We had a great party with friends to watch the seventh and final game of the Western Conference Championship last night. I was, of course, thrilled by the crushing win by the Hawks and the return of the team to the Stanley Cup. This is the third Stanley Cup appearance for the Blackhawks in five years. They have won five Stanley Cup championships since their founding in 1926 as part of the “Original Six” NHL teams with the Detroit Red Wings, Montreal Canadiens, Toronto Maple Leafs, Boston Bruins and New York Rangers.
The series with the Ducks has been thrilling, though all of those overtime games played havoc with my sleep and schedule. I did not want to write about one aspects of the series until it was over however. I have long been a critic of how basketball now seems just a long series of fouls and free throws and how the same thing is happening in football where penalties are mounting for what seems accidental or natural moves by players. For that reason, I am the last person to argue for more penalties in professional sports but the Anaheim Ducks have changed my mind. The Ducks, a team with particularly large players, has been open about its primary method of playing hockey: hits. Indeed, one of my least favorite players, Ryan Kesler, bragged about how the team was punishing the Hawks with huge hits and promised his fans ““No human can withstand that many hits.” Well, they did but that does not mean that this is how hockey should be played.
I thought the Ducks played like thugs. That included an earlier game penalty involving Clayton Stoner’s crosscheck to Andrew’s Shaw’s face or the Ducks defenseman doing a crosscheck square in the back of Marcus Kruger. Then there was the unsportsmanlike conduct that seems to be the signature for the Ducks. For example, millions watched as Duck Corey Perry went over during one of the earlier games and just grabbed the stick of Blackhawks forward Marian Hossa. Hossa tried to pull his stick away but Perry just stood there in the middle of the ice taunting him and not letting it go. Rather than take the bait, Hossa let go of his stick and skated away. Perry then stood there holding the stick and eventually threw it to the ice. No penalty.
The way that the Ducks play sends an awful message to kids and takes away from the game itself. There was some incredible hockey played in these games, but the Ducks continually returned to hits and taunts. I know that I will receive a barrage comments from the “that’s how the game is played” crowed but that is not true. Hits are and will remain part of hockey but there should be some limit. When the Ducks were sputtering out last night there were a couple of hits that were vicious and gratuitous. There needs to be some imposition of rules of adult conduct for teams like the Ducks.
The clearly stronger team won last night and it also happened to be the better team. I say this not as a lifelong Hawks fan. I would be equally critical if poor conduct was coming from my side (as has been the case with the Bears recently in the McDonald debacle). The Ducks are an example of the need for reform in the NHL to deal with unsportsmanlike conduct in my humble opinion.