Eye-for-an-eye hockey culture blindsides Blackhawks in Vancouver loss


I attended Loyola University for 3 1/2 years, but I only graduated from F. U. magna come loudly.

Quite a few ignoramus graduates from F. U. So belligerent alumni meetings become a daily occurrence as we cross one another's paths in search of enlightment from people who were smart enough to avoid all the shit F. U. stands for and walk the straight and narrow.

So I seek your guidance here.

We now anxiously await breaking news, although hopefully not from an indecipherable Joel Quenneville, our own Doctor No. He could convey as much critical information if he spoke solely in mandarin Chinese in his post-game post mortems. In fact, I'd recommend it with that NHL initiative of going global.

Let's hope the Blackhawks whistle a timeout for Q to study some 5-on-3 diagrams, opting instead to bring out a more precise specialist to inform us if Jonathan Toews' brain scan Thursday showed us worrisome waves of scrambled eggs with spicy Tabasco or simply benign spots of Rice Krispies.

Where would we be without Toews winning faceoffs as No. 1 center?

Well, with Dave Bolland already hurting as No. 2 center with a persistent back ache, I guess the newest number on the team would be 911 with John Madden, Tomas Kopecky, Colin Fraser and Andrew Ebbett giving the Hawks a force up the middle that would be sagging more than Rocky Wirtz's stomach.

Toews' absence would raise more than our blood pressure. The payroll would skyrocket toward its max again as Jack Skille and his $1.25 million salary cap hit is the likely recall from Rockford to buttress the fourth line.

But the fourth line is the least of the Hawks' concerns at the moment. With or without Toews, the team needs defensemen Cam Barker and Brian Campbell to tighten their games and Patrick Kane and Duncan Keith to make constant offensive impacts. They need to straighten out their recent special-teams' slide and they need Cristobal Huet to join the party with his late arrival being better than nothing.

They need a better-designed 5-on-3. They need to insert wireless earpieces on players, so next time someone is going to get blind-sided like Toews was by Willie Mitchell's hit, it won't come as a surprise, because that player will hear Troy Murray and Edzo both yelling "LOOK OUT!" from their radio and TV seats.

I almost drove into a ditch when Murray screamed at me to watch out. No problem. I would only have been collateral damage and no one would care if my brain scan showed a line as flat as my 401k.

What lost the game to Vancouver, allowing a 2-1 lead to evaporate? Opinions are multiple. I'm going for the big picture. The ingrained hockey culture that says teams must seek an eye-for-an-eye brought them down.

Hockey traditionalists will say Kris Versteeg did everything right in picking a fight with Mitchell after the Toews' injury. In fact, most of us would react that way. Q supported it unconditionally, although Versteeg got two minutes more for roughing at 5:55 of the third period than Mitchell and changed the flow of the game.

No one scored off Versteeg's time in the box, but at 8:52 of the third, Dustin Byfuglien drew a crucial four-minute high-sticking double minor only because of an ingrained hockey culture of eye-for-an-eye. It was linked to Versteeg's penalty.

Officials looking to hold down mayhem saw things that never were and ruined the game for Chicago.

Byfuglien didn't commit that high-sticking penalty, but because he had been involved in scrapping with the Canucks earlier and because officials anticipated more conflicts after the Mitchell hit, they whistled Byfuglien for an act he didn't make, but it made sense to the officials that he might and so they saw what never happened.

Just like umpire Tim McClelland explaining the reason he called the New York Yankees' Nick Swisher out for leaving third base too soon on a sacrifice fly the other night. He said "in his heart" he knew Swisher left the base too soon, even if he didn't actually see it and the replays weren't the point to him.

The same with these NHL officials. In their heart, they knew Byfuglien would be trying to be all macho in this situation and they were ready to lay down the law, even if no hockey laws were broken.

And that resulted in Vancouver tying the score 2-2 at 12:16 while Byfuglien served a penalty he didn't commit. That trickled down to Campbell getting too cute with a pass to Kane as the Hawks froze up in the clutch and a winning Canucks' goal at 15:18 against Andy Niemi.

What did Versteeg's reaction to the Toews' hit accomplish? Not one thing. Mitchell had the upper hand in this tussle, too. All Versteeg did is satisfy the ingrained hockey culture of eye-for-an-eye so the Hawks supposedly could feel good about themselves.

If the NFL broke into fights every time a player was blindsided by a hit and knocked silly, the NFL would degenerate into kick-boxing.

That's one reason the NHL has never made headway into some American sections. People don't understand why fighting for just about any reason is condoned. Like dueling, it should have gone out of fashion generations ago.

Don't get me wrong. I'm not some bleeding liberal who proposes banishing fighting from the NHL. Fights still have their place, but rarely when you are trying to protect any one-goal lead and the momentum has been gradually slipping from your grasp since the second period.

The ingrained hockey culture of an eye-for-an-eye lost this game for the Blackhawks. And now some people are demanding the team add an enforcer so all the skilled players can skate with clear heads and not be in fear of the next Willie Mitchell to come along.

The days of the Bob Probert-style enforcer are past. Toughness remains in style. Goons do not. The Hawks made it within shouting distance of the Stanley Cup finals last year because of emphasizing skill, not putting together a business of Sluggers R Us.

But the best surgeon out there will never slice out the cancerous ingrained hockey culture of eye-for-an-eye. That's basically because too many people like me graduated from F. U. with advanced degrees in F. U.

If Toews is really hurt badly, the Blackhawks will get a hard lesson in F. U. All us grads have to be ready to rally to the cause.


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  • Mike, you're going to scare people with all of this cogent analysis and penetrating prose.

    As you say, the Hawks screwed themselves last night.

    These kids have lots and lots of talent, don't they? It might help if they played with an intelligence consistent with that talent.

    The Blackhawks played a dumb stupid game.

    One decent period.

    The Blackhawk Bakery served up its signature dessert for the visitors, a tasty blueline turnover that Mickey Samuelsson ate right up as he wristed a Swedish meatball past that otherwise fine Finn in the Hawk net.

    If you look at all four losses so far--and the wins they almost threw away--every one of those games showed the Hawks are coasting on the strength of their delusion that they're a Championship team already.

    I recommend group therapy for this bunch.

  • I don't believe you could be more wrong. Goons are why stars don't get targeted. We don't have a goon. What should of happened after the hit on Toews is Buff or Frasier taking a run at Luongo. Yes, we likely would have lost the game and Buff would sit a few games. That said, message would be to the NHL, take a run at Toews or Kane, and we take a run at your goalie. Fighting protects players. Goons protect stars. With Eager out, we have no one to protect our stars. The fact that we did nothing after the Toews hit sent a clear message to the league. Kane and Toews are open game. Hit them, and we won't do anything to your stars. Our play will suffer as our stars will know players will be taking runs at them. Stars should be protected, Savard knew that, but it appears Q does not. A game this early in the season doesn't mean all that much. Sending a message would have meant more.

  • In reply to colgonics:

    Winning games should be the message. Without the linkage of penalties to Versteeg and Byfuglien, the Hawks have a better chance to hold on and win. If Versteeg showing Mitchell he really can't stand up to him in a fight is better than winning, explain to me again what's the point of the exercise? I believe in toughness. In its place.

  • In reply to colgonics:

    We get sad without our hockey!


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