Thursday, March 18, 2004

Respect_for_Weinrich++;

Lowlight found this:

Eric Weinrich responded to an idiotic USA Today article:

Columnist wrong, Blues' Weinrich says

Ms. Brennan, as a current player in the league, I took exception to your column ("If NHL vanished, who'd miss it?" March 11) about the NHL. I guess you haven't noticed that the league is in the midst of one of the closest playoff races in its history. I realize as an American that hockey is not as popular as women's golf or bowling, but it is a billion-dollar-a-year-revenue sport, and the fans are still coming. Trust me, as in baseball, people will miss it.

I will definitely not defend Todd Bertuzzi's actions. I feel the same as all people: It was a lack of respect for another player and has no place in sports. I can also tell you that in some 1,000 games as a player, I have only witnessed one incident that was viewed on ESPN's "Greatest Hits," and believe me, it was hard to swallow. In some 80 years of NHL games, less than 10 such incidents have occurred in a very rough sport. Yes, it is 10 too many, and every foul has tarnished the game.

For the league to get a comparable TV deal in the next bargaining agreement, these types of infractions must be eliminated or dealt with in the harshest of manners. Bertuzzi will suffer the ultimate pain of missing the rest of the season but also the reminder of his actions for at least the rest of his career. Playing against him is no fun, but he is not a goon and does not have that reputation. But now he will be labeled as a menace by every media person on the continent.

My real issue with your column was the people you talked to about the incident. I'm very disappointed in the response by USA Hockey's spokesman. His assessment of what happened and how it will relate to young players is blown way out of scale. Will you see a youngster chasing down an opponent and hitting him? Not a chance. And if you do, how have the parents or youth hockey organizations failed to help players understand the severity of these actions?

Of course we are role models. But when kids see Britney Spears smoking or partying, do they automatically believe that is the right thing to do?

I respect Mike Eruzione as much as all American-born kids, and I still believe that (1980 Olympic hockey) game may be the greatest sports moment in history. But his reference to international hockey just doesn't apply.

I played in the Olympics and in many world championships. I think I may have the most international games for a U.S.-born player. I know about these types of tournaments. They only last about two weeks, with no more than 10 games. It is intense, and every game means something as does almost every play and penalty. Also, the majority of the players are European and play in far less physical leagues with far less physical players. There are fights, but they are few and far between.

The physical style of play does not work well on Olympic-size ice because finishing a check takes you out of the play too often. Any fight results in a game suspension, and most players don't risk the chance of missing one game because of the short length of the tournament. Maybe this would deter NHL players from fighting as much if they instituted a rule like this but with more games added.

People often overlook retribution that takes place in other sports. In baseball, there are far more bench-clearing brawls than in the past. How do these start? Beanballs or "brush-back" pitches. When I hear that a pitcher says he lost control of a pitch, I find that hard to believe when he can hit a spot late in the game at any time. When he throws at a player, the next inning the opposing pitcher throws at one of their guys. This is the code in baseball.

How often do you see quarterbacks being drilled into the ground by 300-pound linemen? Ask them if they let up on a quarterback or are they trying to knock them out of the game.

In a culture where WWE is more popular than the skill presented on a hockey rink, I agree sport as theater, like wrestling, may show better. It is sad to me that failure and misfortune, deserving or not, lead the stories in most media outlets. I'm embarrassed that this is what sells in the culture I live in. This is why Miracle is received so well by athletes, because it is a story of accomplishment, not failure.

Bertuzzi is sorry. I believe him. He is paying a major price for a major infraction. We all pray for a quick recovery for Steve Moore. Will something like this ever happen again in hockey? The chances are that it will, because the game is so fast and the players are so strong, things will happen, tempers will flare.

Of course I am biased, and I think all you have to do is watch a game live to understand the excitement of hockey. In the future I hope you can talk to players, and I am confident you will get a different perspective. Let's hope it doesn't take another for a response like mine. I'd rather read about some of the more enlightening stories you have reported on in the past.

- Eric Weinrich, St. Louis Blues

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