On VERSUS’ post-game show, Jeremy Roenick said that the series “just got ugly.” If the series wasn’t already ugly, I can’t imagine what to expect in these coming games.
Playoff hockey really brings out the best of some players, but more significantly, the worst of players. Players will do anything to win. Anything. It’s these things that the players do that make the game — that make this series — look ugly.
It’s players like Aaron Rome neglecting to let up when he needs to, sending another player to the hospital with a probable concussion. It’s the persistent, um, let’s say “falling” of the Sedin twins (I don’t know if one does it more than the other, but who can honestly tell the difference between the two?) in an embarassing attempt to draw a powerplay. It’s the biting, and the following taunting by dangling/shoving fingers in front of another player’s face, alluding to that play. It’s the league’s permission of those kinds of plays to go unpunished. It’s giving a player a relentless facewash and shoving his face to the ground for going hard to the net. It’s slashing another player in the legs before the puck is even dropped. It’s punching a player in the back of the head then mockingly waving one’s fingers by his mouth, inviting him to bite it. It’s leaving one’s feet and leading with the elbow in an attempt to hit a player with a few minutes left in a game that’s already been decided. It’s all the cross checks, the late hits, the hits from behind, the slashes, the unessesary roughness, the taunting, the mouthing, and the general lack of respect exhibted by the players to the other team.
Maybe this ugly nature of playoff hockey is why major leaders in sports media, such as ESPN, refuse to broadcast NHL games on TV and cover the sport adequetally. They see these kinds of plays and realize that hockey can be very gritty, ugly and unsuitable for most viewers. Maybe they’re justified in not wanting to take a chance with a violent sport that isn’t popular as it is. If the biggest headline and highlight coming out of a game is frequently “player bites player” or “player concussed by late hit”, what kind of a message does that send viewers?
As hockey fans, we love most of this stuff. We love the intensity the players put forth; it’s the emotion they show that allow us to exert our emotions. We love the competiveness. It doesn’t get any more exciting than playoff hockey.
I’ll always wonder if the players enjoy the playoffs as much as we do, between the physical and emotional tolls a playoff run takes. I wonder if the players genuienly hate each other as much as they appear to on the ice; with all the cheap stuff and “gamesmanship” that goes on, I don’t understand how they could.
But of course, when it’s all said and done, all the players will line up at center ice, shake each other’s hands, and congratulate the other player on a hard-fought series, as if nothing really happened, as if that’s what they expected from each other. When it’s over, the players seem to be buddy-buddy with each other and show a great deal of respect for their opponents, whether they won, lost, took a cheap shot, got under someone’s skin, or even bit someone. They typically forgive each other like it’s not a big deal, like it’s how a competitor would act. After everything that happens, how can they do that? For the life of me, I’ll never understand hockey players.