October is hockey's official Hockey Fights Cancer month with special awareness nights held in every NHL arena. As someone with a deeply personal connection to the cause, I did not want to let the opportunity pass to acknowledge the important awareness the NHL has done.
The NHL conditions its officials to fear the game and to avoid criticism. In more recent years, the NHL has tried to make its officials voiceless as well as nameless and faceless. Officials are also banned from being quoted in the media.
The NHL's officiating department has no inclination to reform the way it does things. They enjoy their virtual immunity from being held accountable, and aren't about to call attention to areas where they need to get with the times.
NHL commissioner Gary Bettman is a controversial figure in many circles. That includes not only among fans and segments of the media, but also among some on the playing and officiating sides of the game.
Hockey is an emotional game, especially in the playoffs. Nevertheless, there is a right way and a wrong way to handle the emotions. One thing a player can never do, however, is use physical force against an official.
Today, NHL bigwigs publicly downplay the importance of fighting while privately believing it's their biggest marketing draw. But is allowing fighting shortsighted when it comes to the long-term growth of the sport?