Who needs a night at the theatre when you have the NHL playoffs?
For two months, on a daily basis, we’re treated to dastardly villains and uplifting heroes; tremendous joy and crushing heartbreak; surprising plot twists and compelling themes.
We can count on it.
We can also predict that, in most years, an issue we didn’t necessarily see coming will worm its way into the headlines and get fans all lathered up.
One year it was the length of overtime games and what we should do to curb ultra-marathons; in another it was the epidemic of melees taking place after most every whistle. We had cries for faceoff reform not long ago when it seemed linesmen were citing violations on the majority of draws; and crease-crashing has been the red-button issue of the day in more than one post-season.
At this time of year, players will do whatever it takes to win because, ya know, it’s the Cup. And every little thing they do is magically magnified, thanks to technology and our voracious appetites for controversy.
This year, along with all the crazy comebacks, last-minute drama, rookie revelations and heart-warming storylines, we’ve been given the sidebar story of Waterworld.
Corey Perry got things started with his “playful” dousing of one of Jeff Carter’s gloves. It happened during a break in play between two guys who have been teammates internationally and was received with more guffaws than outrage.
A few days later, in the dying moments of Game 5 in Boston, Shawn Thornton sprayed Montreal's P.K. Subban. The Bruins winger had a good chuckle at his opponent’s expense and paid $2,820.52 for his indiscretion.
Then, in Game 6 of the Rangers-Penguins series, suave and sophisticated Henrik Lundqvist dumbed it down a notch by sprinkling Sidney Crosby, who was engaged in an altercation with other players. Again, smirks were the order of the day and Lundqvist is not receiving any supplemental discipline.
Kidding aside, isn’t it time for the NHL to throw some water on this practice?
We understand these aren’t egregious offenses and all kinds of nastiness takes place on the ice, particularly at this time of the year, that we aren’t always privy to.
Still, there’s irrefutable evidence of these unsportsmanlike offenses; the perps are being caught wet-handed. The Thornton incident was the most severe since it happened during the course of play and could have impaired Subban’s vision, and by extension, a sequence on the ice.
But the slap on the wrist from the league clearly didn’t send a message since Lundqvist used the same tactic a night later. That it happened during a stoppage in play has some relevance, but big picture, the move is unseemly. It lowers the tone of the game. It’s what you might expect to see in a staged wrestling event.
If a similar trend began in the NFL you can be sure justice would be swift and far harsher. Tolerance for side shows that detract from the game are appropriately low.
While we like a good laugh as much as the next guy, we don’t want those chuckles to come at the expense of integrity. The playoffs are far too compelling to have them undermined by bush league tactics. We're better than this.