The Stanley Cup hockey playoffs are barely a week old but is already coming under fire from critics because of what they call the violent level of play, citing an alarming number of head shots, numerous fights and game misconducts.
So far, there have been 11 fights in 19 games and more than 700 penalty minutes with suspensions being handed out. Players, like Ottawa Senators captain Daniel Alfredsson who suffered a concussion, have felt the repercussions.
But don’t count Anaheim Ducks coach Bruce Boudreau among those clamouring for an investigation into the state of hockey.
Boudreau, who has done some analyst work for Hockey Night in Canada during the playoffs, told CBCSports.ca he disagrees the post-season has been too violent.
CBCSports.ca: The talk of the playoffs so far has been the fighting and hits the head and how it’s gotten out of the control. What’s your assessment to this point?
Boudreau: I don’t think it’s out of control, I think it’s what want people want. Hockey players and the sport itself is a really competitive sport. We build from the minute we start training in the summer for one goal and that’s to win the Stanley Cup. And that’s what everybody bases everything on. You look at it now, Vancouver won the Presidents’ Trophy. That’s a tremendous accomplishment but it’s all about winning the Cup. If Vancouver goes down [against the Los Angeles Kings Wednesday night, CBC, CBCSports.ca, 10 p.m. ET] they’re going to say ‘what a lost year, get rid of the coach.’ They had a fabulous year. It’s just when it comes to playoff time everybody is so ramped up. The media has ramped you up, the coaches have ramped you up, the organization has ramped you up to win the Cup. It gets highly competitive. Players go at it like they’ve never gone at it before. That’s the way it is.
CBCSports.ca: Then why do you think the fighting and heads shots have been huge talking points during these Stanley Cup playoffs?
Boudreau: Well, the social media and everything else. It’s all out there. You can't move without anything being reported, that’s why. I mean if this was 1972 and they didn’t have cell phones or computers or anything else, you would’ve got a quick look on a highlight one night and that would’ve been it.
CBCSports.ca: Some players and coaches have responded to all this fuss by simply stating that this is what playoff hockey is? Do you agree or it is a disturbing trend?
Boudreau: I don’t think of it as a disturbing trend, I think of it as hockey. To me in sport, is this not want the fans want? It’s exciting, it is so competitive. You want as a team, as an athlete of where you grew up to be competitive. It’s a rough sport. Twenty-five years ago, people would be saying boo about this but everyone is so politically correct now that everybody is worried about everything. I think it’s like [Flyers coach] Peter Laviolette said the other day. The two best players in the world [Pittsburgh’s Sidney Crosby and Philadelphia’s Claude Giroux] are going at it. That shows how competitive it is. When [Calgary captain] Jerome Iginla fought [Tampa Bay’s] Vincent Lacavalier [in the 2004 Stanley Cup Final] it went on for years on how great that was because you had the two best players. Now all of the sudden you sit and think, ‘oh, it is wrong?’ It’s not wrong. It’s what you want. You want everybody on your team to be competitive.
CBCSports.ca: Do you think the fact that NHL disciplinarian Brendan Shanahan didn’t suspend Shea Weber for ramming Henrik Zetterberg’s head into the boards in Game 1 set a bad precedent?
Boudreau: I think you’re trying to make something at of nothing here. Players don’t sit at home and say, ‘well if he didn’t get suspended I can do it.’ In hockey, things happen in an instant. It’s not a premeditated type thing, where you go and see if I can get away with hitting his head into the glass. To me it happened in an instant. I don’t think given that situation again, Shea Weber would do that but I mean it was there and he did it.
CBCSports.ca: You’re not the only coach that has shot that notion down.
Boudreau: Well, it should be shot down. It’s only the people that want to make a mountain out of a molehill and have nothing better to do that are trying to make this more than it is.
CBCSports.ca: The first round has certainly made an impression south of the border, where viewership for Game 3 of the Philadelphia-Pittsburgh game was the highest rated playoff game, excluding the finals, in 10 years. Does all the physical play – legal and illegal – have anything to do with this?
Boudreau: It’s getting a lot of hype. Also it’s very exciting. I mean [games] are coming down to the last minute. It’s warriors, it’s battles, it’s tremendous athleticism. All of these things are built in so now what the aggressiveness has brought is more media attention, and when you get more media attention to hockey in the states, especially in the southern markets, then you’re going to get more people watching them.
CBCSports.ca: The bad blood between Pittsburgh and Philadelphia leading into the playoffs didn’t hurt either.
Boudreau: No. That couldn’t have been orchestrated any better. It’s certainly has gotten everything at a fever pitch, that’s for sure.