Emulating the NFL is good practice for the NHL – and every other pro sports league – on just about every front.
The latest example stems from the pre-game antics in Toronto last Saturday, when Sean Avery said something that made Darcy Tucker put on his Jack Nicholson face from The Shining and offer to shave Avery with his stick blade.
It was reported Avery made a highly inappropriate comment about Jason Blake’s battle with leukemia. Avery has flatly denied this and is pursuing legal action as a result of the report.
This has led to all kinds of chatter about what is, and is not, fair game when it comes to trash talking and how the league should deal with it. First things first: Racist comments, or anything that even remotely resembles them, must be severely dealt with in the form of fines and suspensions.
But even lesser chatter can cause problems.
The NFL is rife with rubbish rhetoric, but when players openly taunt an opponent, their team is penalized 15 yards. In a recent game between the Dallas Cowboys and New York Giants, a stupid taunting penalty by a Dallas player directly led to a field goal late in the second half that otherwise would not have occurred.
The NHL should follow suit and assess penalties (a two-minute minor for unsportsmanlike conduct works) when players are verbally abusive in a situation where it’s likely to incite a physical response from an opponent.
That’s what the NFL is trying to avoid; a situation where a slandered player gets off the turf and tears after the guy who was just standing over him asking some variation on “Who’s your daddy?”
I’m all for dramatic antics in the name of showmanship. Think back to a couple of years ago when Ilya Kovalchuk pointed at Sid the Kid after scoring on a power play created by a Crosby penalty. That kind of act increases the on-ice spectacle and makes the game more fun for all involved. It would also motivate Crosby to come out on his next shift and try to shove a goal down Atlanta’s throat.
Trash talk can definitely be a part of that spectacle and speaking as a media member, you’re never going to hear me say I want guys to talk less.
For the most part, I think the stick-and-stones approach to trash talking is fine. Just treat the rare occasion when words are akin to a slap in the face in the same manner you would the slap.