Hi there. It’s mailbag time again. Thanks to all who took a moment to submit a question or two.
Adam, the recent 15-round pre-season shootout between the Leafs and Sabres epitomizes a growing trend in the NHL: It has become more and more difficult to score, even when a player is given a clear-cut chance on the goalie. We also see this in the ever-rising save percentages in the NHL. When will the league stop giving in to goalies' requests/insistence for larger and larger equipment?
David Beck, Amherst, N.Y.
It’s not about “giving in”, it’s about a collectively-bargained process between the league and the NHL Players’ Association. And while I’m with you in thinking goalie equipment has mushroomed past the point of mere protection to become more about puck obstruction, you can’t simply push through massive reductions without potentially endangering netminders.
The good news is the league appears willing to fight harder each year for these changes; and I know in talking to GMs and NHL officials, they’re not done with goalie equipment even after this season’s reduction in the top of pads. But they have to go through the process.
Good morning Adam,
Would you, and could you, explain how a linesman determines if a player needs to be changed in the faceoff circle? Is it a written NHL rule, or is it a judgment call?
Hank Londo, Mount Freedom, N.J.
Good afternoon Hank,
The rules regarding faceoff violations are clear. The linesman can remove a player from the circle if:
(a) One or both players are not positioned for the face-off;
(b) One or both refrain from placing their stick on the ice;
(c) Any player has encroached into the face-off circle;
(d) Any player makes physical contact with an opponent; or
(e) Any player who lines up for the face-off in an offside position.
That said, the linesman by nature take a subjective view of those guidelines. But the same is true for virtually all rules. The officials aren’t robots whose sensors detect on-ice sin and instantly punish it with the appropriate penalty. That’s as it always will be, regardless of any stipulation.
Adam, I was wondering why leagues like the NFL and NBA are able to cut players and not have to guarantee the money or their contracts. Seems to me that it makes so much sense, and would help solve the problem of some players having an "contract year" surge in points, then coasting for the rest of a contract.
Pat Lynes, Winnipeg
First of all, let’s differentiate: the NFL’s contracts are non-guaranteed, but deals signed in the NBA and NHL are guaranteed (at least, a sizeable percentage of each contract). That said, pointing to the NFL as an example of the way a sport ought to run is not something I agree with. The only reason the NFL has non-guaranteed deals is because of a historically-weak players’ union – and if the NHL ever tried to go that route with players who routinely put their short-and-long-term well-being on the line, I’d suggest we’ll see another lengthy labor clash down the line.
I was reading the Sept. 12, 2013 issue of Rolling Stone and something stuck out to me. Specifically, a statement on page 59 caught my eye. To quote, from the article on Aaron Hernandez, "There have been 47 arrests of NFL players since the end of last regular season: bar brawls, cars wrecked, spouses shoved or beaten."
Do you know what this number looks like for NHL players? I have a feeling it is a lot lower, as the hockey community seems pretty small and well-connected; an aware hockey fan would have noticed a trend. I feel one of the "bigger" issues at the forefront this past off-season was the Seguin trade, and when you boil that down, it may have been based partly on Tyler's penchant for partying. However, I'm getting on a soapbox now and return to my central question: are there even arrest figures for NHL players from this past offseason? Is it comparable to the NFL?
Daryl Lawrence, Ham Lake, Minn.
No, I haven’t seen any website compiling arrest records for NHL players. But to address your point, I don’t think it’s fair to compare statistics between the two groups of players for a few reasons.
The first is the difference in roster sizes. The NHL has a 23-man roster limit for every team, while the NFL has a 90-man limit. So, right away, you have a greater volume of players and it follows number of arrests will be proportionately higher.
In addition, you also have to factor in socio-economic differences. Hockey remains a middle-class sport in many regards and those who excel in it don’t have the connections to potentially criminal situations that NFLers who grow up closer to the poverty line may have.
In sum, it’s unfair to both NFLers and NHLers to argue that one group is more likely to act criminally than the other. Would you say accountants for shoemaking companies are more likely to commit larceny than accountants for cutlery-making corporations? Of course not. You’d call them all accountants. And that’s how I view the discussion of criminality in pro sports: they’re all athletes from different backgrounds, but they’re still all athletes.