Sunday, January 6, 2013

Things that I hope are part of the NHL's new collective bargaining agreement

It was announced early on Sunday that the NHL and the players union have reached a tentative deal on a new collective bargaining agreement, which would end the season long lockout.

I don't know what the terms are of this new agreement, but as a kind of casual fan of hockey, there are a list of things that I hope are included in the new agreement; things that will make the sport a little more appealing in my eyes.

Below is my list:

1) "You know what they say: 'A two goal lead in the third period is the toughest to protect.'" 

This is a phrase uttered every time a hockey team has a two goal lead in the third period or blows one. Only in hockey would a late two-score lead be considered a curse. To quote Chandler Bing from Friends when Ross was complaining about his women "troubles", "Oh, I know, this must be so hard. 'Oh no. Two women love me. They're both gorgeous and sexy. My wallet's too small for my fifties, AND MY DIAMOND SHOES ARE TOO TIGHT!'"

Anyway, I hope the new CBA has language that includes a $25,000 fine for any hockey player who uses this excuse after his team just blew a two-goal lead in the third period. It would also be nice if an announcer could be fined $15,000 for saying this and a fan could be cut off from buying anymore beer if he or she utters this phrase.

2) "Sidney Crosby is a gutless whiner!"

The Penguins Sidney Crosby isn't just the best player in the game, he's also the face of the NHL and an all-around good guy. But that doesn't stop the national hockey media personalities like Don Cherry from calling him, among other things, a whiner.

Only in the NHL would the national talking heads show disdain for the league's top draw. Can you imagine CBS or NBC bashing Tom Brady and Peyton Manning and calling them "punks"? That would never happen. Heck, ESPN is totally in love with all things Tim Tebow and he totally sucks.

This attitude, of course, falls in line with the neanderthal thinking of a lot of NHL purists who would rather see goonism dominate the sport than skill and finesse.

I hope the new CBA includes a clause where any national guy (I'm talking to you Mike Milbury) would be forced to fight Georges Laraque anytime he refers to Crosby as a "coward."

Of course, calling out your league's top stars instead of propping them up is what keeps your league a distant fourth among the country's professional sports leagues........Speaking of which.

3) NBC should be fined $10,000 everytime I tune in to watch the Stanley Cup Finals only to see another episode of "The Voice" instead.

The Super Bowl will be on CBS next month. The World Series is always on Fox. The NBA Finals are on ABC. You know what channel the NHL Stanley Cup Finals are on? The NBC Sports Network. In other words, cable. Not all the games are on cable, of course, just the first four. But what if it's a sweep? If you want people to take your sport a little more seriously, and if you want to really build a fan base, make NBC show every game of the finals on its top network.

4) "It's always tough to win the first game at home after a long road trip."

Much like the two-goal lead in the third period "problem," this appears to be another weird aspect of the hockey culture. Every year, every team loses at least one home game following a long road trip. And not only does the team lose, the players look totally lifeless and disinterested. When asked to speak on their performance afterward, the "it's tough to win the first home game after a long road swing" excuse is usually spewed by either the coach, the players or both.

Oh yes, I can certainly understand why being at home in your own bed, and practicing at your own arena would be so hard after days of living in hotels.

If it's so hard for hockey teams to play at home after a long trip, tickets should be half-price. It's only fair.

5) "At least hockey players are class-acts."

You normally see this phrase on someone's facebook wall after an NBA/NFL/MLB/Tour de France athlete gets busted for something.

Yes, I know, hockey players are angels, saints and all around good guys who never get arrested ( except for when they do), and they really make the pro athletes of other sports look bad in that regard.

And the good deed the Penguins did in '10, when they helped people by shoveling their cars out of the snow, didn't help any.

What's next? Are you going to rescue kittens from trees? So smug. More crime as part of the new CBA, please.

6) "Mario Lemieux was a better player than Wayne Gretzky. Mario was just injured a lot!" 

This phrase gets shouted by thousands of Penguins fans each and every year, and it probably will for as long as there is time. Penguins fans certainly have an inferiority complex when Mario and Gretzky get compared, and while an argument could be made that Lemieux was maybe the more gifted of the two, the fact is Gretzky holds most of the records.

I know Mario sustained many nagging injuries throughout his career (not to mention a bout with cancer), but that doesn't take away from what Gretzky was able to accomplish. When No. 99 was doing his thing in the 80's, there was no doubt who was considered the greatest in the game. In fact, you might say Gretzky was the Babe Ruth of his sport and will probably always be considered the greatest of all-time by many.

As for Mario, there's nothing wrong with being considered the second greatest player in the history of the NHL.

Anyway, I would like to see every Penguins fan fined $66 everytime they get defensive during a conversation that involves Mario and Gretzky.

7) "Stop talking about football so much!" 

Hockey fans are a defensive bunch, in general, and they act threatened when any sports discussion includes too much football, baseball or basketball. But there's a reason those sports get talked about more: They're more popular.

Of course, I understand why hockey fans feel threatened. I can relate because it's how I feel anytime a group of women sit around and talk about how hot Channing Tatum is.

I workout, too, damn it.

Anyway, hockey fans should be forced to watch curling on the NBC Sports Network anytime they get too defensive about the popularity of the NHL.

8) What is offsides in hockey? 

Speaking of women, there are a lot of attractive women who like hockey, and I want to pretend like I know what I'm talking about if I ever have to discuss aspects of the sport. I have no idea what offsides is, and I don't think I ever will, no matter how many times it's explained to me.

All hockey announcers should be forced to explain this infraction every time it occurs in a game.

9) "It's a curse to touch the trophy awarded for winning the conference finals." 

Athletes are superstitious by nature, but the act (or non-act) of NHL players not touching the trophy during the celebration following a conference championship is just totally ridiculous. Some say it's bad luck, but for my money, if you're able to make it through three grueling best of seven series, good luck is probably on your side.

Mario Lemieux picked up the Wales Trophy ( pre-curse) and paraded it around the old Civic Arena following the Penguins' first Eastern Conference championship in 1991. At that point, it was the greatest achievement in team history. Being proud of just making it to the finals? Wow. What a concept.

Pittsburgh's players also touched the Wales Trophy after winning the Eastern Conference Finals in 2009 and went on to win the Stanley Cup. I guess the curse took the year off.

From now on, any player who refuses to touch the trophy awarded for winning the conference should be forced to wear one of Don Cherry's suits.


This concludes my wish list for the new CBA. I could continue, but it's the NHL, and by the time I publish this, the players may be locked out again.

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