Since the NHL lockout in 04-05, the NHL Enforcer has become a dying breed. Teams still install these big guns, er, fists into the line-up during the regular season to protect players and intimidation. Many of these men are actually good people off the ice compared to their “super villain” image when they jump the boards. Former Islander tough guy Trevor Gillies and former Duck George Parros (now serving in Florida) come to mind in recent years for their charity work and fan interaction. Plus, they rocked the mustache with pride.
Yet as the focus shifts to player safety, the goons have a right to be concerned. The NHL is coming off another good year with revenue gains and growing non-traditional hockey markets. It was almost overshadowed by a plague of concussions and suspensions from mid November to the end of January, with a few note wordy punishments near the end of the season.
Hockey players are some of the most down to earth guys you’ll meet. A few spoiled ones shouldn’t hurt the reputation. A noticeable amount of spoiled players is something to fret about.
Which brings us to Cam Janssen.
On Thursday, the New Jersey Devils winger, and St. Louis native, joined “The Thom & Jeff Show”. He’s been on the radio program before, albeit on the radio. “Thom & Jeff” moved from the airwaves to internet radio due to their language and content on the show.
Click on the link to SB Nation for the full interview (NSFW) (The video was removed from Youtube hours after the interview was aired)
Before the interview, I didn’t think Janssen was a bad guy. He missed a lot of hits, and lost a lot of fights, but he had some exciting moments. For example, it’s not every day someone takes down Bruin’s captain Zdeno Chara. Plus, I kept hearing he’s good in the locker room.
All that has been cast out the window upon hearing this interview.
It’s not so much that he referred to the Los Angeles Kings as the “fat broads that you regret bangin’” following their victory over his club while he watched from the suites. His anti-gay comment is horrendous, but worth a separate post on the topic.
Its comment’s like this that stricken me with grief and anger:
“But you wanna be scary. You wanna put the fear of [exploited] God in people’s eyes, and not just, ‘Oh, I’m gonna beat you up’ — no, ‘I’m gonna catch you with your [exploited] head down and hurt you because you’re not gonna know I’m comin’, because I know how to hit.’ Fighting guys is one thing because I know, ‘Oh, I won’t fight you. I’ll just turtle.’ Whatever. But if you have the puck and you know how to hit and you can hurt guys with hits like I know how to do, that’s what puts the fear of God into people.”
Did he really say that? Janssen admitted he wants to hurt players intentionally! That’s enough to paint his face on the issue facing the NHL. There are players in the league that have no disregard for safety. It ranges from 4th line goon like Jansssn all the way to star players like the Capitals’ Alexander Ovechkin. How many times have we seen Ovie tagged with a suspension or at least a near suspension incident?
For a guy like Janssen, it’s his nature to want to hit anything with or without the puck. That’s what he’s getting paid to do. For stars like Ovechkin, or Duncan Keith, or Chara, who are asked to win games, the repercussions are worse. It’s a bad image for the league if one of these stars takes a run at an unprepared player, or happens to injure him on a questionable play, accident or naught.
I’m indifferent for the need of an enforcer in today’s NHL. They look out for their teammates and tell the opposing team “Don’t mess with my teammates”. However, they only have less than five or ten minutes to make an impact on the game. In the coaches eyes, it’s the hope that the goon does not become a liability.
The players need to take responsibility for their actions and their teammates. There’s a growing sense that skaters don’t have respect for one another these days. Multiple factors since the lockout are responsible, but none worse than not allowing players to police the game in a respectable manner. Altercations on the ice are now determined by office men the next day in an office instead of the foot soldiers during the game. Make no mistake, there’s a reason for that. But when guys like Scott Stevens came to you later in the game and got in your face after messing with one of his teammates: that put the fear into you not to do it again.
Sadly, Janssen isn’t the only player in the pros that does what he does. Ottawa’s Chris Neil and Pittsburgh’s Matt Cooke have a resume of crossing the line. It’s this group of players that Disciplinary director Brendan Shanahan, and even Commissioner Gary Bettman, have to take action against. If they won’t let teams police each other on the ice, it becomes their responsibility to make these players understand the league’s philosophy: play hockey or get out.
No league deserves to be plagued by these scoundrels. Not the NHL, not NFL, not college sports, or any activity where your body is on the line.
Hopefully the issue is being discussed in labor negotiations between the team owners and the players association. The NHL product is at an all time high, but currently, it stands on fragile ground. Player safety might be the biggest threat to the sports reputation and continued success than a work stoppage.
Voice your opinion on the topic below. What do you feel about Cam Janssen’s controversial interview? Should the Devils or the NHL take disciplinary action for his comments? And what can the league do to combat players that go out of their way to harm others on the ice?
Filed Under: Anaheim Ducks • Eastern Conference • Featured • Florida Panthers • New Jersey Devils • New York Islanders • NHL • NHL Teams • Ottawa Senators • Pittsburgh Penguins • Washington Capitals • Western Conference
About the Author: Sports Reporter by day, puck stopper between the pipes at night. I was the Locker Room Reporter for the Islanders for WRHU-FM. Currently, I cover the New Jersey Devils on HockeyIndependent.com and Metro Area Hockey on BrooklynFans.com Follow me on Twitter @John_A_Iadevaia