Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Alan Maki and David Shoalts of The Globe and Mail have taken a look at major junior hockey and the issue of fighting, and that piece is right here.
Interestingly, David Branch, who doubles as president of the Canadian Hockey League and commissioner of the OHL, seems intent on if not eliminating fighting at least getting rid of players who do most of the scrapping.
Branch points out, again, that major junior hockey’s top showcase events are the World Junior Championship and the MasterCard Memorial Cup and “there’s no fighting at these events.”
Maki and Shoalts add that Ron Robison, the WHL commissioner, “is not part of the anti-fighting movement” because he says “WHL statistics show fighting is the cause of less than 10 per cent of the concussions sustained by players in the 2011-12 regular season.”
I’m sorry, but that just isn’t good enough.
The objective should be to get concussions out of the game. (Keep in mind that the WHL is less transparent about concussions and head injuries than the Chinese government is about dissidents.)
Granted, that will never happen in a contact sport. But if the WHL has identified that 9.9 per cent of the concussions suffered by its players are from fighting, then fighting should be eliminated. In fact, if the WHL has determined that 0.1 per cent of concussions eminate from fighting, then it should be working to eliminate fighting.
Or perhaps the WHL is going to wait for the lawyers to get involved.
Peter Ruicci of the Sault Star reports right here that there may be more than booze to the suspensions of the Soo Thunderbirds’ head coach and an assistant coach. “The commissioner of the Northern Ontario Junior Hockey League confirmed Sunday that his league has been looking into alleged marijuana usage on the Soo Thunderbirds bus, during the club's return trip from Thunder Bay after winning the April 21 Dudley Hewitt Cup,” Ruicci writes.
JUST NOTES: The Tri-City Americans announced Monday that F Justin Feser, 20, will be the club’s captain next season. Feser will be the 24th captain in franchise history. A native of Red Deer, he is preparing for his fifth season with Tri-City. He takes over from F Mason Wilgosh, who completed his junior eligibility this season. . . . D Dylan McIlrath of the Moose Jaw Warriors has joined the Connecticut Whale, the AHL affiliate of the New York Rangers. McIlrath was selected with the 10th overall selection of the NHL’s 2010 draft. . . . Yes, the entire WHL final will be televised by Shaw. That means you get Dan Russell calling the play, with analysis by Bill Wilms. Peter Loubardias and Andy Neal also will be involved in the telecasts.
The first round of the WHL’s Eastern Conference playoffs wrapped up on March 30. The second round began SEVEN days later, on April 6. . . . The second round concluded on April 11. The conference final began NINE days later, on April 20, and ended April 27.
In the Western Conference, the first round ended on April 1; the second round opened FIVE days later, on April 6. . . . The second round was over on April 18 and the third round began TWO days later, on April 20. It was over on April 26.
The WHL final is to open on Thursday, which is May 3. The Portland Winterhawks will have been off for SIX days, the Edmonton Oil Kings for FIVE.
The point of this exercise is to point out how much time off there has been between rounds since the WHL playoffs opened on March 23.
Why, then, is the WHL final, should it go seven games, scheduled to be played in such a compressed time period? It opens with three games in four nights -- which actually is three games in just over 72 hours. Should it go seven games, it will close in the same hurried fashion.
Would it not be far better to do away with some of the days off earlier in the playoffs, even if that means the conferences end up on a schedule that is a bit staggered?
Shouldn’t the objective be to provide the best hockey and the best entertainment to the paying customer, and isn’t that best accomplished with two teams that are reasonably fresh?
Here are the dates for the WHL’s championship final (all times local):
Thursday, May 3: at Edmonton, 7 p.m.
Friday, May 4: at Edmonton, 7 p.m.
Sunday, May 6: at Portland (Rose Garden), 6 p.m.
Tuesday, May 8: at Portland (Rose Garden), 7 p.m.
x-Thursday, May 10: at Edmonton, 7 p.m.
x-Saturday, May 12: at Portland (Rose Garden), 6 p.m.
x-Sunday, May 13: at Edmonton, 6 p.m.

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