Friday, November 5, 2010

The Line On The Ice

How far is too far? Where is the line that can't be crossed when players are chirping each other in hockey? This question has come up quite a bit this week, especially for our Islanders after their last bout with the Philadelphia Flyers.

According to Danny Briere it was something Frans Nielsen “said” that pushed him to the limit. We are not privy to what he actually said because -- well, you know the adage “what happens on the ice, stays on the ice.” But it supposedly was enough to send Briere into a head clocking fit. (In all honesty, I still don't buy that. Not from Frans Nielsen.)

The League told James Wisniewski his hand gesture was “too far” on the ice, even though, according to him, it was a gesture Sean Avery had performed during the pre-game skate. (Monitoring pre-game skates will be a topic at next week's GM's meeting.)

Avery has been in trouble numerous times for “going too far” on and off the ice. It’s one thing to slander an ex-girlfriend, then current girl-friend of another player, but there was an outcry of “foul!” when it was reported that he chirped at Jason Blake about his battle with cancer. Insensitive to say the least, but too far or just part of the game?

I was listening to Ray Ferraro on his morning talk show on Vancouver's am 1040 on Wednesday and his co-host asked the same question. “How far is too far?” Ray Ferraro has been on both ends of the ice on this one. He’s taken as much as he’s given. According to him, that’s the way it is. There is no line. “Everything is fair game with one exception -- kids.” He admits there are things he wished he hadn't said, but little is off limits.

Okay, there you have it. So the code of the hockey player is "no kid references." Ray said he’s been called midget, asked if he’s been shot out of a cannon and other short jokes. He’s tossed items about like “With that head, are you a float in the Thanksgiving parade.” These seem all pretty tame. Think back to the barbs lobbed in Slap Shot. Demeaning references about a goalie’s wife or a defenseman’s sexuality was enough to cause an all out blood bath.

But as Ray said, it’s part of the game. “Things I’ve been told on the ice would get someone arrested in the real world.” Do we want to take that out of this game too? This is a passionate game, and it’s the passion that makes it so special. If you remove or penalize every on ice comment made I believe something will be lost. This is the last, great, gladiator sport there is. Every year some other aspect becomes regulated and limited.

In this terrific SNY.TV piece by Chris Botta, Zenon Konopka talks about what happened in the Flyers game that caused him to be escorted from the ice. However, he too wasn’t too quick to divulge the actual verbiage used, only the fact that he wanted to be heard loud and clear. Watch it and see what you think? He discusses how things are in the ECHL (go back to Slap Shot territory) Maybe the ice is the last place anyone can be “non-pc” and get away with it. Personally, I’d like to keep it that way.

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