NHL coach Lindy Ruff, of the Sabres, was fined $10,000 for sending his players to rough up the Senators in a game last Thursday between Buffalo and Ottawa, according to the MSNBC Web site.Ruff’s coaching tip came after his forward took an elbow to the forehead from the Senators’ Chris Neil. Ruff got what he wanted when every player on the ice started fighting.
After the game, Ruff was not reluctant to admit what he had done.
“Yea, I told them, ‘Go out and run ’em,'” he said in an Associated Press article.
Ruff said he felt justification in his actions because Neil did not receive a penalty after putting a 20-stich gash into Drury’s forehead, according to league officials.
While watching the hit on ESPN, it clearly was part of the game. The NHL has these types of hits. This is what attracts its viewers. It is a great game.
What I do not like about the game is what resulted from the hit. A coach tells his players to “Go out and run ’em.” Players get in a brawl, and Ruff just gets $10,000.
Nobody else got in trouble. He is not even being suspended from coaching by the league or from his own organization.
That is why hockey continues to struggle to gain an audience. According to the latest Nielsen Ratings, the past all-star game ratings were down by 76 percent. The game had 1.2 million viewers.
Lately the NHL has been doing its best to change its slacking performance. It shortened the goalie’s entire uniform, made the offensive scoring zones longer and made defense much harder.
This was all done to make scoring go up and get the fans back into the game after the strike. Scoring did go up. But, it is not everlasting. Hockey did not start to lose its viewers because scoring was down. It has lost viewers because it does not discipline its players and coaches correctly.
The NBA is the best example of a league that knows how to discipline. It has been through that situation and its commissioner, David Stern, did not make scoring easier. He put his foot down. To play in the NBA, players have to agree to represent it in a professional manner. Stern implemented a dress code for players, suspensions and fines, and no back-talking to referees, according to an October 2006 Sporting News Magazine article. The players have done this and the league continues to move forward.
The NBA always seems to at least put an effort toward reshaping its image for the better. I think it is successful because it reshapes with every viewer in mind.
Viewers do want excitement and entertainment. They do like high scores. But most of all they like to have fun. Seeing a coach gloat about the fact that he started a fight is not what hockey is about. I certainly did not think the league would let it just pass by.
Ruff should have been suspended for a few games. I like to see a good hit in hockey. But I like it when it is just that: a good hit.
John Boller is a senior broadcast journalism major from Atlanta.