To Kick Or Not to Kick
It's a debate that's been going on in hockey since time immemorial, which is technically, I believe, before Chris Chelios became an NHL player.
Kicked in or not kicked in? That is the question, and it has been for a long, long time. Those who suggest this rule tweak or that one will "solve" the problem are just wrong. Every supposed clarification of this rule just makes it more complicated, and that's because the basic issue - not allowing players to kick the puck into the net - is such a subjective concept.
Today, its the Vancouver Canucks and their fans who are up in arms over a disallowed goal that was certainly part of the reason, along with the fact Roberto Luongo doesn't play goal very well in the playoffs, that the Canucks lost Game 3 of their series to the Los Angeles Kings.
Was the puck kicked in? Looked like it to me. Big Brother in Toronto - in this case Mike Murphy - agreed. But a kicking motion to some is simply a player slamming on the brakes to others, and the two sides are going to disagree until Barry Melrose gets another NHL coaching job, or longer.
Vancouver, of course, is the most wronged hockey nation on the planet. We heard it last spring when Chicago found all those holes in Luongo in the deciding game but some interpreted the result as the league watching the Hawks to advance, and we heard it again this season when Alexandre Burrows blew the whistle (supposedly) on referee Stephane Auger.
Now, brace yourself to hear it again. Some league conspiracy is out to fry the Canucks and deny them their rightful seat in the Stanley Cup final. This is a franchise that has a shorter history of being unable to win the Cup than the Leafs only because it wasn't around in '67, but every year there's an excuse or a reason that isn't we're-just-not-good-enough.
But back to the kicking the puck issue. My esteemed collegue at TSN, Bob McKenzie, believes the issue could be fixed by allowing the puck to be kicked as long as the skate blade didn't leave the ice, and certainly Bob has tons of experience in the sport to support that opinion.
Me? I think the McKenzie Rule would just spawn more debate, not less. Was the blade all the way of the ice, or just while the puck was physically in contact with the blade? Would teams be inclined to hire players specifically as designated kickers?
I'd be tempted to go the other way. Any puck that isn't shot into the net with a stick shouldn't count as a goal. Even that would cause problems on deflected shots.
Here's what matters. The issue isn't going to be fixed. It's going to continue being debated in hockey games for the next 50 years. Or until Chelios retires, whichever comes first.
And no, the NHL isn't out to get the Canucks, and no, Murphy doesn't favour the Kings because he once played for them. Don't forget, he once coached in the Canucks system, too.
And will any of this stop the whining from the west coast? Not a chance.