The Vent: NHL fan sick of the indefensible

Greg Wyshynski
December 8, 2013

The Vent is a column that hands the mic on Puck Daddy over to hockey fans to rant, rave and react to everything in the game. If you have a pitch for an editorial, or have one written, and want it featured on Sunday, email puckdaddyblog@yahoo.com with the subject “The Vent.”

Here is Bill Winters, a USA Hockey referee and a hockey fan, with an open letter to the NHL and NHLPA:

"Dear NHL and NHLPA,

"You're putting me in a very awkward position. I feel like a parent who constantly has to justify their child's bad behavior.

"You see, I am a hockey fan. A die-hard. I've skated since I was 9 years old, dreaming of being the next great New York Ranger, played rod hockey on my parents' dining room table until it was too scratched up to eat off of, played every hockey video game ever made, realized after high school I couldn't play a lick so I got into scorekeeping and PA announcing for my local high school and college teams, then finally became a USA Hockey referee seven years ago.

"The public conception of hockey is always the same tired, old 'I went to a fight and a hockey game broke out.' We as hockey fans know that isn't the case, but then SportsCenter in the USA, which devotes maybe 90 seconds to hockey per night, gets to show James Neal purposely kneeing Brad Marchand in the head while he's down on the ice in a move straight out of WWE. Then we get to see the public mugging of Brooks Orpik by Shawn Thornton which starts with a textbook, instructional video worthy slew-foot, continues with jumping on top of a defenseless man and pounding him into unconsciousness, and ends with the sight of a stretcher leaving the ice.

"I don't want to hear any rhetoric about 'The Code' either. When John Scott went after Phil Kessel or Loui Ericsson all we heard was buys like Shawn Thornton were more honorable because they kept to 'The Code' and could score a little. I don't know of any "Code" that encourages what I saw in the Bruins/Penguins game.

"So as a hockey fan, I now have to justify this nonsense to all my non-hockey fan friends. I can't...and I won't. It's stomach-turning. The NHL puts the product on the ice, but I lay this on you, NHLPA. Your members are taking each other out like rival camps on "The Walking Dead".

"I'm sure you will defend James Neal in his hearing, but will you defend Brad Marchand? He was pretty defenseless as that knee clobbered him in the side of his head. I'm sure you will defend Shawn Thornton in his hearing, but will you defend Brooks Orpik? He was pretty defenseless as his feet were kicked out from under him and he was getting pummeled.

"Rant over. I have to go referee a 14U and a 16U game now and hope beyond hope that they don't take a lesson from what they saw in the NHL last night."