The question from the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette’s Jason Mackey was straightforward, without leading or prejudice: (paraphrased) Gary Bettman, respond to Penguins General Manager Jim Rutherford‘s statement that the NHL isn’t protecting players, especially Sidney Crosby, by allowing repeated shots to the head to be unpenalized. It was an easy question.
Instead of offering a look forward to new potential safety measures or disagreeing with Rutherford’s assessment, Bettman responded like a propagandist: Dismiss, Denigrate, Deflect.
First, Bettman called Rutherford’s timing “odd.” I guess a few days after your superstar suffers a two-week long mugging, and one of your players is run over by a player who charged across the ice with a raised forearm, isn’t the right time to discuss it.
Then, he dismissed Rutherford as merely trying to “tweak the officials”.
Facts are damned when you can dismiss a valid criticism by impugning the motivation, right? It can’t possibly be true because Rutherford and the Penguins would benefit from calling those penalties!
Guess what? So too would every hockey fan benefit if elbowing a player in the head was penalized throughout the ENTIRE season not just when hockey neanderthal types don’t care, in the regular season.
Then Bettman went for the kill, stating that other teams have called the league about actions taken by Penguins.
Deflection with a double helping of equivocation. In other words, the Penguins have also committed penalties, so they have no ability to request the rules be enforced or any player’s heads are protected.
I so very much hate the league which runs the game I love.
If you suffered through the 45-minute Bettman-thon, you noticed at no point did he acknowledge the dangers of concussions or discuss any steps the NHL may take to reduce head shots. The closest we got was a statement that concussions are down by 15%.
In his state of the league address, Bettman was a peach, Monday. A grinning, spinning, sarcastic peach trying to connect with his audience but mislead them, at the same time.
In the preceding 30 minutes of meandering, spinning fact like a 1990’s political hack, and sarcastically mocking response to his own product, Bettman was almost intolerably flippant. When asked about expanding video replay, he offered, “well response to the current reviews have been so great.”
Of course the sarcastic remark came after he explained the reviews were working exactly as intended.
When asked if he’s concerned about the stagnation of scoring and powerplays, Bettman spun the question around to note a .1 uptick in goals this year (yes, compared to last year, but the multi-year trend is decidedly down) and Bettman touted the competitiveness of the league. 80% of games are played with teams within just one goal!
Bettman also foreshadowed Game 1 when he admitted meetings were held before the playoffs and rules could have been amended. Rules such as–video review of offside and if a skate off the ice but on the correct side of the blue line should be called offside.
The NHL declined to change the rule. So Filip Forsberg‘s skate which was no more than 1/4″ inch off the ice and undetectable to the human eye except in super-slow motion held up Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Final and took away a goal from a team which earned it. The “rule” is also universally despised as an affront to the spirit of replay and the game.
So, in summation, repeated cross checks to Crosby’s head, a flying forearm to Scott Wilson‘s head, a full speed shoulder to Jake Guentzel‘s and Bryan Rust‘s heads are NOT a problem because the Penguins have also committed uncalled penalties.
Dismiss, Denigrate and Deflect with a big side dish of equivocation. Have YOU ever played hockey? Then be quiet, you’re not allowed to have an opinion.
The NHL: Sure, we’re right. The customers are stupid.
How many successful businesses have THAT slogan on the wall?