December 15, 2011

Craziness: Jeremy Roenick making sense

League needs help from players to limit concussions
I'd like to know when is the respect factor is going to come back into the game.

Let me also be clear -- I wasn't the fairest hitter. I left my feet. I hit guys from behind. I had my fair share of dirty hits and cheap hits. I hit to inflict pain at times, without question. I needed that intimidation factor because of my size.

Shame on me, but it was a totally different mentality when I played the game. This game today is much faster, much stronger and more scrutinized because it is bigger business. These players are worth much more than they were when I started, and they better start adapting to the new era of the National Hockey League by respecting each other.
I've never been a big fan of Jeremy Roenick. I've never disliked him, but I've never really liked him much, either. But I do appreciate the honesty that he has here.

And he's right. The league can only do so much. At some point, it becomes about what the players can do to fix things.

Men, in particular, have a tendancy to compartmentalize their lives. Who they're with, usually, dictates how they should be and what they should be doing. If you're with your buddies, it's one thing, but if you're with your girl, it's another. That's just how many of them are.

However, it can be taken too far. In hockey, for instance, they're one way against their teammates during practice, but another way against their opponents in a game. I'm not talking about how they play, but the level of respect with which they play with.

In reality, they should be playing their opponents with the same respect they have with their teammates. I don't think that's an unrealistic thing for them to do, either. Just doing that one simple mental change would clean up the game so much that it'd almost be like night and day.

Coaches help instill that behavior in their teams - like John Tortorella with the New York Rangers and the Tampa Bay Lightning. Tortorella insists that his players play with respect. And that was very prevalent with how he dealt with Artem Anisimov after he impulsively flipped his stick around and pretended to shoot it like a rifle at the Tampa Bay Lightning net last week as a way to celebrate a shorthanded goal.

Not only has Tortorella required his players to be respectful of their opponents, but with each other as well. It wasn't just Tortorella who said something, but also Anisimov's teammates. There was an apology, and all was good.

Not all coaches require this of their players, however. In those situations, it's up to the players themselves to regulate their own actions, and to hold teammates accountable. And that is what's actually lacking in the NHL currently - players holding each other accountable.

This is also where the compartmentalization comes in. Players will often decide that everyone's accountable for themselves, and then disregard what their teammates do. They might disapprove, but they believe it isn't their place to say anything - mostly because they don't want to be responsible for someone else, or even themselves, really.

This issue applies to struggling teams, too. You worry more about yourself than the rest of your team. Your world shrinks down to just yourself. When, in reality, it's still about the team, and you're just a cog in the machine. Disregarding your team for yourself doesn't help your team.

And that's what really needs to change in the NHL. You can still be extremely competitive and play with respect; the two are not mutually exclusive. If you take care of others, then you take care of yourself - because others will be taking care of you. All anyone wants to see is a clean and competitive game, so why not play that way?