As Round 1 of the playoffs heats up, crazy things are starting to happen: Some fans are seeing their favorite team lose.
After how hard they’ve cheered and how hard their boys have worked, some team has had the audacity to finish with more goals at the end of a game than their team.
You know why, don’t you? The league wants that other team to win. For TV ratings. To sell merchandise. For the same reason they rigged games last year so the league’s precious golden boy, Sidney Crosby, could win a Cup.
These theories are from people who, as Wayne Campbell of Wayne’s World used to say, have gone mental. Sure, the league would like its top moneymakers to do well, but not to the point of physically affecting games (which, by the way, they couldn’t do if they tried).
TSN’s Bob McKenzie recently did a nice, succinct job explaining kicked-in goals to the hockey masses. He covered what’s allowed, what’s not and a summary of accepted interpretations.
Bob doesn’t read his comment section, because Bob’s a smart man. I, on the other hand, am not so smart. Thus, I was privy to reading a comment section so devoid of a reasonable thought, it reminded me of watching Jersey Shore.
Of course, that’s a blanket statement. There were a few reasonable nuggets mixed in. But in general, it seems that “The Hockey Dad” is a bit of a magnet for crazy. He probably spends half his day trying to stay calm enough to respond to the lunacy hurled his way on Twitter.
Now, I write a daily blog that has an inordinately reasonable reading base, so I’m well aware that not all hockey fans are completely mental. Most of us are all on the level. So when people think the league has influenced a call because it wants the Los Angeles Kings to beat the Vancouver Canucks in Game 3 of Round 1, it’s bordering on white-jacket talk. It’s a dude in a room making a call using his experience and opinion. You can think he sucks at it, but that doesn’t make him a criminal.
It demeans what players do to imply that success comes from anything other than their own fitness, work ethic, decision-making and skills. Logically, if the NHL were able to manipulate things, the way online hockey fans imply, don’t you think they’d start with the major hockey markets?
The New York Rangers last won the Cup in 1994 and have missed the playoffs eight times over that 16-year span.
The Toronto Maple Leafs are the biggest hockey market in the league and the last time they saw a single shift of post-season action was the 2003-04 season. As in six years ago, when the league still played such a gross style that its leading scorer at the time, Martin St-Louis, was the only guy to crack 90 points. Worse still, he led second place by seven points. That NHL seems like it died decades ago and we haven’t seen a good Leafs team since.
And what about the players? You don’t think they’d know if the league was up to some funny business? “Boy, it sure seems strange that we have so many home games this year,” Crosby whispered to Malkin, who by some strange coincidence happens to be ON THE SAME TEAM.
But no – the guys in the action, working their hardest, dealing with the union reps, their agents, media and more have no idea the fix is in. Of course not. But you, catching the highlights on TSN or the NHL Network four nights a week, you’ve got it dialed in. Got it.
It’s the instant credibility-forfeiting line, as far as I’m concerned. Turn your focus to the ice, my friends.
Refs make some bad calls like Dan Boyle makes some bad passes (and I write some bad columns). We all have off-days. A decision has to be made on every reviewed goal and both sides can’t get their way. That’s the beauty of sports. Black and white; a winner and a loser.
So, in black and white sports talk: McKenzie’s column was a “winner.”
Conspiracy theories are for losers.
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Justin Bourne last played for the Idaho Steelheads of the ECHL and is currently a columnist for USA Today. He excelled with the University of Alaska Anchorage before going on to spend time in the Islanders organization with Bridgeport and Utah. His father, Bob, spent 14 years in the NHL and won four Cups with the Islanders. He will blog regularly for THN.com and you can read more of Justin's blogs at jtbourne.com. Follow Justin on Twitter.