uLAr Takes & Randumb Thoughts Return

After a long absence, uLAr returns to puckinaround.net with his first article in over two years, and it's a plea for the NHL to get their house in order once & for all.

     Welcome back to uLAr Takes, my column for PuckinAround.net.  My last column was over two years ago, just after the lockout.  Why the long absence ?  For one, everybody and their dog has a blog nowadays.  Some even going as far as charging fans for the "privilege" of becoming "Season Ticket Holders" in order to be privy to "insider" information from a blogger who won't even reveal his real name, never mind his dubious sources.  I could devote this entire article on the ethics practiced by Dwayne Klessel, or Eklund, as most know him, but we'll save that for a later day (maybe after the dust settles on the class-action lawsuit brought against him).  I just felt everything hockey-related was being covered (and quite frankly, overdone).  Writing a column on a semi-regular basis is harder than it seems, and I have even more respect for the reporters who do it every day, as well as for my colleague Adam, who had you covered here with his blog & columns.  I just concentrated on the back-end of the site, along with giving Adam input whenever needed for his articles, and watched as he transformed my (very) random/randumb thoughts about the game into well thought out views & was happy in doing so.  I haven't missed anything hockey-related, as Centre Ice, an HDTV & the internet are all tools yours truly would be completely lost without !  So is this return permanent ?  I'd like to think so, but can't be certain.  Have I been bitten by the writing bug ?  Kind of.  Something happened this week that made me HAVE to write about, because it's driving me nuts.

    It's no secret to anyone that I adore the game.  NHL hockey is the greatest sport by far, and a good hockey game beats any sitcom or reality show hands-down any night of the week !  Since the lockout, the NHL has done a great job re-tooling this game to make it more exciting to watch, and even the most traditional fan has to admit that somehow, the salary cap & new rules has given the league something it had been missing for a long time - PARITY.  I don't have to tell you how great the product has been.  Is there room for improvement ?  Of course, and we're getting there, one step at a time.  It's just unfortunate that for every few steps we take forward, the NHL ends up taking a few steps back.  The latest incident, and the one that made yours truly come out of the shadows: Chris Simon.  For those of you living under a rock & not familiar with Simon, he's an NHL veteran who warrants his own "SUSPENSIONS" category on Wikipedia.  Here's what got him suspended last year for the remaining 15 games of the season, and all playoff games in 2007:


     So surely after a harsh punishment like that, Simon returned to the NHL as a model veteran & learned his lesson, correct ?  Think again.  Not even 3 months later, Simon follows up with this a few nights ago:


     Wow.  Incredible.  After already having been suspended 7 times before the above "Jarkko Ruutu Stomp" as it has now come to be known, surely the NHL has had enough & has suspended Chris Simon for the remaining 50 games of the regular season or for life as an 8-time offender, right ?  Guess again.  How does 30 games sound ?  To me, it sounds like the NHL still doesn't get it.  While it's not his most heinous offense, it's Simon's 8th time before the NHL's disciplinary committee.  At some point, you have to realize that suspensions & loss of pay are just not getting the message through to him.  NHL disciplinarian Colin Campbell giving him 30 games defies logic.  What needs to happen before a player is banned for good ?
Adding insult to injury, I am as baffled with the NHLPA's reaction to the suspension !  The NHLPA are actually wondering why such a LONG suspension was handed out !  Wha-wha-What ?!?!?  Let's be honest, this is a player who's a repeat offender, who's been given many second chances and has yet to clean up his act.  Simon brings nothing positive to the league.  Nobody goes to an Islanders game to watch Simon play, and if they do, they are clearly going for the wrong reasons.  Once again, the game I love is leading off the nightly sports shows across Canada & the US on mainstream television it so desperately seeks attention from.  Unfortunately, this is the wrong kind of exposure (again) and sets the whole movement of selling this game to new fans back.  What is most disturbing to me is the "brotherhood" mentality of defending one another at all cost, often described as the "old boys club" is still very much alive with the NHLPA.  They still have not figured out they are rather defending one FROM another, as both victim & offender are from the same "fraternity".  Often times, it even seems as the NHLPA spend more time & resources coming to the aid of the offender, rather than the victim (Steve Moore anyone ?).

   This just in: as of this writing, Simon has checked himself in a behavioral facility.  Also announced today, the NHLPA is appealing the suspension.  Someone please explain how that protects Jarkko Ruutu's interests at all ?  Lass I checked, he is part of the NHLPA as well, isn't he ?  As if that wasn't enough on Colin Campbell's plate, the Assembly of First Nations are also up in arms about a comment Colin Campbell made yesterday.  During a press conference, Campbell said ''the actual help (Simon is) going to get and counseling he's going to get from the drug and the alcohol doctors''.  What Campbell was referring to was the NHL's Substance Abuse and Behavioral Health Program.  Chris Simon is Ojibway and has had issues with drugs & alcohol in the past.  Campbell misstep here has only magnified this incident even more.  Islanders head coach Ted Nolan, also Ojibway, commented:" We talk about sensitive issues, but maybe some other people need sensitivity training."  Good point Ted.  Perhaps Simon can start with leading by example and step away from the game, compose himself, then return & begin a discussion on how the NHL & NHLPA could benefit with sensitivity training as mandatory to all players ?  After all, it was Simon who himself misspoke back in 1997 when he used a racial slur against Mike Grier, which warranted his 2nd career suspension (3 games).  Maybe if Simon had taken part in sensitivity training back then, we wouldn't be discussing suspension number 8 today.

    I had really hoped these incidents would be a thing of the past when the announcement came that players would now enjoy revenue sharing with NHL owners.  The only way I see anything changing is if these incident start hurting the NHL & NHLPA where it matters most: their pocketbooks.  I can't wait to see the day a major sponsor pulls out & cites the reason for its withdrawal is due to the senseless lack of respect & brutality in the game.  Are we close to the day when the game no longer reflects what sponsor's companies are about or want to be associated with ?  I hope so.  Only then will the NHL & NHLPA look to take more drastic approaches & measures in rectifying this once & for all.  While it won't be good for the NHL in the short term (losing sponsors rarely is), it could be great in the long run if it cleans up this game of ours.  Perhaps then, the NHL will one day be featured at the top of a sports recap show on a major network in the US & Canada for the right reasons.  Hey, a hockey nut can dream, right ?


More Randumbs to come, stay tuned ....

Agree ?  Disagree ?  Comments ?  Questions ?  Hate Mail ?  Mail me here: ular@puckinaround.net