Cam Cole: It's time to decipher hockey's 'code'

 

 
 
 
 
VANCOUVER, BC - OCTOBER 16:  Daniel Sedin #22 of the Vancouver Canucks looks on from the bench during their NHL game against the St. Louis Blues at Rogers Arena October 16, 2015 in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada.
 

VANCOUVER, BC - OCTOBER 16: Daniel Sedin #22 of the Vancouver Canucks looks on from the bench during their NHL game against the St. Louis Blues at Rogers Arena October 16, 2015 in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada.

Photograph by: Jeff Vinnick, Vancouver Sun

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When the tall foreheads of hockey next convene to discuss matters of the utmost importance, they really ought to put their best people (not the ones who redesigned NHL.com, thanks) on formalizing The Code.

Get it in writing, with a glossy cover and a foreword by Wayne Gretzky or Brian Burke or Don Cherry.

It would be an instant best-seller among fans and media alike, because it would answer so many questions not covered in the rule book about who’s allowed to do what to whom.

This week, for example, Ottawa Senators owner Eugene Melnyk unloaded on his hockey club, saying everybody better keep their head up because no one’s job is safe.

This followed by a day or two Vancouver Canucks’ Daniel Sedin calling out certain unnamed teammates for lacking sufficient effort as the club crawls toward the end of a terrible season.

Their teams are equally hopeless, but Melnyk was cast as an eccentric buttinsky for overstepping GM Bryan Murray, particularly in his thinly-veiled criticism of coach Dave Cameron, while Sedin was nearly unanimously lauded for his inspiring leadership.

It’s all very confusing.

It would be so helpful if The Code explained why it’s permissible for a respected forward like Daniel Sedin to spout off about teammates, but when a much muted version of the same thing came from a respected goaltender, Roberto Luongo, a few years back, he was “throwing his teammates under the bus.” Bad goalie. Bad.

Is this because goaltenders don’t forecheck, backcheck or hit anybody? Are they viewed by teammates the way kickers and punters are by football players, as unqualified to opine on effort?

Is there a Good Citizen sub-clause that exempts a Sedin from criticism, even as the Canucks’ offence and power play, of which they are major parts, go deeply in the tank? The Code must provide details on immunity.

(Incidentally, Daniel’s peptalk was so effective, the Canucks were shut out for the third game in a row Tuesday night. The second shutout was after Vancouver coach Willie Desjardins had called out the players in similar fashion, also without effect. Only Desjardins was mocked.)

Also, if The Code would lay out the tenets of proper behaviour for owners, that would be good, too.

Was Melnyk out of line cutting up (without naming him) the Senators’ coach for playing rookie Matt O’Connor in goal for the home opener — imagine that grudge festering for five-plus months? — or is the guy paying the bills the one person in a franchise who is above even the unwritten rules of free speech?

In general, are owners who dive into hockey matters to be praised for championing the people’s cause, or does The Code recommend that they be strong, silent types who leave the accountability to the GM and coach and players, and stick to counting their money, hiking ticket prices, browbeating politicians and making shady business deals?

Are there exceptions in cases of extremely quotable statements that provide miles of fodder for sports columns — one might call this a Harold Ballard clause? Melnyk’s comments would qualify.

The unwritten rules governing proper conduct vis-a-vis franchise hierarchy are also vague and need to be clarified.

If the president isn’t technically the general manager but is a better quote — we’re thinking Burke here, and Kevin Lowe and Brendan Shanahan and Trevor Linden — is he allowed, even compelled, to speak on his team’s performance? Or must he, like the owner, curb his enthusiasm and remain presidential except when there’s an issue too lofty for the GM to tackle, or a photo op?

This would have been handy to know in the recent case of the Chicago White Sox flap (though baseball has its own code), in which team president Kenny Williams was vilified by some players for telling the now departed Adam LaRoche that having his 14-year-old son permanently ensconced in the clubhouse, with his own locker yet, was no longer permitted.

But the baseball code, sometimes known as the Goose Gossage Bible — with its prescriptions of bat-flipping and staring too long at a pitcher, and which requires a batter to accept a throw at his head as the price of his (or a teammate’s) having hit a home run at some previous meeting — may be even more complicated than hockey’s.

No, we’ll settle for the demystification of our national winter sport.

We already get the embellishment and slew-footing parts, and the understanding that a hard body check, even if clean, must be answered by a challenge to fight.

It’s the other chapters we need explained: A (Acting) to M (Marchand) in Volume I, N (Neil) to Z (Zebras) in Volume II. We’d appreciate it. A little light reading for us Canadians on those nights in April, May and June, after NHL hockey has moved south for the duration.

ccole@postmedia.com

Twitter.com/rcamcole

 
 
 
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VANCOUVER, BC - OCTOBER 16:  Daniel Sedin #22 of the Vancouver Canucks looks on from the bench during their NHL game against the St. Louis Blues at Rogers Arena October 16, 2015 in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada.
 

VANCOUVER, BC - OCTOBER 16: Daniel Sedin #22 of the Vancouver Canucks looks on from the bench during their NHL game against the St. Louis Blues at Rogers Arena October 16, 2015 in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada.

Photograph by: Jeff Vinnick, Vancouver Sun

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
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