Blocking shots dangerous — for growth of hockey

Devils forward Stephen Gionta leaps into the air as Rangers forward Ruslan Fedotenko attempts to...

Devils forward Stephen Gionta leaps into the air as Rangers forward Ruslan Fedotenko attempts to block a shot from the point in front of goaltender Henrik Lundqvist during Game 1 of the NHL Eastern Conference final at Madison Square Garden in New York, N.Y., May 14, 2012. (MIKE SEGAR/Reuters)

ERIC FRANCIS, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 2:59 PM ET

CALGARY - For the sake of the game, let’s hope this shot blocking craze is just a fad.

Otherwise, kids will have yet another reason to quit hockey.

Not only is it painful to watch on TV, but absolutely nobody alive likes the prospect of stepping in front of a hard rubber disc travelling faster than most cars on the Deerfoot.

When you are paid millions of dollars to play the game and a Stanley Cup is within sight, it’s understandable to see guys making such sacrifices.

However, when you are just a kid playing the game at any level, the last thing you want to do is block shots with regularity.

Any minor hockey coaches out there who think incessant shot-blocking is the new trend need to know eight of the top-11 shot-blocking teams in the NHL missed the playoffs this season.

In other words, just because the New York Rangers have survived this long based largely on the fact they’re responsible for more blocks than Lego doesn’t mean it can be relied on as a tactic.

The focus for kids needs to be skill development and not something as painful, dangerous and unnecessary as throwing your body in front of slap-shots and risking even more injury than the game already threatens.

Let the goalies make the saves — that’s why they have that bulky equipment designed especially for such a task.

Otherwise, enrollment and viewership in our great sport will continue to decline in this country.

Now for more notes, quotes and anecdotes from a sports world wondering how Los Angeles Kings GM Dean Lombardi could ever have spent even five minutes considering the possible trade of eventual Conn Smythe Trophy winner Dustin Brown.

AROUND THE HORN

Word is one of the big reasons the Calgary Flames have been taking their time to start their coaching search is the prospect of snapping up San Jose Sharks head coach Todd McLellan if he were to be let go by GM Doug Wilson. Because he wasn’t, the Flames start the real search with Bob Hartley, Troy Ward and Mike Sullivan as the frontrunners. The McLellan move would have been interesting as it was another hot-shot Sharks coach — Darryl Sutter — who the Flames likely saved their franchise with back in 2002 ... Shockingly, the question is not if anyone can beat the Kings but if the eventual Eastern Conference champ can even win a game off them — they are that solid in every possible aspect these days … While defenceman Drew Doughty gets most of the credit for a Kings blueline that has been beyond stellar this spring, two lesser lights deserve more credit than they’ve been given. Rookie Slava Voynov and slick sophomore Alec Martinez have quietly established themselves as regular NHLers. And while both have played prominent roles with the man-advantage and in 5-on-5 situations, their emergence gave Kings management confidence they could trade Jack Johnson to land Jeff Carter and further bolster their top two forward units.

PARTING GIFTS

This astute observation from TSN’s Dan O’Toole: “A bubble hockey game has a better buzzer than MSG.” … Yes, as stated here for three months now, Brent Sutter is still the obvious hire for the Edmonton Oilers. Would have been an easier sell had he returned home from Europe with a gold medal, but he’s still the perfect fit for the job — and vice-versa ... Believe it or not, before Thursday’s game, the Kings had not trailed since the opening period of Game 1

vs. the St. Louis Blues and have won nine straight road playoff games dating back to last year … Wondering if the saddest part of the Coyotes’ inevitable demise for viewers is the fact the series likely won’t return to Glendale — home of the red-headed smokeshow sitting behind Dave Tippett. You know exactly who I’m talking about.

eric.francis@sunmedia.ca

On Twitter: @ericfrancis


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