Near the end of the game (16 seconds left), Islanders’ goalie Rick DiPietro deemed it necessary to step out of the crease and take a cheap shot on one of the Pens as he skated past. The unwritten ‘CODE’ of hockey states that a goalie is not to be engaged unless by the opposing team’s goalie, so a scrum ensued involving many players from both sides while DiPietro leaned on the goal and laughed. It was at this point that the Pens’ backup goalie, Brett Johnson, who had played lights out all night, took matters into his own hands. He skated to center ice and called DiPietro out. To his credit, DiPietro slowly skated out to meet Johnson, while discarding his equipment. What happened next will be celebrated in Pittsburgh for years to come, and vilified by opposing fans and those who decry hockey altogether. Johnson knocked out DiPietro with one left hook!
I have to admit, Johnson earned my respect. If you cheap shot someone with 16 seconds left, in a game that has already been decided, you have to pay the price … and pay the price DiPietro did. It’s unfortunate that he will miss many games with facial fractures, but what if his cheap shot had injured the Penguin who was innocently skating by? Frustration is not a good excuse for DiPietro’s actions.
Cory Giger, writer for the Altoona Mirror and host of ‘Sports Central’ on ESPN Radio’s local affiliate, posted a blog on Facebook written by Bob Smizik. With all due respect to Cory, who apparently agreed with the blogger, the article is a complete farce. Either Smizik is not a hockey fan or he has some kind of agenda. In his blog, Smizik uses a fairy tale example involving the Packers and Steelers in the Super Bowl in which Ben Roethlisberger and Aaron Rodgers meet at midfield to duke it out following a cheap shot by Rodgers taken on Troy Polamalu during an interception return. He is attempting to make the point that professional football involves more civilized participants than does hockey. Mr Smizik, this is complete garbage.
Hockey is the only professional sport in which each and every player carries a weapon at all times (their sticks). If one watches closely, there are constant cheap shots taken using these weapons. Players are slashed across their hands and wrists, they are cross checked from behind, they are tripped and whacked across their ankles and feet. While these incidents do not always cause injury, the constant repetition of these hits does take a toll. Unless each game is reviewed and swift punishment is instituted for every stick related offense in the forms of fines and/or suspensions, there will always be fighting in hockey. Sound familiar?
Allow me to compare this to football. James Harrison of the Steelers has become the poster boy for hitting related fines in the NFL. Whether or not you are a fan of Harrison or the Steelers, one must admit that not all of the hits that resulted in fines were worthy of such punishment. If one watches the replays closely, it is easy to see that there were times when the player on the receiving end of said hit ducked his head at the last instant, AFTER Harrison had begun his tackle. It is my opinion that if the NFL continues on this course of action, the game will change, and not for the better.
I watched many, many, MANY professionall games over these most recent decades. One thing became clear to me, and to any observant fan, was that the players ‘policed’ themselves. If a defensive player took a shot that was perceived to be cheap or overly violent by the opposition, that player had better place his head on a swivel for the rest of the game, for the offensive linemen of the offended team would surely be taking retribution. Men like Conrad Dobler of the Cardinals, Mike Webster of the Steelers & Jim Langer of the Vikings would seek out the ‘offender’, and literally truck him into the ground or clothesline him as he rushed the passer.
Whatever happened to REAL MEN in the NFL? When these O-linemen were taking care of their own, you saw less cheap shots, less devastating injuries and significantly fewer concussions. This leads me to ask two questions. First, should both leagues change everything that has made them a great watch for the fans? If you answer yes, then perhaps you should contact your local cable provider and request ‘The Twiddlywink Channel’! Second, could the NFL learn a lesson by taking a page from the NHL? ABSOLUTELY! Police yourselves and allow the suits in the league to worry about the Collective Bargaining Agreement so we don’t lose football!
All of which leads to my final prognosis ….
LET HOCKEY ALONE! They are doing just fine …..
(my signoff seems inappropriate after THIS blog! Lol)