Training camps open this week across the NHL, with the exhibition schedule getting started over the weekend. And you know what that means: Every player in the league has never worked harder in the offseason, is in the best shape of his life, and is primed for the greatest season of his career. Yes, literally every player. Once this guy starts doing crunches, it’s officially unanimous.
And since everyone in the league has apparently spent the summer becoming the very best versions of themselves, that means it’s our turn now. With just three weeks until opening night, now is the time for hockey fans to make some new season’s resolutions, in an annual rite of passage in which some idiot sportswriter tells you what to think a nice man shares some helpful ideas for self-improvement.
As always, your personal list of resolutions is up to you. But we do have a few suggestions to get you started.
Let’s Just Accept That Gary Bettman Doesn’t Always Tell the Truth
As NHL commissioner, Gary Bettman is the face of the league, and quite likely the most important person in the sport today. He is also somebody who bends the truth when speaking to the league’s fans with stunning regularity. And honestly, that really shouldn’t bother you.
Like him or not, Bettman has a tough job. He has to serve many masters. He has to juggle multiple competing priorities. And he has to do it all while pretending that he really, deeply, sincerely cares about making the NHL’s fans happy.
But here’s the thing: Gary Bettman doesn’t work for you. You are his customer, but you are not his employer, and telling you the truth is not in his job description. Oh, he’d certainly prefer you to be happy. It makes his life much easier, and it makes the lives of his bosses — the team owners — much easier, so all things being equal, he likes you and wants you to be a satisfied customer. But he has a job to do, and telling you the truth is not part of it. Sometimes, a little bit of spin, PR-speak, or even flat-out dishonesty is in the league’s best interest. And once you accept that, you’ll find yourself a lot less aggravated by Bettman’s existence.
So this year, don’t get angry when Bettman swears that all 30 markets are in great shape. Don’t be offended when he pretends that Las Vegas expansion hasn’t been a sure thing for the better part of a year. Don’t keep holding a grudge over all the times that he tried to act like his latest lockout had anything to do with ticket prices. And if the media reports that a team is about to move and he accuses them of “making it up” and that team does indeed move just a few days later … you know, again … just roll with it.
That doesn’t mean you can’t hold him to some sort of standard. It’s OK for him to lie, but he’s supposed to do it while maintaining some small grasp on reality, so if he drops a truly ridiculous eye-roller like last year’s bit about fans not caring about player salaries, go ahead and mock him for it. But for the rest of it, don’t expect the whole truth and nothing but the truth from Bettman and you won’t be disappointed.
Remember, he’s not lying because he’s a bad guy, or because he doesn’t care about you as a fan. He’s just doing his job. Don’t take it personally.
Let’s Stop Calling the Puck-Over-Glass Rule ‘Black-and-White’
The NHL’s puck-over-glass rule is divisive. Many think it’s a dumb rule, one that almost always ends up being called on plays that everyone knows were purely accidental. Others like it, arguing that it prevents intentional delays and boosts offense by adding an element of risk to clearing the defensive zone. You’re probably already firmly entrenched on one side or the other, and I’m not going to try to change your mind today.
But there’s one thing we should all be able to agree on: We need to stop referring to the rule as “black-and-white.” That’s a term that always comes up whenever the rule is discussed, usually offered as a defense. We already rely on the referees’ discretion for almost everything else in the rulebook, the thinking goes, and we all seem to think that they blow those calls way too often. Whatever flaws it may have, at least the puck-over-glass is the one rule that gets called consistently across the board, with no room for interpretation or judgment calls. Which would be a decent argument, if there were any truth to it.
Here’s what happens when a referee calls a hooking penalty: His arm goes up, the player complains a bit and then goes to the box, and we line up for the faceoff. Here’s what happens when a referee calls a tripping penalty: His arm goes up, the player complains a bit and then goes to the box, and we line up for the faceoff. Here’s what happens when a referee calls a cross-checking penalty: His arm goes up, the player … well, you get the idea.
Here’s what happens when a puck gets shot over the glass: Everyone on one teams start wildly pointing and waving, as if the officials somehow didn’t notice what just happened. Then everyone on the other team starts slapping their hands together in the universal sign for “It was deflected.” Then all the officials, referees and linesmen both, huddle up for an extended discussion, in which they attempt to triangulate the puck’s exact exit point to determine if it went over the end glass or the bench, since the rule treats those areas differently. Then they make a decision, skate over to each bench, and explain the verdict to the coaches. Then we watch a series of replays, none of which is remotely conclusive. Then everyone gives up, shrugs, and tries to remember what the score was back when this whole mess started.
That whole scenario is a lot of things, and if you want to argue that it all adds up to a net positive for the sport, then go ahead. But it’s sure not “black-and-white,” because black-and-white rules don’t require an all-hands-on-deck meeting of the minds every time they’re called. The puck-over-glass rule may have some things going for it, but simplicity and clarity aren’t on that list.
If anything, it’s just about the least black-and-white rule in the rulebook. Defend it if you must, but at least do it using words that make sense.