Archive | Hockey

When Is a Hockey Hit a Crime?

Police in Montreal are reportedly looking into a brutal hit by the Boston Bruins’ Zdeno Chara on the Montreal Canadiens’ Max Pacioretty.  The hit produced a major penalty and game misconduct, but did not result in a suspension, even though Pacioretty suffered a concussion and broken vertebrae.  I suspect the NHL’s failure to discipline Chara is one reason Montreal authorities are contemplating action.  According to ESPN, Pacioretty said he thinks the NHL let Chara off light, but thinks criminal prosecution would be unwarranted: “I have no desire for him to be prosecuted legally. I feel that the incident, as ugly as it was, was part of a hockey game.” [...]

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The Red Army vs. “Animal Hockey”

Thirty-five years ago the Soviet Red Army hockey team concluded a series of exhibition games against NHL teams playing the Philadelphia Flyers.  It was a legendary confrontation.  The Stanley Cup champion Flyers (aka the “Broad Street Bullies”) had upended the sport with their aggressive, physical play. It was a style the Red Army did not appreciate; their coach called it “animal hockey.”

The key moment in the game occurred when Ed van Impe delivered a brutal hit on Valeri Kharlamov. The Soviet winger was knocked out cold and the Soviets left the ice in protest, refusing to return. As a story today on recounts:

“We were feeling really good about ourselves,” Van Impe, the Flyers’ second captain, recalled with a laugh. “We were really dominating. I was absolutely shocked when they left the ice. I had never seen anything like that ever happen before at any level, anywhere, where a team quits because things weren’t going their way. But I knew they had to return, the game was being televised across Europe.”

[Flyers Chairman Ed] Snider knew the only way to bruise the Soviets more was to hit their wallet equally hard. Since it was the final contest of the four-game set, the Soviets were supposed to receive a fat check from Eagleson for $200,000, $50,000 per game.

“I told them that they wouldn’t get paid for the game,” Snider said. “And [NHL President] Clarence [Campbell] looked at me and said, ‘Hell, we were supposed to settle up for the whole series after this game.’ I said, ‘Tell them they’re not getting their money.’ They were supposed to get $50,000 for each game, so a total of $200,000 was on the line, plus we paid for all of their expenses and whatnot. That was a lot of money at

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Congratulations to the Chicago Blackhawks

Tonight the Chicago Blackhawks won the Stanley Cup.  An overtime goal against the Philadelphia Flyers captured game 6 and sealed the series win.  In doing so, they ended the longest Stanley Cup drought in the NHL and capped a marvelous season.  The young, explosive, and versatile team earned their victory.  While I am a die-hard Philadelphia Flyers fan, but I can say the Blackhawks’ victory was well-deserved.  And for the Flyers, there’s always next year. [...]

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How Baseball Gets It Wrong, and Hockey Gets It Right

The sports world is  atwitter over Major League umpire Jim Joyce’s blown call in the ninth inning that cost Detroit Tigers pitcher Armando Galarraga a well-deserved perfect game.  The play at first base was made to end the game.  It would have been the 27th out on the 27th batter, but Joyce called the runner safe.  But he was wrong, as instant replay showed.  The game will go down in the books as a one-hit, complete game, as those are the rules.  Only an asterisk will show it should have been recorded as a perfect game.

This was not the only big blown call last night.  There was another in the middle of the second period during game 3 of the Stanley Cup finals between the Chicago Blackhawks and Philadelphia Flyers.  The game was tied 1-1- and the Flyers were on a power play, and it appeared Scott Hartnell deflected Chris Pronger’s shot past Blackhawk netminder Antti Neimi.  The siren sounded, but no call was made, and play continued — for another minute-and-a-half.  Yet at the next stoppage, the refs asked the video booth to review the call.  The video was unmistakable, and the call was corrected.  Score a goal for the Flyers, reset the clock, and pick up the game as if the proper call had been made in the first place.

Professional hockey, like most professional sports, uses instant replay to help ensure that game-changing calls are made correctly. Accommodations are made to maintain the integrity of the game — such as waiting until a natural stoppage before reviewing the tape — but instant replay is still used to make sure saves are saves and goals are goals, and it works.  Indeed, during overtime there was another close call, a shot that could have been called a [...]

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A Stanley Cup Final for the History Books

Tonight the Philadelphia Flyers face off against the Chicago Blackhawks in the NHL Stanley Cup Finals.  Whichever team prevails, this will be one for the history books.  The Chicago Blackhawks have gone longer than any other NHL team since their last championship — 49 years — as they last took home the Cup in 1961.  (Several teams have never won the Cup, but they did not exist back then.)

The Philadelphia Flyers last won the Cup in 1975, and are having a storied playoff run.  By some accounts they should not have even made the post-season.  They got in by winning an overtime shootout on the last day of the regular season.  After dispatching the second seed in round one — banged up, bruised — they went down 3-0 in a best of seven series against the Boston Bruins.  They forced a game 7 — the first time an NHL team had done this in decades — but went down 3-0 in that game as well.  With their fourth goalie of the season in the net, they dug deep and came from behind to win. It was an amazing feat of grit and determination.

Now the Flyers are healthy, but they remain the underdogs.  The Blackhawks are explosive and versatile.  Can Philadelphia overcome adversity again?  Or is it finally Chicago’s to hoist the Cup. The puck drops at 8pm tonight.  Go Flyers! [...]

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A Historic Victory

Tonight the Philadelphia Flyers overcame a 3-0 deficit to win the seventh game of their playoff series with the Boston Bruins — a series in which they trailed 3-0.  In the process they became only the third  NHL team to win a seven-game series after losing the first three games, and the first such team in 35 years.  Now the seventh-seeded Flyers will face the eighth-seeded Montreal Canadiens in the Eastern Conference finals — and that has to be a historic match-up as well.  Go Flyers!

[Note: I went back and forth over “a historic” and “an historic,” eventually settling on the former.] [...]

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The Greatest US Hockey Upset Since the Miracle On Ice

I just watched the US Olympic hockey team defeat Canada 5-3. In view of the disparity in talent between the two teams and the fact that Canada was playing on home ice, this is the greatest US hockey upset since the 1980 Miracle on Ice. As a one-time hockey player and longtime fan, I’m very happy. I fear, however, that the result will cause a lot more pain in hockey-loving Canada than joy in the comparatively apathetic US. But I’m not a consistent utilitarian and this is one time when I’m satisfied with an outcome that doesn’t maximize utility. [...]

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