NEW YORK (Lighthouse Press) _ Hockey fans began bracing for a prolonged NHL shutdown on Thursday, with those opposed to fighting in the sport continuing to demand that the league's goons be removed or sanctioned and traditionalists, led by commissioner Gary Bettman, refusing to give in.
League leaders pushed some new approaches to end the impasse, offering some rule changes such as preventing players from removing their helmets in a fight, and issuing a series of preseason suspensions for overly aggressive acts. The goal was to assure fighting fans that the league understands the long-term health risks NHL enforcers face and the damage that violence can do to the sport's public image.
But progressives quickly rejected the piecemeal strategy. And in a series of tweets, blog posts, YouTube videos, animated gifs and snarky internet comments, they minimized the measures and continued to call for fighting to be quashed entirely from the game .
At a press conference, Bettman publicly called on the opposition to relax their stance. He was flanked in the NHL Rose Garden by about a dozen former players and coaches who endorsed fighting's importance in hockey's history and evolution. The violence remains very popular among fans, but polls suggest that the idea of legislating against "GoonCare" is strong as well.
"This shutdown is not about fighting. It's not about enforcers, face-punchers, tough guys, goons, head-hunters, Kaiju or anything else you want to call them," Bettman said. "This shutdown is about preserving hockey's rich history and the style of play fans have come to love in which the players police themselves. I know it's strange that one group would make people punching each other the centerpiece of their agenda, but that apparently is what we're doing."
At the moment, neither side is feeling a clear imperative to end the shutdown. No timetable was given for a resolution, but both parties agreed to not discuss actual hockey until the debate was ended.
Anti-fighting leaders prefer keeping the NHL closed to preserve players' health. And, with polls showing that voters overwhelmingly blame the opponents for the stalemate, Bettman is more than willing to let it drag on.
Hockey Night in Canada commentator Don Cherry is one of fighting's most vocal advocates. Although Cherry sympathizes with the safety concerns of the anti-fighting leaders, he says their shutdown strategy will end badly for all of hockey.
"What they're going to do, they're going to dig in harder until the pain becomes so bad they yell uncle," he said. "And it isn't going to be pain from the Commissioner Bettman, it's going to be pain from the real hockey fans out there.
"And one day, everybody's gonna look up and the Toronto Maple Leafs and Boston Bruins are gonna be fulla figure skaters with sticks! And everybody's gonna say, 'Bring back the good, clean fighters like Georgie Parros and Colton Orr and Terry O'Reilly. They were what hockey was all about! Not this...well I don't know what it would be. But it ain't hockey."
In a recent Quinnipiac poll, 63% of respondents were aware of the NHL's current shut down, but 87% of that number assumed the league was still in the lockout that had started in 1994.
More Satire from Lighthouse Hockey:
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- Historians Discover Earliest Kvetching About Lousy Hockey Viewership
This is a parody, basically lifted from this Washington Post article. The NHL is still operating. Unlike the government.