Boston Bruins

Hockey? More violent now? You must be kidding.

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Hockey? More violent now? You must be kidding.

Mike from Attleboro -- the leading contributor to Michael Felger's old mailbag and one of Felger's favorite callers to his radio show -- is now contributing occasional pieces to CSNNE.com. Today he gives his take on Kevin Paul Dupont's assertion that hockey is being destroyed by an "ever increasing culture of violence."
If you were watching the four-letter network this past week you might have noticed they actually mentioned the NHL. That means one of two things: Either Bill Simmons is pretending he understands hockey again, or something really shocking happened.

This round of coverage stems from a Raffi Torres hit on Marion Hossa that was jarring enough to prompt the customary outrage from talking heads who probably think a Zamboni is some type of Italian pastry. This is nothing new to legitimate hockey fans.

What was both surprising and disappointing was this weeks Boston Globe hockey notes column. In it, hockey guru Kevin Paul Dupont decries what he feels is a toxic situation in the NHL. He thinks that an ever increasing culture of violence is leading to the game's disintegration. According to Dupes, unless something drastic is done, the game will eventually cannibalize itself in a flurry of mayhem.

To give Kevin his due respect, he has been covering the NHL since the late '70s. Hes in the Hockey Hall of Fame writers wing and, as the clich goes, has forgotten more about hockey than I will ever know.

Unfortunately, my problem with him stems from the stuff hes forgotten about.

Quite simply, there's no way the NHL is more violent today than when Dupes started on the beat, or even recently. Its an impossibility, given the on-ice shenanigans that went on decades ago and the way even marginal missteps are dealt with today.

Hop into a time machine and punch up the 1970s. You have complete, bench-clearing riots. Stick fights. Fans being beaten with shoes. The Broad Street Bullies-era Flyers won back-to-back Stanley Cups with a brand of on-ice terrorism so intimidating that players routinely came down with the Philadelphia Flu to avoid three 20-minute beatings. Championships were won with equal parts finesse and fisticuffs.

The violence continued in the '80s as playoffs were marred with more on-ice mayhem. The Flames and Canadiens fought after Game 4 of the 1986 Stanley Cup Finals, and the Canadiens and Flyers brawled before Game 6 of the 1987 Wales Conference Finals. During last years Cup run, the Bruins' rugged play sparked league-wide outrage. The I Love the '80s NHL makes the 2011 Bruins look like members of the Peace Corps.

In the 1990s, Adam Graves lumberjacks Mario Lemieux (fracturing his hand), and Claude Lemieux sends Kris Draper into the cheekbone relocation program on a hit from behind. Both these incidents occurred during the postseason and were lightly disciplined.

And in the past decade Scott Stevens marauded through the playoffs, labeling the previously concussed Paul Kariya and transforming the contents of Eric Lindros brain pan into country gravy with patented headshots that got him into the Hall of Fame.

If you dont have a Mr. Fusion-equipped, time-traveling DeLorean handy, just cozy up to your friendly neighborhood Google machine and take a stroll down memory lane with the Ghosts of Hockey Violence past.

In 1987, Chris Chelios elbows Brian Propp into unconsciousness and starts a one-man blood drive.

In 1988, Dino Ciccarelli spent a day in the pokey after trying to clean Luke Richardsons ears with his Koho.

In 1992, Jamie Macoun broke Pat Lafontaines jaw with his stick.

In 1994 Tony Granato used his stick to play whack-a-mole with Neil Wilkinsons head.

Dale Hunter on Pierre Turgeon. Marty McSorely on Donald Brashear. Tie Domi on Scott Niedermayer. I could go on and on and on. All the above incidents represented levels of violence and intentional menace that dwarf the Torres hit. And every one of the infractions I just mentioned listed got less supplemental discipline than the 25 games for which Torres was suspended.

You want an example of culture change? Watch John Wensink completely destroy Larry Playfair in 1978. Wensink launches, targets the head and uses a forearmelbow to completely obliterate Playfair. But there was no supplemental discipline, no penalty and no response from the Sabres. It was Playfairs fault for having his head down and Wensink, in the words of Bruins color man Johnny Pierson, just delivered a good clean check. If that hit happened today, Katie Couric would get the vapors and Brendan Shanahan would ask Jor-El to make Wensink General Zods roommate in the Phantom Zone.

But according to Dupes' Twitter account, even Chris Neils clean freight-training of Brian Boyle is now going too far?

Times really have changed. Remember when Bruins defenseman Kyle McLaren clotheslined Montreals Richard Zednik in the 2002 playoffs? I wish Dupont did.

Here is what Kevin Paul Dupont wrote about that hit in April of 2002: News to the uninitiated: If you skate full bore, head down, and curl toward the slot, you may not be asking for it, but brother, chances are you're going to get it. Does that mean Zednik deserved what he got? Absolutely, positively not. But it is big-boy hockey, and it is the playoffs, and the Boston-Montreal rivalry is a decades-long powder keg. Zednik just happened in with the book of matches and McLaren lit him up.

"Head's up, folks, and eyes open - wide open. The big boys are playing now.

Instead of making Chris Neils hit illegal, maybe 6-foot-7 Brian Boyle should read more of Kevins older work?

I dont know if Pope Kevin Paul found Jesus because the NHL is actually diagnosing and treating concussions now, or if his tastes for what an acceptable amount of violence are being influenced or pressured by outside sources, but the NHL has changed. Today there are more penalties, more fines and more accountability both on ice and in Shanahans office. But to meddle any more with the danger, physicality and violence inherent in Hockey is going to damage he fabric of what makes the game great.

To further paraphrase what KPD said in 2002, its OK to feel for (injured players) but we have to remind ourselves, once more, that it's the Stanley Cup playoffs, and they're playing big-boy hockey right now.

Couldnt have said it better myself.

Marchand stepping up his twitter game to hilarious effect

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Marchand stepping up his twitter game to hilarious effect

BOSTON – It was probably only a matter of time before it happened, but it looks like Boston’s favorite Little Ball of Hate is stepping up his game on social media.

Brad Marchand is known as much for his rabble-rousing and trash-talking on the ice as he is for massive offensive production while serving as Boston’s top scorer in each of the last few seasons. So Marchand has the perfect mixture of good humor and clout as a star NHL player, and that usually combines for a pretty powerful voice on Twitter.

Marchand has been noticeably more active on Twitter in recent days with a wide-ranging group of tweets, and the big winner is the hockey fan that gets a little more exposure to some classic Nose Face Killah wit. Some of the tweets have been as a Bruins team leader where he’s praising the talented young crop of B’s prospects that he’s watching during training camp:

Some have been about chirping the NHL for their decision to skip the Olympics this winter where Marchand most certainly would have been primed for a chance at a Gold Medal:

Some have been engaging with “fans” and dropping classic pop culture references from children’s books while showing the nasty edge that routinely drives opponents up a wall:

The Charlotte’s Web reference is a devastating classic from Marchand, a noted longtime fan of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. Sometimes it’s just telling a quick story in a tweet that gives you an inside look at the kind of chirping that goes on when Marchand is on the ice:

A social media platform like Twitter was made for a personality like Marchand, and a stepped-up presence is good for him and good for hockey fans. So why all of a sudden is No. 63 tweeting with greater frequency over the last few days?

It sounds like it’s a combination of training camp boredom and a genuine interest in amplifying his voice on all manner of subjects.

“I’ve just been kind of lying around with nothing to do and I jumped on [twitter]…thought it was kind of funny,” said Marchand. “I thought I’d get a little more involved. I don’t know if I’m going to have enough time to do it every day, but it’s fun.”

As fun as it’s been for Marchand, it’s no doubt even more fun for the fans that might get a chance to interact with him even if it’s as the unwitting foil for one of his well-placed chirps. 

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Cassidy: Khudobin 'has a leg up' on backup competition in Bruins camp

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Cassidy: Khudobin 'has a leg up' on backup competition in Bruins camp

BOSTON – Fresh off a strong performance allowing just a single goal on 31 shots in his preseason debut, Tuukka Rask looked close to the top of his game and exactly where he needs to be with the regular season a couple of weeks away. Nearly as important as Rask’s state as the regular season nears, the Bruins coaching staff has been keeping a keen eye through camp on the all-important backup goaltender position as well. 

It’s important that the Bruins have a quality backup goalie in place as they hope to start Rask in just 55-60 games this season, and manage the slender puck-stopper in a way where they can get the best out of him from beginning to end. Bruins head coach Bruce Cassidy indicated Anton Khudobin has the inside track on the backup job after finding his groove in the second half of last season, and it would appear he’s well on his way to retaining his job with a Malcolm Subban/Zane McIntyre tandem in Providence.

“Tuukka looks good, and looks good in practice and healthy. So that’s reassuring,” said Cassidy. “[Anton Khudobin] I thought played very well in his game. He had the one unfortunate goal, but I thought he was rock-solid the rest of the game. He’s in very good shape and he’s practiced well, so he’s got a leg up on the other [goalies] based on his experience.

“We know that going in, but he’s going to get pushed. Zane [McIntyre] was good in a game, and Malcolm let in a couple where he could have been more aggressive. But it was a first game, so right now they all look good. That’s a good problem to have if they all push each other, but to get direct to the point Anton has done nothing to lose that backup spot.”

At this point, it would likely be McIntyre rather than Subban that would challenge for the NHL backup job if Khudobin did stumble at all in training camp or early in the regular season as he did last year. There will be no backup controversy, however, if the 31-year-old plays like he did in stopping 20-of-22 shots in Tuesday night’s win vs. the Red Wings or as he did going 6-1-0 with a .922 save percentage after the All-Star break last season.  

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