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Let's get physical



We have all heard coach John Tortorella bemoan the lack of physical play in the game. You don't even have to ask him about it sometimes and the conversation turns in that direction. Well, it was interesting timing Friday, when the coach went on a pretty colorful rant and called the league a "ballet'' and "soft.'' That night, the Lightning lost to the Devils and defenseman Dan Boyle said he wants to see the team be more physical, especially with the opposition's defense.

A nice thought, and one Tortorella acknowledged. But how can the players possibly be physical with the way the game is being called. The game that night against the Devils was a case in point. Considering the lack of physical play, it was possible zero penalties could have been called. But the refs found the smallest transgressions to call. Andre Roy's penalty was bewildering. Nick Tarnasky's slash a love tap and when the refs finally got around to calling a penalty on the Devils, a trip on Patrik Elias, it was as bogus as the calls made against the Lightning.

I grew up watching the Islanders on Long Island when guys like Gary Howatt, Bobby Nystrom and Gerry Hart hit everything that moved. It was a slower game back then but man it was fun to watch the physical play. There has to be a happy medium between letting the players skate and calling absurd penalties that have no effect on the game other than making players afraid to play physically.

I know we've discussed this before. I've written at least two stories about it, but after Friday's game I just think there is a disservice being done to the players and fans. Don't know how to solve it either. The powers in Toronto and New York seem to like it. I agree with Tortorella, though, in an attempt to bring in new fans by showcasing scoring and speed, the league is losing the die-hards. It's too bad.

Interesting moment: I recently spent an evening in the NHL offices in Toronto where they make the video reviews of all disputed goals. There wasn't much going on that night so the guys were free to talk and critique the games and the way the penalties were being called. At one point, NHL senior vice president Mike Murphy was disappointed a call was made against a player during a battle for a puck. The transgression was a shove. Said Murphy, "you should be able to shove in this league.''

Yes, at the very least.

For anyone interested, check out It's a site run by an old-time hockey fan who hates seeing what the game has become.

[Last modified: Sunday, August 16, 2009 4:37pm]


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