August 11, 2008
Every weekday in August, Puck Daddy presents "5 Ways I'd Change the NHL," in which a cross-section of sports media and hockey personalities offer solutions, suggestions and absurdities to remake the League to their liking. We're thrilled to have Ross Bernstein, best-selling author of "The Code: The Unwritten Rules of Fighting and Retaliation in the NHL," contributing his list today ...
1. Get rid of the instigator penalty. It is a hideous rule that needs to be killed. It allows the agitators way too much power to roam free and pester the opposition's top players. These filthy disturbers are getting away with murder, turtling and hiding behind the rule as soon as an enforcer challenges him or tries to hold him accountable for his actions.
2. Allow the enforcers to wear the "ultimate fighter" gloves. Look, enforcers serve a purpose out on the ice and without them we would never see our star players score goals. Like it or not, their presence keeps the peace. They are specialists, like kickers or punters in football. You may not agree with them, but you can't win without them. Everything has gotten bigger in the NHL over the years except the surface of the ice. Heavyweights of old were 5-foot-10 and 185 pounds, while today they can go as big as 6-foot-7 and 275 pounds. These guys are monsters and it is just a matter of time before one of them connects with an overhand right and kills somebody. A lawsuit like that could shut down the entire league. The gloves will help out and still let these guys be effective in doing their jobs.
3. Make the enforcers "flip their lids" when they drop the gloves. There are way too many hand injuries suffered by these guys from hitting helmets -- especially the code breakers who dip their heads during combat. We don't want to see our heavy's on the shelf with busted knuckles, we want to see them on the ice. The kids do it in junior and it works, so I say have the big boys do it too. Lose the helmets.
4. Expand from 30 to 32 teams, just like the NFL, with eight four-team divisions. Put a couple of teams back up in Canada too, where they belong. There are plenty to choose from south of the Mason Dixon Line -- take your pick, we don't care.
5. Realignment, Realignment, Realignment ... As a follow-up to No. 4, I would love to see my Minnesota Wild get put into a new realigned division alongside Chicago, Detroit and St. Louis. These west coast times are killing us and our kids can't stay up until one in the morning on school nights to watch the games. That is your future fan base talking... HELLO? Plus, we aren't going to make a road-trip to Calgary or Vancouver to watch our squad -- but we sure as heck will drive to the Windy City or Motown to see some blood. We have natural rivalries with these cities in other sports, so it only makes sense. Bring back the old Norris baby!
Ross Bernstein's latest book is "The Code: Baseball's Unwritten Rules and its Ignore at your own risk Code of Conduct." On Tuesday at noon-ish: Adrian Dater, writer for the Denver Post and author of "Blood Feud."