hey, it is a transition game, isn't it ?  The game has changed so much.  It's faster, and simply better.  It's the Coolest Game on Earth, and it only became that way because of one thing.  The NHL is consistent.  Consistent at being inconsistent.


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