We were going to write tonight all about how much the Pronger suspension is making us ashamed of being fans of the NHL, and we were going to rail in this space about how, once again, ESPN is letting hockey fans down. This is the stupid, arbitrary, irresponsible and asinine disciplinary action that has pushed us over the edge after years of watching the NHL act stupidly, arbitrarily, irresponsibly and asininely every time it is given the chance. In our years of experience as fans of the NHL, we have always wanted the controversies and laughingstock moments of administrative ineptitude to just go away, because there’s nothing we hate more than non-hockey sports fans looking down their noses at us. But the Pronger situation has us hoping the mess becomes even bigger than it is; we want to see lawsuits, we want to see the honchos in the front offices try to weasel out of it, and we want to see the utmost derision showering down from ESPN. Because the NHL isn’t going to clean its own house — what we’ve all learned from this is that they need the media to force them to.
The league set a precedent for the punishment to be applied when a 7-time suspendee uses his exposed skate blade as a weapon during a game, and that precedent was a stiff penalty of 30 games. So when Pronger, a 7-time suspendee used his exposed skate blade as a weapon during a game, he got eight games, but only after the Canadian media forced the league’s hand. The fact that it took the efforts of TSN to examine the footage of the incident in the first place is an embarrassment. The fact that the league made an official statement that there would be no suspension, and then was forced to backtrack when said footage was circulated is an embarrassment. The fact that Pronger received only 8 games for an infraction that cost Chris Simon 30 is an embarrassment. The fact that Pronger put himself above the rules again without having to play the appropriate price is an embarrassment. The fact that Pronger is eligible to return before the start of the playoffs, the fact that the League couldn’t even sack up enough to give him a round number of 10 games suspension, is an embarrassment. And the way that Colin Campbell has justified his decision while cutting down Simon’s complaints of favoritism goes far beyond being just embarrassing, and crosses into being appalling. This is something that makes us ashamed to be fans of this league.
And just the way ESPN isn’t there to help us out when we want them to spread good news about the NHL, they’re totally dropping the ball when we want them to be spreading the bad. We thought they loved kicking the NHL when it’s down; we guess since this is an incident that has the potential to push the league into cleaning up their own house a bit, it isn’t in ESPN’s interest to pursue it. In the last few days we’ve seen Pronger and Campbell, and their defenders, making a mockery of the NHL — so where’s ESPN to mock them?
Of course, no one wants to hear this. So instead, we’re going to write about our March Madness pool. It’s the most ill-informed, unscientific, luck-of-the-draw, slap-dash March Madness pool in America, and for that reason, it’s pretty appropriate to follow our thoughts on the Pronger suspension. We meticulously cut out (and by “we” we mean “Boomer”) the names of all the teams in the The USA Today bracket, then put them into a hat (or, barring a hat, a Wedgwood saucer), and the three of us take turns drawing names until only one is left.
That extra team traditionally goes to Mahmoud the cat. On the line? Money? Beer? At least a dinner out? Nope — we’ve got the lamest of the lame for a prize: bragging rights. If you asked who has won in previous years, we’d honestly have to say we have no idea. Normally we all stop keeping track of our teams by the Sweet Sixteen. All we know for sure is that Mahmoud has never won, but this year he’s drawn St. Mary’s. Maybe his luck is changing. Nah, probably not. Just like with Pronger, some things never change.