Rich Hoffman writes about what most hockey fans are probably thinking: the Flyers are a bunch of thugs (login info.).
Well he doesn’t really say that. He mostly talks about Scott Hartnell as the latest Flyer suspended for a rough hit. And he talks about the Flyers’ Broad Street Bullies tradition.
I know there’s been a lot of talk about players taking more responsibility for avoiding hits, and while that’s certainly a part of the equation, a stupid player with his back to the action doesn’t actually deserve to have his neck broken. Responsibility resides with everyone on the ice, and that’s the idea that seems to be becoming lost. It’s not about legislating the physical aspects of hockey out of the game. It’s about bringing respect back, so that players actively want to avoid the type of hits that the Flyers are making a season out of.
How is this done?
That’s the hard part. Education would probably help a lot. So would strategic refereeing. If every NHL on-ice official only called the brutal, inappropriate hits, but let the negligible shoving along the boards stand, players and coaches would begin to learn just what kind of hits are OK.
And if players weren’t conditioned to anticipate a whistle every time they’re jostled with their back to the play, they might start paying attention to the other players on the ice.