A little while ago I observed NHL's oddball culture in how a hurt player's teammates show their concern...by ignoring him altogether, content rather to fight about it.
Well, recently, we had another installment that reaffirms this absurdity. Everyone's shorts are in a knot over this collision between Milan Lucic and goaltender Ryan Miller, so much so that no one thinks to pop by and show the fellow some compassion or the least concern for his wellbeing. But this being a collision with a goaltender brings up several other issues which, all together, show just how annoying the NHL is.
First, take a look at the collision between Lucic and Miller...
First of all, did you catch how Miller, the goaltender, swung his stick at Lucic? Why was that not a penalty? Just because the referee is going to call a penalty on Lucic, that's no justification allowing Miller to swing his heavy goalie stick as a weapon. Why is there no discipline? Because the NHL is dumb, that's why, and "revenge" is permitted and even encouraged. Even the bonehead commentators noted the stick-swing, interpreting it as Miller "sending a message."
But the entire collision happened because of another dumb thing about NHL hockey. The goaltender wears more protective padding than any other player in professional sport. If anyone in the game should be able to "take a check", it ought to be the player with the most padding.
His own private special place
This goes further. A goaltender has a special place, all his own, called a crease. Inside the crease, a goalie is free to move about and play his position without having to deal with being body checked like the rest of his teammates in front of him. If he stays in his crease, he is protected. So, for those playing along at home, "crease=protection," mmmkay?
Now, if he leaves that crease, he's still protected? So, then, WHY HAVE A CREASE? The area of protection is within the crease. If he leaves the crease, he leaves the protection.
Other real sports understand this most simple concept. In football, there's this place called "the pocket". You hit a quarterback in a certain way (like, at the knees, or to the head), when he's in the pocket, and you get a penalty.
If, however, the quarterback scrambles out of the pocket and has the audacity, the unmitigated gall to think he can scamper upfield and gain yardage himself, he's going to get hit. He can assume a self-protecting posture and slide, downing himself. If he doesn't, he's going to get hit, and he can't whine and cry about it. It was his choice to leave the safety of the pocket.
In the NBA, a defender can "take a charge" if he's occupying a defensive position while an opponent is driving to the basket - "occupying" defined by his feet not moving. If he doesn't get to the spot in time, and his feet were still moving when he was hit, he's called for a foul. In any given game, fouls and charges happen plenty. It's not mysterious - if you want to get a charge call, make sure you're properly positioned in a special place, which is the spot you want to occupy, with your feet not moving.
But, that's just too logical for the dumb NHL. So, a goaltender, with the most padding, and a special place all his own called a crease, somehow thinks he has a right to leave that crease and actually interfere with an opponent's opportunity to play a loose puck...and do so with the benefit of a moving bubble of protection coddling him like a baby's blanket.
NHL isn't far off
While hockey culture is wacko, there are people in the front office who do have a clue, like Brendan Shanahan who rightly did not see any reason to suspend Lucic beyond the minor penalty he was assessed. http://www.thestar.com/sports/hockey/nhl/article/1086870--no-suspension-for-lucic-hit-on-miller - makes me think there's hope.
Having said that, I would ask why Lucic got a penalty at all, but that's another matter. In the meantime, the general status quo vitriol against Lucic (gutless hit? What a suck!) is typical of this wacko hockey culture.
Oh wait, I know why Lucic was assessed a penalty. First, hockey is stupid - calling the penalty "charging" when, for any other player Lucic hit, it would have been called "good hockey, finishing the check" shows the logical inconsistency. But - and here's where I credit the refs - they understand the barbaric revenge culture of hockey and knew that, if there was no penalty assessed, the game would gone totally insane and Lucic might likely have ended up really hurt.
As far as I'm concerned, if a goaltender whines like a sucky baby when players enter his crease, and then he leaves his special place, his crease, then he's a player, and if he's attempting to play a puck that is being contended by an opponent, he should be checkable just like any other player playing the puck. He's not disadvantaged - he's got more protective padding than any other player. If his skates and heavy stick make it difficult to play the puck, well duh, that's because they weren't designed for him to function out of position doing something his role does not call for.
Here's a newsflash, Einstein - you're the goaltender, get your ass back in the crease and tend the goal.