Ringing the Post is a new hockey feature here at Five for Howling that will run on Mondays. Special thanks to pbcoyotes for coming up with the name.
The 2010 - 2011 NHL season may come to an end this evening in Boston, and, if not, it will Wednesday night in Vancouver. The season has seen the usual assortment of storylines: from Shea Weber getting league wide recognition, to the Finnish Flash appearing to be ageless, to the Washington Capitals winning the Eastern Conference and then flaming out in the postseason for a second straight year, the Canucks with a dominant performance on their way to a President's trophy, Steve Yzerman making the Bolts relevant again, and Mark Recchi still pulling on a sweater and producing on the biggest stage.
Lamentably, this NHL season likely won't be remembered for any of the marvelous things I listed above. Instead, it is likely to be recalled for the negatives from this past eight and a half months. The first things likely to come to mind for most hockey fans will be Matt Cooke's antics and Colin Campbell's e-mails. The NHL has always had a problem with issues involving discipline and player safety. The problem the league now faces is that the tide of public and media sentiment has finally reached critical mass. It is more than casual sports fans or sports media people who don't follow the sport that are complaining.
Until the league makes changes in the sport to actually address how it is perceived by the majority of people in this country, it will likely struggle to gain much more than the minor foothold it has in the sports landscape in the United States. I can live with things if 10 years from now we remember Matt Cooke's 2010- 2011 season more than Teemu Selanne's if that means Cooke's antics and all of the drama around the league inconsistent discipline of players generated new policies in terms of player safety and discipline in the league. If not, then I'll be sad that an opportunity to make real changes was missed.