Hockey is a wonderful game, but we all know it doesn't get the widespread, mainstream respect it deserves. You know one way we can combat that? More things like this:
Tomas Hertl's goal on Tuesday was the top play on SportsCenter. (That's SportsCenter, the American version on ESPN, not SportsCentre, the Canadian version on TSN.) It is the kind of thing that effortlessly promotes the NHL and the raw, beautiful skill that hockey players possess. It is the kind of thing that will make people hockey fans.
That's why it's so frustrating when Important Hockey People say things like this about goals like Hertl's:
"I would be the first guy in that locker room to pull him aside -- and I understand, he's full of innocence and I get that this is all so great and new and, I mean he doesn't even know he's in the league. That's how, kind of big stage, he's taking this all in. He's a great talent, no question. World-class goal. But when you're playing the New York Rangers, and you've already embarrassed them, and it's 8-2, and that's what you do?
I'd be telling him, ‘Kid, don't do that again.' Because every hockey player's got pride and the league just got set notice about that. I just don't like when you embarrass a team, or a goaltender like Biron or you kinda discredit the game. Great move. Do it in practice, do it in a shootout. But not when the score's 8-2."
>> Glenn Healy of CBC, speaking on Sirius XM
You don't need us to tell you that Hertl's goal was amazing, but we'll reiterate it anyway: He deked to Martin Biron's glove side, got the Rangers goalie leaning ever so slightly, and then pulled it back through his legs and placed a shot top shelf over the blocker-side shoulder before Biron could recover.
Showboating? Perhaps, but also pretty damned effective. As skillful and flashy as the move was, it's actually probably easier to pull that back through the legs -- thus protecting the puck -- than to try cutting back across the crease where the puck would be wide open for a pokecheck from Biron. That's the truth whether the score is 1-0 or 8-2.
But forget that. Healy's not the only one with this opinion. Here's Doug MacLean on Sportsnet Fan 590, going back and forth with Sharks broadcaster Drew Remenda:
MacLean: "I would have taken his-- I would have went nuts on the bench. I would have said, ‘Are you kidding me? Somebody's letting him do that?'
Remenda: "So, it would have been okay if he jetted in, cut across the front of the net and gone around Martin Biron on the wide-side, but he can't go between the legs and stick it upstairs, which absolutely electrified 17,500 people? So, what you're saying is, we're not playing big-boy hockey any more. We're not putting are big-boy pants on? We have to make sure we couch it?"
MacLean: "Yeah, totally."
Darren Millard: "Are you serious about that Mac?"
MacLean: "I loved it. When it's 8-2 -- it's like you're down 7-1 in the game and the coach puts his five best power play unit on the ice. It used to piss me off big time. I love the goal. Don't get me wrong, I just didn't like it at that time. I didn't like that he's making a fool of them. But hey, the kid deserves a ton of credit for it and maybe I'm wrong on it. It's just my opinion."
These are people who aren't in the locker room, so their impact on how players act on the ice isn't as strong as, say, an NHL head coach. Oh, what's that? An NHL head coach agrees too?
"I'm upset. I was just talking to George [McPhee] and he said all the kids do that nowadays, which I understand. But would he have done it on his first goal?" [Washington Capitals head coach Adam] Oates said. "He hasn't scored yet tonight and he gets a breakaway, is he going to do that on his breakaway? We'll see.
"I think it was a little bit of a mood thing, which I'm sure they talked about, because they didn't play him after that," Oates continued. "I'm glad the coach did that because this league, it will bite you if you're not sharp. Don't disrespect the league. I'm sure it was a rookie mistake."
These are people with influential hockey opinions -- including, horrifyingly, the coach of Alex Ovechkin, perhaps the NHL's most electrifying talent -- and they're saying that Tomas Hertl was wrong to be exciting and skillful on the ice during a game.
Thankfully these opinions are slowly becoming the minority, because you know what's more disrespectful to hockey than goals like Hertl's? Trying to take the fun out of it. It hurts the sport far more than a flashy goal ever could.