For a moment can we forget about the All-Star Game, John Scott’s pregnant wife and the NHL’s complete lack of a sense of humor?
Amid all the conspiracy talk surrounding a distinctly weird-looking trade between the Canadiens, Coyotes and Predators, one element has been conspicuously absent: Namely, that the NHL might have tampered with the rosters of individual member teams.
The word “integrity” always sounds ridiculous when mentioned in conjunction with the All-Star Game, but in this case it is very much in play. Integrity, as in the one thing that keeps competitive sports from becoming professional wrestling. Nobody is suggesting that the NHL directly fixed games, but no less an authority than Bob McKenzie said this on a radio spot (as transcribed by Chris Nichols):
“I think he feels like there’s no question in his mind – and really, it strains the level of credulity to think otherwise – his inclusion in this trade, in my mind, was absolutely orchestrated to solve the All-Star issue for the league.”
This quote was widely circulated and then, inexplicably, widely ignored except as it relates to Scott and the All-Star Game. Maybe McKenzie was just spouting off, but that’s not really his style. He’s arguably the most trusted journalist covering the NHL, and he just said he believes the league meddled in the personnel decisions of its member teams for the absolutely pettiest of reasons.
Plenty has been said, written, tweeted and generally shouted at the clouds about Scott’s plight, and rightly so, but if the NHL orchestrated any part of this then that’s outright corruption of the on-ice product. It’s as bad as if the league fixed the draft lottery or instructed its referees to favor certain teams over others. Yes, this was a relatively minor trade, but once the NHL demonstrates a willingness to sacrifice competitive fairness at any level, its credibility is shot at all levels.
McKenzie might have been wrong, and I certainly hope that’s the case, but his comment makes a chilling amount of sense. I would love to hear more from him on this issue – really, I’d love to hear more from any of the legion of journalists who cover the NHL on this issue – but it seems they either didn’t notice, don’t care, or actively want to protect the league. None of those options are at all acceptable.