The NHL is back!

By Brad Constant, Feb. 25, 2014

The Olympics are over and the National Hockey League is back from its break, and so is The Hockey Ref. We are very excited, and here are the reasons why.

First, we need as much hockey as possible to get over the disappointment of the Team USA losses. It helps that the women came home with the silver medal, but the men were embarrassed by losing two vital games and missed out completely on a medal. Thankfully our friends to the north claimed both gold medals and secured North America as the land of hockey dominance for another four years.

Second, the push for the playoffs is in full swing. This is when regular season hockey is the most exciting. Every game can make or break season for any team fighting to get in. Aside from the playoffs, this is the best time of year.

Last, a lot of players come back well rested, so we should see some high energy games. The big hits will definitely be back too. We can hardly wait!

Welcome back NHL, we hope you enjoyed your vacation.

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Thornton appeals 15-game suspension, is he right or wrong?

Boston Bruins' forward his appealing his 15-game suspension. Photo courtesy of ESPN.com.

Boston Bruins’ forward his appealing his 15-game suspension. Photo courtesy of ESPN.com.

By Brad Constant, Dec. 15, 2013

Brendan Shanahan and the National Hockey League’s Department of Player Safety weighed in and suspended the Boston Bruins’ Shawn Thornton for 15-games for his attack on Pittsburgh Penguins’ defenseman Brooks Orpik on Saturday, Dec. 7.

We originally thought that Thornton would get around 10 games for his slew foot, sucker punch combination. But the NHL feels that Thornton deserves 15-games, and here is the video in which Shanahan explains the League’s reasoning.

As expected there are people who think 15-games is too harsh, mainly those among the Bruins’ faithful like former NHLer Cam Neely, as noted by prohockeytalk.com. But there are also those who think the NHL was not strong enough. Bleacher Report has a good piece arguing this angle.

To throw a wrench in the process, Thornton appealed his suspension on Monday, Dec. 17, according to ESPN.com. The next step in the process is a hearing with NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman. But Thornton can appeal to an independent arbitrator if Bettman upholds the suspensions, and there are still six or more games remaining on Thornton’s suspension.

We were shocked to read about Thornton’s appeal because we believe he got off lightly with just 15 games. Yes, we know that we wrote that we expected him to get around 10 games – mainly because he has no prior disciplinary history – but let’s be real. Thornton attacked another player and punched him when he was defenseless. The result was a major injury – memory loss and concussion syndromes – that we hope Orpik can come back from. If this happened in Canada then you could bet your maple syrup that there would be a court case much like the Marty McSorley slash on Donald Brashear and Zdeno Chara hit on Max Pacioretty.

Is Thornton a dirty player? No. But he crossed the line and he was suspended for only 15 games. He should be thankful, he should shut up and he should serve his suspension, not appeal it.

 

NHL suspends Neal for 5 games, how many will Thornton get?

By Brad Constant, Dec. 10, 2013

People can go round and round about whether they think James Neal or Shawn Thornton was the dirtier player in Boston last Saturday night, Dec. 7. In fact, there is such a debate on Twitter that can be read on BleacherReport.com. But when it comes down to it, both players showed the uglier side of hockey and deserve to be suspended.

All of this got started when Pittsburgh Penguins’ defenseman Bruce Orpik hit Boston Bruins’ forward Loui Eriksson. At first it looked like another hard hit that happened to leave Eriksson woozy and slow to get up. But the replays show that Orpik did catch Eriksson on the chin, although it doesn’t look intentional, in our opinion. Either way, there is concern for Eriksson since he has already missed five games this season with a concussion after being the victim of another dirty hit. Watch the video below and see the hit that sparked everything.

Now enter our main villains, starting with the Thornton of the Bruins. As expected, the Boston tough guy went after Orpik during their first shift on the ice together. Thornton tried to like heck to get Orpik to fight but the Penguins’ defender wouldn’t drop the gloves and Thornton ended up getting a minor penalty.

However, things would escalate again later in the first period when our other villain, and Penguins’ forward, Neal kneed Boston’s Brad Marchand in the head as the Bruin forward was on the ice. As usual a gathering of players occurred, including Orpik and Thornton. But things got nasty when Thornton slew footed Orpik and punched the Pittsburgh defenseman in the head while he was on the ice. Watch the video below of both incidents.

As you can see, Orpik leaves the ice on a stretcher and was taken to a local hospital. Marchand got up and escaped major injury.

The National Hockey League has already comeback and issued Neal a five-game suspension. We say well done Brandon Shanahan and the NHL Department of Player Safety.

But that leaves us wondering what type of suspension Thornton will get. He is currently suspended indefinitely as he awaits an in-person hearing schedule for Friday, Dec. 13. We believe that a suspension of at least 10 games can be expected, and here is why.

Although, Thornton has no previous disciplinary history with the NHL, the League takes whether or not the victim of any infraction was injured. So while people may think that the headaches and neck stiffness that Orpik is experiencing are not that severe, the memory loss that has occurred is. In fact, Orpik cannot remember anything from after Saturday night’s national anthem. Memory loss is a brain injury, and brain injuries are as severe as injuries get.

So as we wait the NHL’s ruling, we leave with a video from the Department of Player Safety telling us why Neal received a five-game suspension. We also ask that you let us know who you think is the dirtier player by answering our poll below (there is a bet riding on this with the winner getting a free lunch so your participation is very important).

The dirtiest NHL hits of the season, courtesy of Bleacher Report

Here is a good, clean hip check courtesy of the NHL and Phoenix Coyotes. Photo by Norm Hall/NHL via Getty Images.

Here is a good, clean hip check courtesy of the NHL and Phoenix Coyotes. Photo by Norm Hall/NHL via Getty Images.

By Brad Constant, Dec. 6, 2013

On occasion we like to show some love to our fellow hockey writers and share some of their work with you. Our latest example of awesome work comes from bleacherreport.com, one of our favorite sites here at The Hockey Ref. The piece is a list of the dirtiest hits of the 2013-2014 season so far, and it includes videos.

We wanted to share this with you for a few of reasons. First, we agree with the Bleacher Report list. Second, they are awesome sports writers that we love to read. Third, and most importantly, the more people that jump on the bandwagon to eliminate dirty hits from the game of hockey the better.

The National Hockey League and NHL Players’ Association are working to eliminate dirty hits. There are stricter penalties and suspension for players that directly target an opponent’s head.

USA Hockey is doing its part at the youth and amateur levels with rule changes giving harsher penalties for contact to the head, boarding and charging. USA Hockey even raised the level in which checking is allowed – kids used to be able to hit when they reached the Pee Wee level, 10-12, but now checking isn’t allowed until the Bantam level, 12-14.

But rule changes, penalties and suspensions are not enough when youth hockey players watch their heroes in the NHL make dirty hits. So maybe we, the fans, can make a difference if we get behind the NHL and show our displeasure for these dirty hits. It could result in a much better game of hockey for everyone involved.

So check out the bleacherreport.com list here and if you agree, show some support. Maybe you can boo the next time you see a dirty hit, even if it’s a guy on your favorite team.

But before you jump over to the Bleacher Report, watch the video below of the top 10 hits of from the season so far courtesy of the NHL, which only shows off hard and clean checks. And if you want, we also added a video below of Brendan Shanahan, the NHL’s senior vice president of player safety, explaining what makes a good, clean body check.

 

Why an NHL team in Seattle makes sense

Here is the logo of the Seattle Thunderbirds, a junior hockey team in the Western Hockey League.

Here is the logo of the Seattle Thunderbirds, a junior hockey team in the Western Hockey League.

By Brad Constant, Dec. 3, 2013.

There has been talk of the National Hockey League expanding and adding a new franchise in Seattle. Investor Chris Hanson has been trying to build a new arena that could host both National Basketball Association and NHL teams. But the latest push comes from former NHLer Jeremy Roenick, who wants to get on board if the League forms a new team in Seattle (check out the CBS Sports report here).

Seattle makes sense, and here’s why.

First, Seattle itself has an estimated population of over 610,000 as of the 2010 census. Throw in the more than three million people that make up the surrounding Seattle area and you find a nice market in which a franchise could survive. (Check out Seattle.gov for the facts.)

Second, and most importantly, the fans in the Seattle area are passionate. The Seattle Seahawks have averaged over 68,000 fans during the 2013 season according to ESPN. That only ranks them 19th in the National Football League, but the Seahawks faithful sure do make a lot of noise, so much noise that they’ve been dubbed the 12th man. Want proof? Watch this video.

How about the Seattle Sounders of Major League Soccer? The team set the record by averaging over 44,000 fans this past season. That’s pretty impressive considering soccer isn’t the biggest of sports here in the U.S. And like the Seahawks 12th man, the Sounders fans can get pretty loud too, and yes, we have a video as proof.

The truth is a Sounders game may be the closest one can come to experiencing an atmosphere at a soccer game like those found in Europe. Check out this video of the Tottenham Hotspurs’ fans celebrating after their team scored a goal and you’ll know what we mean.

So imagine all of the Seattle fans singing and cheering their hearts out, in an arena. We’re talking about a large open area that funnels sound down to the ice surface and has a big roof to keep all that noise in. That would be one loud building.

But more importantly, if an NHL team is formed in Seattle that can compete from the get go then the Seattle fans will flood to every game, which a proven formula to make money. So the financial stability is there to support a team if the team is built properly.

However, the thing that has us, the hockey fans, the most excited is the potential rivalry that would form with the Vancouver Canucks. The two cities are only a few hours apart. Think about it, an American team versus a Canadian team only three hours apart, divided by a border, and both with passionate fan bases. This is something that dreams are made of!

So why, Gary Bettman, is there not a team in Seattle yet? Get behind Hanson and his push for an arena. Once it is built – and it will most likely be a state-of-the-art facility – then all parties involved can enjoy the fruits of a Seattle-based NHL team. But most importantly, the fans in Seattle will finally have the NHL team they deserve.

Check out this site covering everything you’d want to know about the potential NHL team in Seattle.

Former players file concussion lawsuit against NHL

Big hits are have always been a part of hockey. Will the new lawsuit against the NHL eliminate big hits from the game? (Photo courtesy of the russianmachineneverbreaks.com)

Big hits are have always been a part of hockey. Will the new lawsuit against the NHL eliminate big hits from the game? (Photo courtesy of the russianmachineneverbreaks.com)

By Mike Larson, Nov. 26, 2013

We all knew it was going to happen sooner or later, and on Monday, a group of former National Hockey League players dropped the bomb.

Ten former players have filed a class action lawsuit, basically saying that the NHL didn’t do enough to protect them during their careers.

This wasn’t unexpected. After the National Football League agreed to pay $765 million to 4,500 former players who sued the league on the grounds that it didn’t protect them, everyone knew it was just a matter of time before hockey players got involved.

As of now, 10 players are involved, but it’s likely hundreds, if not thousands more will join it. According to Pierre LeBrun of ESPN, the players involved are Gary Leeman, Brad Aiken, Darren Banks, Curt Bennett, Richard Dunn, Warren Holmes, Bob Manno, Blair Stewart, Morris Titanic, and Rick Vaive.

So…it’s not exactly a star-studded list. At first glance, the only player who we even recognized was Darren Banks, and that’s only because he played a season for the Detroit Vipers of the now defunct International Hockey League. And we’re not even sure why Banks is suing. He only played 20 career NHL games, but whatever.

The suit, which is being handled jointly by a law firm in Laguna Hills, Calif., and another firm in Baltimore, alleges that the NHL should have done more to protect players from head injuries.

Here’s an excerpt of a release from the lawyers:

“The class action lawsuit, which is being leveled against the National Hockey League on behalf of former players, alleges that the NHL has failed to effectively respond to the head injuries sustained by players. The lawsuit contends that the NHL had behaved negligently and fraudulently in regards to the player sustained head trauma over the past decade.”

So here it is. The concussion discussion has officially made it into the hockey world. Sure, people talked about it before in terms of players like Eric Lindros and Paul Kariya, but it always seemed the conversations were about player toughness, not about safety.

But danger is the rule and injuries are an accepted rule in any contact sport, right? Is it fair for players, (at least one of the players involved in this lawsuit played without a helmet even though the league mandated that all incoming players had to protect their domes) to act like they didn’t know the sport was dangerous? Is it fair to blame the league?

I guess those are questions for the lawyers.

However, if what happened in the NFL case is any indication, this thing could get really expensive for the NHL.

NHL rightly defends Shark-Sabres no-goal call

intent to blow the whistle call

Referee Mike Leggo makes a controversial no-goal call during the San Jose Sharks vs. Buffalo Sabres game on Nov. 5.

By: Brad Constant, Nov. 8, 2013

There has been some talk around the local rink about the controversial no-goal call during the San Jose Sharks vs. Buffalo Sabres game on Nov. 5. Many believe that referee Mike Leggo and the National Hockey League officials in the Toronto-based war room blew the call by waiving off what looked like a clear goal. However, the NHL has defended the call under the ‘intent to blow the whistle’ rule, and rightly so – you can read the CBSSports.com story and watch the video here.

Whether you agree or disagree, we support Leggo’s on-ice decision as well as the League’s support of the call. The puck obviously crossed the goal line, but only after Leggo clearly lost sight of the puck under Sabres’ goalie Ryan Miller. In fact, the only person on the ice who seems to have had eyes on the puck was Sharks’ forward Tommy Wingels. Therefore, the play should have been whistled dead.

But here is where the controversy arises, and Leggo can be called out for making a mistake. To the untrained eye it appears the Leggo does everything right except blowing the whistle at the right time. So what is Leggo’s mistake? Showmanship. He correctly washed out the attempt that hit the goal post so that everyone in the arena knew it wasn’t a goal. But he also held his arms out for far too long in a great impression of Jay Jay the Jet Plane.

We believe there would have been no issues with the call if Leggo correctly washed out the goal in the quick fashion officials are taught. He would have had his whistle in the correct position in time to blow the play dead when the puck was under Miller. Instead he held the signal and put himself in a tough situation in which he obviously had to think about the call. Thankfully he ended up making the right one and did so with conviction.

It was made worse thanks to the NHL’s mistake of not having Leggo put on the headset to talk with the officials in Toronto and discuss the call. As noted in the CBS Sports story, the NHL acknowledges that it messed up here. The pushback and claims of a blown call could have been far less if they got this right.

Either way, the right call was made in the end, and we’re sure that lessons have been learned too.