We’ve alluded in this space to a little invention we call “Larionov Bucks”. Upset with the poor play of Igor Larionov in the 2003-04 season, we finally reached a point where we hoped the Devils would start handing out a form of currency called Larionov Bucks for suffering through watching him play. These reward points could be used to purchase items at the concession stands and team store, but they could also, if enough Bucks were saved up by enough fans, be exchanged for the permanent removal of Larionov from the team. It would be a fun way to determine conclusively how highly fans valued his not being in the lineup, to measure whether enough fans felt strongly enough about how sucky he was that they would forgo cashing their Larionov Bucks in for hot dogs and beers.
Today we found ourselves reminded of Larionov Bucks in a bad way. No, not because the Devils have a creaky old guy who passes on breakaways; rather, in the wake of the Steve Downie non-suspension, we’ve decided it’s time for the NHL to use the concept of Larionov Bucks to give the fans some say on how the thugs and goons of the league are handled. Here’s how it would work: every player who has been suspended, and every player who has accumulated more than some set number (three? Five? We aren’t really sure what’s a fair number) of the assy penalties (slashing, boarding, elbowing, et al) at any point in the season, will be put on the Ouster Bucks list. Once a guy is on the list, the fans who have to suffer through watching him play their favorite team are awarded 10 [Player X] Bucks for each game. If he injures one of their players, those fans are awarded 100 [Player X] Bucks. No, we’re not entirely sure how “the fans watching the game” would be determined — would it just be the fans in attendance, or would the league have to figure out how to tell who’s watching on TV? Whatever. We never claimed this was a perfect solution, and those are kinks that can be easily worked out later. The point is that the fans would be able to use their [Player X] Bucks to buy things at NHL.com or their team stores, but they would also be able to turn their [Player X] Bucks in at the end of the season; if enough [Player X] Bucks are collected to meet some agreed-upon and not insignificant total, then the player will be oustered from the league, or banned for life, or however you want to put it. This way, the NHL would have to act on the fans’ displeasure. And at the same time, we’d be able to see which players are well and truly loathed by vast numbers of fans, and which ones are vocally loathed by only a small group of fans, while the rest of the league’s fans are willing to trade their chance at contributing to the guy’s ouster for some trinkets or baubles from NHL.com. (We, for example, would happily hoard our Avery Bucks, but would gleefully spend our Pronger Bucks on baubles.)
So other than the question of how to distribute Ouster Bucks and to whom, there really isn’t a single thing wrong with this plan. Right?