Cam Cole: Code doesn’t relish hotdog goals
Purists hate Hertl’s highlight moment; Thornton jacked about the four-play
San Jose Sharks’ Tomas Hertl celebrates his third goal of the game against the New York Rangers during the third period of Tuesday’s game in San Jose, Calif. He scored a fourth, a highlight reel goal that prompted an exuberant celebration that hockey purists opined broke the Code.
Photograph by: Marcio Jose Sanchez, AP
VANCOUVER - Giving credit where it’s due, it was just a few moments after Tomas Hertl scored the goal of the season the other night -- his fourth of the game, a masterpiece of precocious daring and skill but, alas, the San Jose Sharks’ eighth goal of a 9-2 victory over the New York Rangers -- that former NHL.com writer Dave Lozo anticipated the gathering storm.
“Man, I was just looking up The Code in the NHL handbook, “ Lozo wrote on his Twitter account, “and someone has to fight Tomas Hertl now. Hey, those are the rules, guys.”
He was being funny. Making fun of the unwritten Code, the mysterious guide to How To Behave in all situations that might arise during a game of hockey.
Nobody knows exactly who invented The Code, or what all is in it. But it’s got to be thicker than War And Peace, and just about as humourless, because the “purists” who claim to understand the whole thing and constantly complain about those who offend against it are a collection of sourpusses unrivalled in all of sport.
In retrospect, Sharks coach Todd McLellan’s great failing in L’Affaire Hertl is that he didn’t inform his 19-year-old rookie about The Code -- translated into Czech, naturally -- in training camp before the kid got himself into all this hot water by leading the league in goals.
You know that there’s a whole section in The Code about what to do when you’ve got three goals in your third National Hockey League game, and your team is beating the Rangers 7-2 and you’ve got a breakaway. The Code makes it quite clear that you are not supposed to score from between your legs, drawing the puck back between your skates and flicking it over the goaltender’s shoulder, bringing the house down, sending the fans home royally entertained, and making every highlight show in the universe.
But if, by chance, you do happen to score that way, The Code says, you are definitely not to act happy about it, or celebrate like a 19-year-old, i.e., in a manner that does not recognize the magnitude of the opponent’s embarrassment.
Because that, as Washington Capitals coach Adam Oates said, is disrespecting the game. And he was glad that McLellan had done the right thing in response to Hertl’s grievous breach by benching him for the rest of the contest.
Only that’s not what happened, McLellan said Thursday, at the morning skate prior to his team’s meeting with the Vancouver Canucks at Rogers Centre.
“A lot of people latched onto that. There was about 6-1/2 minutes left, it was 8-2,” said the coach. “We rolled through three lines. We ended up going on a power play again, and the last thing I was going to do was put Jumbo (Thornton) and (Brent) Burns and Tomas out for the power play.
“So the night dictated that they weren’t going to get any more ice time.”
The Canucks who spoke on the issue were mystified at the controversy.
“What should he have done? Come in and shoot at (goalie Martin Biron’s) pads? I don’t get it,” said captain Henrik Sedin. “If he comes in and does, like, a one-handed Forsberg move ... what would have been acceptable? I’m amazed we’re standing here today talking about it.”
“Honestly, I think it’s pretty sad that a kid scored four goals and you guys are talking about the move he made,” said goalie Roberto Luongo. “What did he do wrong? He made a play, and he scored. If he scored on me, I wouldn’t be pissed if he scored that way. There is no rule against it, so I don’t understand why people would get upset about it.”
Daniel Sedin made the same play on the last day of the 2009-10 regular season, the sixth goal of a 7-3 win over Calgary, helping his brother win the Art Ross Trophy. It was brilliant, and nobody on the Flames beat him up for it.
“Darryl Sittler scored six goals one night, 10 points. I don’t know what the score was, but I don’t remember anybody beating him up for it,” said McLellan.
“I heard some rumblings (after Danny’s goal), but I didn’t care, I don’t think Danny cared, I don’t think anyone cared,” Henrik said. “It’s a nice move, and in any other sport, if it’s basketball or football or whatever it is, if you do something nice and it gets on the highlights, everyone’s raving about it, but in hockey you can’t do it. The best play is maybe to shoot it off someone’s back and it goes in -- that way no one’s talking about it.”
Alex Edler took a pretty decent run at the kid Thursday, late in the second period, separating Hertl from his helmet, but it was nothing to do with The Code. It was merely a warm Swedish welcome to the NHL that the league will probably look at.
McLellan just shakes his head at the caterwauling of the critics.
Over to you, Coach ...
“We’ve changed rules, we’ve changed the size of the net, we’ve reduced goaltenders’ pads, we’ve put trapezoids in, taken red lines out, we’ve done just about everything we can to increase scoring,” McLellan said. “And now, a young 19-year-old comes into the league and he scores four goals, can’t speak the language, doesn’t even really understand where he is right now, and we’re going to criticize him for THAT? Not me.
“The one thing he’ll have to learn a little bit is the celebration, but he’s four goals into a game, his emotion’s running high, his mom’s at the game, the celebration was maybe a little over the (top) -- I don’t even know how I tell him that, because he’s not going to understand it.
“But the fact that he scored four, the way he scored the fourth goal ... I’ve seen Pavel Datsyuk do it, I’ve seen the Sedins do it, I’ve watched Rick Nash do it ... it’s a skill that young players work on now. I have a 17-year-old that’s playing junior, and you just have to go watch them, their shootout moves, the stuff they do in practice is different, and some of us from the old school game are going to have to accept that moving forward.
“And I know The Code is talked about. The Code, you never want to run up the score -- we weren’t doing that the other night. We had the fourth line out on the power play.
“But, you know what, the Europeans are the ones that are using these moves. Maybe we have succumbed to The Code in North America. You don’t see a lot of North American kids trying these moves in the game.
“And I know one thing: tonight, when the game is over, both teams better have entertained the fans that came out to watch us, or watch us on TV. It’s as simple as that.”
Joe Thornton agreed, only more colourfully. He gave a ribald description of how he would celebrate if he scored four goals. You can find the comment elsewhere, no doubt. It was pure dressing room humour, but I don’t think he meant to be quoted.
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