It's an NHL game, and you're standing near the glass during warm-ups, as the players fling around a pile of pucks on the ice. As one of them is skating back to the dressing room, he stops, picks up a puck and tosses it into your section.
Oh boy, free souvenir! A trinket for the mantle! A monument that will forever indicate you were there and had great seats, probably thanks to your company, a rich uncle or the secondary ticket market!
But wait, what's this? The player intended to throw the puck to a small child begging for one from the front row?
But your approach vector is one that ensures you will reach the puck first, depriving this child of one! Do you reach over and grab it, risking social media infamy for being that cruel person stealing from a kid? Or do you pull back your athletic gifts at a critical juncture and allow a child this moment of victory, much like I do when I take my daughter bowling? (Which, frankly, I shouldn't even have to do considering she uses bumpers, but whatever...)
Here are the rules for whether you should or should not steal a puck from a kid at a hockey game.
Rule 1: It's not your fault if a goalie makes a lousy throw
- Washington Capitals (@Capitals) October 23, 2018
Before a game at the Vancouver Canucks recently, Braden Holtby of the Washington Capitals attempted to throw a puck to a young fan in the stands. The puck hit the top of the glass, which allowed a significantly older Capitals fan to reach over and steal the puck away. This is like the tipped pass rule in the NFL: a puck off the glass makes everyone an eligible receiver. And hey, maybe that kid in the front row would have been able to make a play on the Holtby puck IF HE WASN'T ALREADY HOLDING ONE. Greedy much?
Rule 2: You used to be that kid, so act accordingly
OK, so you've "stolen" a puck away from a young fan. Holtby is giving you a death stare, which is frightening because (a) he's doing it through a goalie mask weeks before Halloween and (b) it's the first discernible emotion other than "chill" Holtby has exhibited in his NHL career. So now you have to decide what's "right." Is it right to hand any puck tossed over the glass to a younger fan? Did you pay your own money for that ticket, to be in a position for this very thing to happen? Weren't you that young fan at some point? You spent countless hours hoping to catch a puck but didn't, and now you've earned the right -- through financial gain and a growth spurt -- to do so? Is it possible your success could be directly attributed to the adversity you felt as a young fan when older, more successful people kept taking things from you? And, in turn, you've passed the gift of that pain to this young fan, setting him on a course to either become a titan of industry or a super villain? Either way, he'll have a great house. Or, maybe you just give him the puck.
Rule 3: Always give the puck to a little girl, you monster
Last season, there was a situation involving the Capitals' Brett Connolly in which he tapped the glass with his stick toward where a little blonde girl named Keelan Moxley was standing. He tossed a puck over the glass, an adult grabbed it ... and handed it to a little boy next to her. He did it again, tossed the puck, an adult grabbed it ... and handed it to another little boy next to her. So Connolly did it a third time, and finally this puck was Plinko'd down to Keelan. This was rude, sexist and, worst of all from an NHL perspective, demographically disadvantageous. You were very close to making Keelan Moxley a new NBA fan, sir. That said ...
Rule 3a: Or maybe prey on the good nature of NHL players
As one of my favorite hockey cynics Alan May of NBC Sports Washington noted at the time, "That father orchestrated that, because only the cute little girl was going to get it and he made sure all three of his kids got a puck." A risky scheme to be sure, and one that undoubtedly runs the risk of public shaming, but hard to argue with the results. I mean, Keelan Moxley went on to attend playoff games, including a Cup Final game, and meet players. Diabolical. (Side note: This wasn't actually her dad, but I'm still calling this theorem tested and approved.)
Rule 4: Increase your chances by making up some nonsense and putting it on a sign
One way to avoid stealing from a child is by having the puck directed to you instead. In recent years, players like Tyler Seguin and Johnny Gaudreau have tossed pucks into the stands for signs like "My only wish on my Sweet 16 is to see Tyler Seguin" and "It's my 21st birthday and all I want is a wave from No. 13." So, going forward: Neon sign, black marker, maybe a heart or a little drawing, pretend you're between the ages of 16 and 21 and make some reference to a birthday, graduation, prom, oral surgery, pending litigation or some other life event. It's tossed-puck catnip.
Rule 5: Hey, players, never toss a stick in the crowd
You simply can't introduce a weapon into an unruly mob like hockey fans. Please recall Scott Niedermayer attempting to toss his stick to a young fan at an Anaheim Ducks game in 2009, and a full-on brawl resulting from it after a couple of older fans tussled over the stick. There would be less chaos if you had thrown a wad of $100 bills. Stick to pucks, not sticks.
Rule 6: Just remember that with all things in life, someone else will make amends for your abhorrent behavior.
Bylsma throws a puck to a young fan; old man grabs it and laughs in kids face. pic.twitter.com/JbCy0QCYpL
- steph (@myregularface) October 30, 2015
Dan Bylsma, then head coach of the Pittsburgh Penguins, tried to toss the puck to a young fan. Then this Gordon Jump-looking dude reaches into the aisle and steals it away, almost looking like he stared the kid down afterward with a sneer of "MINE!" Terrible, right? Well, Bylsma later gave an usher another puck to hand to the young fan. And then the Penguins sent their mascot down to his seats to gift him a Sidney Crosby jersey (!), another puck and a hug.
The lesson here is clear: Be as selfish and terrible as you'd like, because the universe will correct itself. And hopefully that correction is something like this rather than, you know, your car being crushed into a pile of karmic scrap by a runaway Zamboni after the game.
I have worn this jersey to every game since Erat asked for and received the trade. pic.twitter.com/zxvwbN0WOw
- Randy Mobley (@RandyMobley) October 20, 2018
The Protest Jersey has powers, people. Meanwhile, in Brooklyn:
- Steven Rudnick (@big5hole25) October 25, 2018
We have some questions about wearing this on the Sabbath.
Yeo Must Go?
We did our coach's hot seat index recently, and the chairs have just grown spicier for a couple of head coaches.
The Detroit Red Wings are so bad that Arby's had to change the free curly fries threshold, so Jeff Blashill might not be long for this job. The Los Angeles Kings are last in the West (2-7-1) with a preposterous minus-18 goal differential. And then there are the St. Louis Blues, second-to-last in the West at 2-4-3, and just looking like a mess out there.
(I keep seeing Dave Hakstol's name listed among these, and I'm just not buying that yet. Michal Neuvirth is just back from injury to try to stabilize the Flyers' goaltending spot. James van Riemsdyk, a key top-six forward, has been missing for weeks. And GM Ron Hextall is the type of guy to raise hell with the players before cutting loose a coach he hired and that got them to the playoffs last year. At least this early in the season.)
John Stevens and Mike Yeo seem like they're both in quicksand right now. They both share one commonality, which is that management invested heavily in their teams during the summer -- the Kings with Ilya Kovalchuk, the Blues with several moves -- and is not seeing results.
Stevens has a little bit of slack, given that Dustin Brown has been missing and should return this weekend. Say what you will about Brown -- and as usual that'll start with words like "overrated" and "overpaid" and "stinks" -- but if the issue with the Kings is hustle and effort, that's the minimum of what Brown brings to that team. He's a glue guy, and they've been falling apart at the seams. Plus there's always the chance that Jonathan Quick finds his game again after looking like a welcome mat for pucks since returning from injury.
(That this slow, old collection of players doesn't seem made for these times is also an issue, but one of construction vs. coaching.)
Yeo ... woof.
As he noted after their 7-4 loss to the Columbus Blue Jackets on Thursday night, regarding his job status: "Heck my job should be in question right now. Of course that comes with the trade. But I'm not going to coach to try to save my job. I'm going to coach to try to win the Stanley Cup. I believe in this group so whatever we need every single day, I'm going to try to do that."
This team is being devoured at 5-on-5. They have only four players that are on the plus side in shot attempt differential at 5-on-5, and only one of them is a defenseman (Jordan Schmaltz). Jay Bouwmeester is a minus-36 in that category. Alex Pietrangelo, who last season at this point was getting Norris hype, is a minus-7 in goal differential in nine games. That's atrocious.
But again, if there's one eternal truth in the NHL, it's that good goaltending can save bad coaches (see Ducks, Anaheim) and bad goaltending can get any coach fired. No, the team in front of him isn't doing Jake Allen any favor, but he's building off of last year's disaster with seven games of .882 save percentage hockey. His 5-on-5 goals saved above average is minus-3.8, which isn't the worst in the NHL (hi, Mike Smith at minus-5.34) but also isn't getting it done.
The biggest issue for the Blues has been the third period, where they're being outscored an astounding 18-9, and only one of those goals against was an empty-netter. That's a problem with effort. That's a problem with not getting a save. And that's a problem with coaching.
I praised Doug Armstrong for his offseason moves. I still think there's something here, and his aggressive remaking of the center spot could pay dividends. But after one full season outside the playoffs and nine frequently horrifying games, the question can be asked if Armstrong's decision to nurture Yeo as Hitchcock's assistant before handing the team to him was the right call. And one wonders how much longer this'll go when a coach like Alain Vigneault is out there, ready to step in and get immediate results.
Listen to ESPN ON ICE
Had a blast talking hockey with Minnesota Wild coach Bruce Boudreau on the latest ESPN ON ICE, including his thoughts on his job security. Emily and I were also joined by Neil Glasberg, who's an interesting guy: He's an agent for NHL coaches, developing their brand and fighting fights for them. Including one with me, over email, for which I apologized. Get it on iTunes here or stream here.
Gary Bettman Is David Foster Wallace
Full confession: I live for Gary Bettman suspension appeal rulings.
I picture the commissioner sitting in his most comfortable leather lounger in his home office, wearing a cardigan, listening to the Best of the Steve Miller Band as he combs through testimony and the NHL rulebook, creating a document that's as thorough as it is sassy. He picks apart NHLPA arguments with the vehemence of an embittered nerd savaging "The Last Jedi."
Such was the case with his ruling on Thursday that upheld Washington Capitals forward Tom Wilson's 20-game suspension, which you can read here. He shreds the preposterous notion this wasn't a hit to the head, because Wilson literally testified that it probably was. He demolishes the idea that Oskar Sundqvist somehow is at fault for putting himself in that position by noting that Wilson's own GM, Brian MacLellan, said that Wilson "had options" on the hit. It slices through every argument like he's playing "Fruit Ninja" and the NHLPA's case is a pineapple.
But the best part about any Bettman argument are the footnotes, where he drops all pretense of creating an academic document for little editorial asides.
To wit, here's Bettman on the NHLPA's use of a Wilson vs. Jonathan Toews play as a comparable:
- Greg Wyshynski (@wyshynski) October 25, 2018
And then there's this bit, where Bettman basically admits that playoff suspensions are weighed differently than those in the regular season, and Wilson should be thankful for that:
The Bettman decision on Tom Wilson also included a healthy discussion on the value of playoff games in a suspension. pic.twitter.com/txWQ3bU2mn
- Greg Wyshynski (@wyshynski) October 26, 2018
But one of Bettman's most interesting statements, and one that probably deserves a little more vetting, is this one:
"One true and fundamental test of effective discipline is whether the discipline is of sufficient strength and impact that it has the effect of deterring the Player being disciplined from repeating the same or similar conduct in the future. By this standard, the supplementary discipline previously assessed to Mr. Wilson prior to this incident has clearly been ineffective in deterring his dangerously reckless play."
Is this an indictment of Wilson not getting it? Or is this Bettman, intentionally or otherwise, making the argument that the rather minuscule, incremental punishments from the Dept. of Player Safety need more teeth for a guy like Wilson to get it? Because once we got to 20 games and $1.2 million in lost salary, there are really no more excuses.
BREAKING: Coach who is famous for deploying goon squads at the opening faceoff to spark line brawls doesn't like the lack of "hate" in today's game.
Taylor Hall on his diet: "I have eggs with oatmeal and sausages. I try and mix in a green juice with breakfast as well. From there, my pre-game meal is gluten-free pasta. I'll have some meat sauce with it, and salmon. I really love salmon because it has a lot of protein, and my body always seems to digest it really well. I like it a lot more than chicken because I feel like it has more flavor." I was unaware the "sausages" were still an option had I gone down the professional athlete path.
Winnipeg Jets center Mark Scheifele is a damn hockey savant when it comes to trivia.
The sad story behind Noel Acciari's purple suit.
The NWHL now has five teams. So how will they work their playoffs? With all five teams, it turns out.
We mentioned this movie here in an earlier column, but here's a review of the hockey-meets-zombies film "Ahockalypse." Man, how do you not go with "Neutral Zomb Trap?"
This segment doesn't totally work -- you start with the hockey and get more absurd, people -- but it fits squarely in the Proper Deployment of Jeremy Roenick category:
- Jeremy Roenick (@Jeremy_Roenick) October 25, 2018
Hockey tl;dr (too long; didn't read)
Fluto Shinzawa on a hockey town with a rather large family tree.
In case you missed this from your friends at ESPN
Some interesting news from the New Jersey Devils, and a hint of what might be ahead for the NHL and legalized sports wagering.