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Why Punish the Fan?

February 11, 2008 | By RotoRob | comment on this post

BY ROB REATH

Let Steve Downie play!

It was a question Gil Stein had put before the league. It was a question that at least temporarily caused the National Hockey League to consider what its fans wanted. Rather than to serve its own purposes in terms of image, revenue, and political correctness, the league took the fans into consideration first. It stopped suspending players and just fined them thousands, but allowed the fans to keep viewing their favorite players because after all, it is the players who ought to suffer for breaking the rules, not the paying fan.

Does anyone remember Gil Stein? The president of the NHL in 1992, he had the insight to recognize that competitive players frequently step over the line between good, hard hockey and reckless play.

Should you and I be punished from seeing our favourite players compete when we may have paid for our tickets two weeks before a player steps over the line? What if it’s a player that the NHL seems to have a very unique and different margin of error and punishment for?

Steve Downie deserves a warning over a sucker punch? A brief look through the history of the NHL will not only prove this action to be unmitigated, but practically unheard of.

I like five-on-five hockey and I like watching players who try hard and push themselves to exceed. If someone really believes that Downie is crazy and a threat to the safety of other players in the NHL, then the likes of everyone from Gordie Howe in his era to Chris Pronger and many who played the game in between should be banned from hockey forever.

That would be fine, but I wouldn’t watch any more games. I love watching Pronger play. He’s big, he’s skilled, he’s rough, and he’s competitive. What’s not to like? All that, and I truly doubt that is scared for his life when Downie suits up. The reason being is that they are both competitors who would battle hard for any loose puck near them.

Why should I be denied the right to experience such a competition just because Mr. Bettman or former Rangers’ coach, Mr. Campbell, decides so? Clearly, their actions are wrong. It’s wrong to deny me or you and wrong to levy out discipline to a rookie that exceeds by far the standards being applied to the rest of the league.

I was shocked at the lack of outcry over the disproportionate punishment from the Flyers’ organization until Senior V.P. Bob Clarke finally spoke out. That didn’t shock me; I was thinking more of you the fan of the Philadelphia Flyers or any hockey fan who believes in seeing an equal playing surface for all teams.

Perhaps notifying NHL owners and its sponsors of your displeasure via a letter or two, casually mentioning you won’t buy their products until the league has more ethical management, might get the wheels turning.

Yes, five players were suspended and many of them deservedly so. Suspending Randy Jones, however, is a bit like barring Albert Einstein from a physics lab for not shaving closely enough.

We are told they don’t want to take hitting out of the game, but how can any player in the league, let alone any Philadelphia player, help but feel they are likely to be suspended if the opposing player turns the wrong way during a hit at the last moment and unexpectedly experiences a fluke injury? They do happen. How about fining the players heavily and stop punishing the fans?
If Downie loses a few thousand dollars maybe he will play more gently, maybe he won’t. Why should it become my problem just because I want to watch him play?

I am a fan and I want to watch competitive players play. I also hate seeing games being decided by who gets more power plays. I don’t pay to see the ref decide the game for me. I want it decided by the players.

If their behaviour is such a problem, then fine them a higher amount of their high salaries and maybe you could put that money towards lowering ticket prices and lure back a few of the fans that enjoy the hitting game.

If the NHL really wants to improve the game, it should consider bringing back Gil Stein.

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