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Hockey fans throughout North America are wondering what the future holds for what we often tout as the greatest game on earth. If you've been priveledged enough to see any of the recent NHL games and you've been a hockey fan for more than a few years, chances are you've noticed the penalties have become dominating.
It's almost like a different game. When I watch hockey I am expecting to see the players skating hard, passing, checking and getting to the net and occassionally slipping one past the goalie. Hockey is known to be a fast sport, and from the times of The Great One, being a great skater could stand out in the game. Over time, between a shift to defensive style play and various rule changes the key to the game seems to do whatever you can to aggravate your opponent and cause him to take a penalty by retaliating. If you're able to play dirty, but just go far enough not to get a penalty yourself, you might just put your team into a Power Play, where your chances of scoring are often significantly greater.
There's no denying that hockey has a long history of being a tough physical game. Players often slam each other into the boards. There are frequent fights. Broken fists, wrists, jaws, lips aren't a daily event, but they happen often enough. What seems to have changed over the years is the dirtiness of it all. This dirtiness has resulted in efforts to reduce player injury (especially the serious ones), which equates to 2 referees rather than the original 1, and a lot more penalties.
While one might hope that taking a hard stance on the dirty play might result in less injuries and a better overall game, the effect hasn't been welcome. Fans are constantly bickering that the refs are winning or losing the games for the teams, and the amount of 5 on 5 play has dropped.
I would love to see a game dominated by the 5 on 5 play again. Perhaps the solution is to continue awarding as many penalties as players deserve but keep the play at 5 on 5. Or maybe they need to further increase the size of the goal so that a power play more often results in a goal against; making it far more important to stay out of the penalty box. Maybe the players just need to fight it through and what happens, happens. Whatever your angle is, if you're a hockey fan you've probably formed some opinion on what needs to be done to get the game back on track.