Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Stick-Gate

In last nights Ottawa/Toronto game, with just over 2 minutes to play in regulation time, and the Leafs down 2-1, Toronto coach Ron Wilson called for a stick measurement on Jason Spezza’s stick. Jason shaves the end of his stick and the measurement was not on the curve but on the width of the blade. The officials on the ice deemed it to be an illegal stick and the Leafs got the powerplay. They did not score and Ottawa won the game.

Ron Wilson was fully within his rights as a coach and the rules do exist and he did wait until exactly the right time to give his team a chance to tie the game. Great coaching move although considered by most in the NHL to be a cheesy move. Every team in the NHL has a few players and some teams have more than a few players who have illegal sticks. There is a reason why few coaches call for measurements. It is considered by most to be a minor league method of getting a power play. I personally don’t see it that way and I can’t understand why more coaches don’t do it. They are all looking for every advantage and this could be one. But I guess that’s why I am not an NHL coach. The coaches also have a code and this I guess is breaking the code of good taste. It’s like this type of thing is beneath an NHL coach. I guess its just one of those things I will never understand.

That being said, I don’t understand why there are any restrictions on sticks at all. The legal limits were all instituted and later modified because of goaltender safety. Restrictions on curves for example came into effect to protect goaltenders from high hard shots at a time when some goaltenders still didn’t wear masks. That time has long past in the NHL. How many goaltenders are actually injured by a puck each year? I can only think of one from last year. That was Ryan Miller in Buffalo who broke his thumb when hit by a puck. Most goaltender injuries after from players falling on them or tweaking their adductor muscle and things of that nature. So how is a big curve or thin blade now a danger to a goalie? It isn’t and thus players should be able to use any kind of curve, thickness or length of stick they want.

Back in February Calgary coach Mike Keenan accused Vancouver defenceman Willie Mitchell of using a stick which was longer than allowable by NHL rules. Why should the league care if a player uses a longer stick? Yes it would be better for the poke check but worse for shooting and stick handling. Is a very long stick really an advantage to the average player? It may be, but also a disadvantage in other ways. If a bigger curve gives Alex Ovechkin a better shot is that not balanced out by the fact it would become virtually impossible for him to backhand the puck with that same stick?

The rules were instituted for safety reasons. With their new equipment goaltenders are no longer in danger. Let the players use what ever curve, thickness or length of stick they want. Don’t we all have more important things to worry about?


See you at the rink.

3 comments:

Boo-Urns Steve said...

According to the rulebook, under rule 9.6(page 23) about "dangerous equipment" (and this is verbatim from the rulebook)

"In cases where a stick may have been modified and it is evident that the edges have not been beveled, the Referee shall deem the stick to be dangerous equipment and removed from the game until the edges can be beveled sufficiently. No penalty is to assessed initially unless the player returns to the ice with the unmodified stick, for which he will be assessed a minor penalty for delay of game".

Yeah, that doesn't make sense to me either, but that sounds like the penalty called. The book also doesn't explain exactly what they mean by beveled. There is no mention of the measuring device and its use either.

Rule 10 (page 24), which is also about sticks, doesn't mention anything but the length of the shaft, and the curve/height of the blade, although you can be assured there are more than a few players whose curve is obviously illegal, cough*Ovechkin*cough* but nobody cares.

Anonymous said...

Mats Sundin uses an illegal stick.

Anonymous said...

the call had nothing to do with beveled edges.
The stick blade is required to be a minimum thickness and spezza's wasnt.

simple stuff.