Well, the NHL's version of the All-Star week-end is over and people are finally coming to realize that what they THOUGHT was hockey all year long... the last few decades... heck, all their lives... was nothing but sheer senseless brutality on ice!

The All-Star skills competitions, 3-on-3 rookie play and the actual All-Star game - now THAT was hockey! The object of the game is to match SKILL and APTITUDE in order to insert a rubber puck into the opposing net - THAT is the object of the game!

The spectacle of the game is to see as many goals as can be inserted get to be shot past the defense and goaltending of the other team - in a heated and close competition devoid of cheap hits, mindless violence and any dirty tricks usually employed by lesser talented competitors anyhow!

Alas, game "purists" -such as TSN's Pierre McGuire- believe that NOT to be real hockey at all. Purists such as he want a "real hockey game" with tons of bodychecks and much less goal-scoring involved - and that is definitely against the basic definition of the damn game! Maybe these purists, who know the game better than anybody else, truly don't know squat after all? Hey - if it works for Bible exegets, why not also for something as trivial as a "hockey (hokey?) expert" - eh?

Another type of purist and expert is the one who holds the old NHL status quo almost sacrosanct and cries "blasphemy" at some of the new rules in place... One such purist is The Hockey News' own Edward Fraser. Can I call him Eddie?

Eddie Fraser is no Eddie Shore, that is for sure! Why in blue blazes is he such a traditionalist then - eh?

You don't find him lamenting the fact that the newest sheer torture in the modern (and P.C.) NHL is to have played well enough (and have been lucky enough also) to keep it close and then wind up with nothing at all still - if you lose by one goal in REGULATION. INSTEAD... he decries the very existence of what he calls "the loser point" in the standings. A point obtained each time you make it to O.T. even if you wind up losing once there - of course.

Fortunately, the NHL powers-that-be made it so that, if you can keep the pace into overtime, you will be rewarded at least for the effort (and show of good fortune) with AT LEAST one point in the standings. The rules make it so that, now, in the "new NHL" as it is, playing for the "extra point" is then what it is truly ALL about. I find it to actually be a WONDERFUL concept - and much better than that expression some neanderthal on a high came up with when his brain was overloaded with euphoria and he exclaimed "winning isn't everything; it's the only thing." HA. If you're a coach and your job is on the line, maybe! In any other instances, the athletic performance is what matters. PARTICIPATION is the essential thing, as the venerable Pierre de Coubertin used to say (I paraphrase) and overemphasizing upon winning is not only unhealthy - it is obtuse!

The NHL hasn't done ENOUGH actually! They should reward teams with points for having kept it close for three periods! Why should only overtime losers get a point in the standings? Regulation time losers deserve (and NEED) points too! If the score is 3-2 after 60 minutes of play, give the loser a point for keeping it so close, will you?!? Heck - there should be points awarded PER PERIOD! That way, most coaches' jobs would be half-done already; their team would KNOW they have to focus on each play, each shift, each minute, each period and NOT LOOK TOO FAR AHEAD -and certainly not past any opponent!

Evidently, I am diametrically opposed to Eddie Fraser's point of view too - and vote NAY to any return to the "good ol' days" as he defines them - ever! As for Pierre McGuire's dream of a "real hockey game" that caters to the mercenary side of hockey players (with incentives such as cold hard cash for the players on the winning team - or home ice advantage "throughout the playoffs" as he put it on January 28th, the day after the All-Star game, on TSN. Excuse me, Pierre, but maybe you had a Molson Ex too many at the All-Star post-game party yesterday... You must have meant home ice advantage IN THE STANLEY CUP FINALS - right?) Well, Pierre, when the All-Star game is played in Montreal next year - I hope none of your dream has come true! ;)

My point of contention today is the "loser point" though - so, in closing...

It's enough that worthy teams will be left with NOTHING AT ALL at the end of double or triple overtime losses in the PLAYOFFS. No need to taste that sour bitterness in the regular season as well.

On top of that, Eddie made a booboo! In his standings, he has these numbers: 7 Islanders 24 19 6 54 8 Boston 24 19 5 53

The CORRECT numbers have Boston sitting in seventh place instead - with 25 wins, 55 points. The 25th came against the Islanders, ironically - the team he has in front of the B's! And the final score in that one was 4-1. No loser points allowed there.

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