NHL no grind

GEORGE GROSS -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 10:31 AM ET

Mats Sundin hurt his eye.

Jeff O'Neill hurt his shoulder.

NHL knockers suffered from heart palpitation.

I didn't suffer any damage to my teeth watching the first few games in the new-look NHL.

I comment on my teeth because, for the past five years or so, I have spent most of the time, while watching NHL games, grinding my teeth together unable to stomach the product that for 82 games, plus pre-season and playoffs, was being passed off as the greatest spectator team sport.

Why the sudden change?

First, gone from the games (thus far) is the hacking, grabbing, impeding and general wrestling that went on in the neutral zone as players of speed and skill were brought down (many times literally) to the level of the slow and less skilled so that the latter could compete on the same ice surface as the former.

What I see now are players able to generate true skating speed up the ice with and without the puck, thus producing a much better flow to the game.

The result? No grinding of my teeth.

Second, also gone from the games (thus far) is the five-second pin on the boards that bigger and slower players on defence used to stop slick puck-handlers and skaters from moving the puck.

The result? No grinding of my teeth.

Third, gone (thus far) is the obligatory scrum of shoving, punching, stick work and verbal barrages which seemed to occur after every whistle. Now, the players skate away after the whistle and the ensuing faceoff occurs quicker.

The result? No grinding of my teeth.

Still, I have to admit that not all the grinding is gone. It still makes me grimace to see players not wearing face shields and exposing themselves to serious injuries as illustrated in Sundin's case on opening night.

At what point and after how many incidents, such as what happened to Sundin or Bryan Berard, is the NHL Players' Association going to grow up and vote in mandatory protective gear? Heck, when they brought in the short gloves, it only took a few broken wrists for them to realize more protection was needed. How many eye injuries have to occur before they get it?

At any rate, I awoke this morning and was able to open my jaw easily and brush my teeth which, for the first time in a long while, weren't ground down and sore from watching NHL hockey.

GROSSLY ABBREVIATED

NHL commissioner Gary Bettman will be the guest of honour at Sports Media Canada's 10th anniversary Achievement Awards luncheon on Oct. 19 at the Fairmont Royal York Hotel. Among the guests will be former hockey stars Red Kelly and Eddie Shack, Argonauts head coach Pinball Clemons, former Major League Baseball and Blue Jays president Paul Beeston, former IOC member Paul Henderson. Tickets can be obtained from Dick Bradbeer at 905-855-2666 ... The long-awaited Toronto water-course opening in Marilyn Bell Park (between the Argonaut Club and Ontario Place) will take place on Tuesday, at 9.30 a.m.


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