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On The Tunney Side of the Street 11

by Jim Tunney

After Further Review ... The National Football League is tightening its physical contact rules which begs the question: Are other professional sports also concerned about player safety? With the National Hockey League playoffs about to get underway will aggressive or overaggressive player behavior escalate? The Chicago Blackhawks have a good shot at being in the playoffs, but their power forward was suspended for three games for a "blow to the head of an unsuspecting player" during a recent game. My concern is the unnecessary roughness in the sport of hockey. Let's be clear about hockey - I am not a fan. Growing up in southern California, winter time was devoted to football - then basketball, baseball and some "kick the can." Not many ponds or lakes in So. California froze over. 

One has to admire the adeptness of a hockey player who can carry a stick and hit a puck at full speed, let alone guide it toward the opponent's goal to score. Gordy Howe, Mario Lemieux, and Wayne Gretsky - all in the NHL Hall of Fame - are to be admired; Gretsky, especially, with his ability to move to where the puck was "going to be" - not where it was. You gotta love that anticipation.

The trouble I have with hockey is the unnecessary contact. Many may argue that the word unnecessary is an unnecessary word, because hockey is very much a contact sport. Agreed. Physicality and aggressiveness are important in hockey. While excessive play in the NFL, NBA and MSL is important as well, there are rules that prohibit a player from smashing into an opponent from behind. In hockey, from the NHL on down, 'boarding," although not permitted by rule, seems to be admired! How does one rank finesse, speed and agility in hockey among the physical skills needed to be successful (read: to win)? Should there be some sense of fair play in that type of contact? 

Hockey rules, at all levels, legislate against "high-sticking, slashing, tripping" but don't seem to enforce a hard block in the back of an opponent (boarding). Although that player may know he may get "blasted," he has little way to protect himself. All of this style of play and over-aggressive behavior finds its way into the style of play of our younger generations.

Will you watch hockey for its aggressiveness or for the speed and finesse used by the best of players?

For more information about Jim Tunney, please visit his website: www.JimTunney.com, or if you would like to respond to this message, please send your email to Jim@JimTunney.com