Monday, July 19, 2010

So, Sometimes Sitting on the Bench Can Be a Good Thing.

The distraction: Keeping track of the Portland Winterhawks' whereabouts in the NHL, AHL, ECHL and whatever else-HL. I'm pleased to report that all three of the overage players who had to leave us at the end of this past season are present and accounted for somewhere in the hockey world. Stefan Schneider signed with the Vancouver Canucks in the mother of all underdog stories, Chris Francis signed with the Springfield Falcons (AHL affiliate of the Columbus Blue Jackets) and defenseman Eric Doyle just signed with the Ontario Reign in the ECHL. All Winterhawks eligible in one way or another have either been drafted or on their way to playing more hockey one way or another. At last, I can sleep at night.

Oohh, did I say that out loud?: Ilya Kovalchuk is re-upping with the Devils, after the almost deal with the LA Kings didn't quite meet his salary demands. Refresh me, exactly how many Stanley Cups has he won? And how deep into the playoffs did Jersey get this year? Oh and not very far. Definitely worth $100 million.

The rules: Section 5, Penalties. Other Penalties. Rule 563, Players Leaving the Penalty Bench. Rule 564, Players Leaving the Benches During an Altercation.

So, basically, don't leave the bench unless it's for a good reason:

563.a: Except at the end of a period, a penalized player who leaves the penalty bench before his penalty time has expired shall be assessed a minor penalty.

And if you're planning to leave the bench to commit yet another offense:

563.b: If the violation occurs during a stoppage of play during an altercation, the offending player shall be assessed a minor penalty and game misconduct penalty, to be served at the expiration of his previous penalty. Ditto if you get up from the penalty bench to challenge an official's ruling. Like he's going to take you seriously if you do? Please. The penalty bench is the grown up hockey equivalent of a time out. Or, in my generation when you weren't busted for such things, a swat on the behind. So coming off the bench to announce your presence with authority isn't really going to hold a lot of weight with someone whose job description includes "at the disrection of" or "in the judgment of."

So, if that didn't convince you, maybe this will:

564.a: No player shall leave the player's or penalty bench at any time during an altercation. The first player to lead the way gets a double minor and a game misconduct penalty. Anyone who follows him gets a 10 minute misconduct penalty.

Morals of the story:

The game: Like life, there are times to sit on the bench and times to leave. Want to survive in the big time? Learn the difference. If enough players do this, at the wrong time in a playoff game, the whole team and their chance are toast.

Life: We tell our children "do as I say, not as I do." We tell them "if your friends jumped off a bridge, would you do it too?" Why? Because following the lead of others isn't always the right thing to do. History has shown this to be true. I grew up in the seventies and eighties, when the aftermath of the Charles Manson murders and the Jonestown massacre were making headlines. Perhaps if life punished us with the equivalent of a minor penalty and game misconduct we wouldn't be so eager to follow the leader. For example:

-- Automatic banishment to a deserted island with no cable TV, no cell phone and no high-speed internet for a period of one month for each day that you follow the lead of other people who talk too loudly on their cell phone in a bus, train, book store or other inappropriate location.

-- For fashion designers of the eighties who followed the lead of some dimwit who decided that embedding women's clothing with shoulder pads was a good idea, eternal house arrest consisting of confinement to a closet with all of their worst fashion designs, including but not limited to those plastic gel shoes in fabulous understated classic colors like fuschia and yellow (which apparently, are making a comeback), the Flashdance legwarmer/torn sweatshirt combo and stirrup pants.

Next up on 7/21: Section 5, Penalties. Other Penalties. Rule 565, Team Officials Leaving the Player's Bench. Rule 566, Refusing to Start Play - Team on the Ice.

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