Tuesday, October 20, 2020

This is all your team’s fault: One part of the modern NHL to blame on every team (Eastern edition)

This is all your fault.

Well, not your fault, personally. But this is your favorite team’s fault, with “this” being… well, something. A rule, a tradition, a protocol, or something else that’s a part of the NHL. The sport is filled with little details that we’ve become used to over the years, and almost all of it has an origin story, and sometimes that story might involve your team. This week, we’re going to try to find one example for every team in the league.

In some cases, we’ll be talking about actual rules you can find in the rulebook. In others, we’ll be working with less formal guidelines, interpretations, traditions and unwritten rules that have evolved over time. We’ll cover big changes and tiny ones, the relatively new and the age-old, some good and some bad. Honestly, a few of these are just here because I want to tell you a weird story from the history books. But my goal here is to give every fan base something from today’s NHL that they can point to and say “Hey, that’s because of us”.

Thanks to reader Mason for sending in this idea. We’ll do the East today, and the West on Thursday.

Boston Bruins

Thank them for: Icing

This one’s a little hazy, because it goes all the way back to the 1930s. But apparently we can thank the Bruins for one of hockey’s oldest rules.

Here’s the story. In the NHL’s earlies days, there was no rule against a defending team relieving the pressure by just lofting the puck down the ice over and over. If that sounds like a problem, you agree with the Bruins, a newbie team that had been complaining about the situation since their very first home game in 1931. That came on December 8, 1931 against the New York Americans, who took a 3-2 decision thanks in part to their strategy of just firing the puck down the ice whenever it was in their zone, causing frustrated Boston fans to litter the ice with garbage and bottles. The Bruins retaliated in a rematch weeks later by icing it 89 times in the same game, including 42 in the first period of what ended up being a scoreless tie.

Because this was the NHL and it takes forever to make an obvious rule change, it wasn’t until 1937 that Bruins’ GM Art Ross finally convinced the league to pass a rule against the practice.

Ottawa Senators

Thank them for: The draft lottery

Do NHL teams tank? That depends on how you define tanking. Is it any team that goes into a season already resigned to being bad? Do they have to actively dismantle their roster? Keep key players out of the lineup? Or is it not a tank unless a team is actively throwing games? That can’t be it, because no NHL team would ever do that.

Or would they?

That’s the question that hangs over the 1992-93 Senators, thanks to owner Bruce Firestone. He reportedly made the claim after having a few pops around some local media, as revealed by Roy MacGregor.

The NHL investigated the claim, which was denied by everyone else involved, and ultimately didn’t find any proof it was true. Still, it quickly became clear that a lottery would be needed to avoid any future confusion over who was actually trying, and the lottery was brought in for 1995. As for the Senators, drafting Alexander Daigle with that 1993 first overall pick was probably punishment enough.

Montreal Canadiens

Thank them for: A powerplay goal ending a minor penalty

Sometimes you’re just too good. That was the problem from the 1950s Habs dynasty, one led by legendary names like Jean Beliveau, Rocket Richard, Doug Harvey and Boom Boom Geoffrion. They won five straight Cups, and as you might imagine given all that talent, their powerplay was unstoppable. A little bit too unstoppable, as it turns out.

Back in those days, a minor penalty mean a team stayed shorthanded for the full two minutes, even if their opponents scored on the powerplay. With the Habs frequently racking up two or three goals on one powerplay, the other teams decided they needed a change. At the 1956 board of governors meeting, the league votes five teams to one to change the rule to what we have today. I’ll let you guess which team was the one vote in favor of the status quo.

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