The Return of Stuff Happens, week 16: I’m done with the NHL.

When the Oilers are eliminated from the Stanley Cup playoffs — maybe tonight, maybe Wednesday, maybe in the next series — I can officially quit watching hockey.

I  can’t do it right now. That would be like watching 90 minutes of a two-hour movie and turning it off, or reading 275 pages of a 350-page book. Gotta see how this ends, after all. But once the Oilers are done, I’m done with the National Hockey League.

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This is your National Hockey League. 

The great and wonderful game of hockey, Canada’s undisputed greatest gift to the world, is being raped and pillaged by the NHL, the game’s professional guardian.

The NHL had a very bad week, which is to say, it had a typical week. First, Pittsburgh Penguin superstar Sydney Crosby was concussed (again) after being hit in the head. Crosby was savagely slashed by Washington Capitals superstar Alexander Ovechkin (no penalty), before being cross-checked in the head by Ovechkin’s Washington teammate, Matt Niskanen (who was penalized). There are plenty of people who celebrated Crosby’s injury, because Crosby has twice this year avoided penalty for injuring players (he slashed one guy so hard he shattered his finger, and speared another guy in the Netherlands). Then there’s the Edmonton-Anaheim series. The Ducks are running wild (at least as much as a duck can run wild) on the rink; Ryan Getzlaf appears to have been given a limitless number of Get Out of Jail Free cards. Then we had the whole imbroglio over goaltender interference in Wednesday’s Edmonton-Anaheim game, a decision which has turned the whole series around in Anaheim’s favour. Just for good measure, the sequel was played on Friday, and unlike most sequels, this one was even better than the first. Elsewhere, a Pittsburgh Penguin named Nick Bonino took a shameful, soccer-style dive that drew a late game penalty that snuffed out any chance of a Washington comeback. (Don Cherry, whom I have very little use for anymore, called him out.) This is just in one week.

NHL hockey is, to be blunt, lousy, and it’s in large part due to the way the league officiates the game.  Interference is rarely called, no matter how egregious (it’s just “finishing the check”, I guess), but tiniest impediment with the stick is considered hooking. Cross-checking as a penalty has vanished, but a gentle tap on the new breed of hockey stick (as delicate as fine china) is considered slashing. And God forbid if a player accidentally flips the puck into the crowd. I look forward to the day when the Stanley Cup is decided on a delay of game penalty for accidentally flipping the puck into the crowd.

The players are no innocents. Many have made an art out of the dive (or the flop, or ‘going to ground’), an especially odious, unsporting and unmanly form of cheating. Probably 75 per cent of goals are scored on deflections off of slapshots, a tribute to the hand-eye skills of the players, perhaps, but not very exciting.

The league introduced video replay this year in an effort to get calls right, and succeeded only in getting the calls wrong. (In the second goaltender interference fiasco on Friday, CBC commentator Elliotte Friedman spotted the infraction.) Seasoned hockey people say they have no idea what goaltender interference is anymore.

The players are too big, the rink too small, ticket prices ludicrous. The league’s American overlords have decided that the players cannot compete in the next Olympics. And into this mess we have a new team next year … in La$ Vega$! The only people who will attend hockey games in Vegas will be visiting Canadians.

Professional hockey in a train wreck. You folks can have your orange Oiler jerseys (great marketing gimmick), your car (or more often, pick up truck) flags, your willingness to spend any amount of money to support a team of millionaires owned by a billionaire. You’re welcome to it.  I’ve had it. I’m done.

Say what, Sajjan?

The baffling story of Harjit Sajjan dominated the news in Ottawa this week.

Sajjan is the Trudeau government’s Minister of Defence. A Sikh, Sajjan could have been seen as one of those “because it’s 2015” inclusion choices, but Sajjan was an actual soldier, and a good one by all reports (or, as he has often been called, a “badass”). This guy should be a star in the Trudeau cabinet. But instead, he’s bowing his head in shame.

Delivering a speech in India recently, Sajjan referred to himself as the “architect” of Operation Medusa, an operation in Afghanistan that was the first large-scale combat assault in NATO’s history and marked the first major Canadian battle since the Korean War. He was nothing of the sort; a valuable player, yes, but not remotely the architect. And it wasn’t just a slip of the tongue — he had said it at another event. So why did Sajjan embellish (or, to use another term, lie) about his role, when he actually had something to be proud of without embellishment? Nobody knows, even Sajjan, who apologized profusely and repeatedly. When asked point blank why he lied, he had no answer. He just muttered some lines written for him by the communications flacks. The opposition wants his turbaned head, but so far Trudeau has stuck by him, albeit at a distance.

Sajjan will probably survive this fiasco. Whether he should or not is another question. His credibility is in ruins.

This week in Trumpland

Now, a quick recap of the madness of Donald Trump:

• Republicans voted to repeal and replace Obamacare, the American health program. Trouble is, nobody likes it except the Republicans who voted for it. (One representative admitted on TV he hadn’t even read the bill he voted for.)

• Just after his great legislative victory, Trump told the Australian Prime Minister that Australia has a better health care system. Australia has, of course, a taxpayer supported health care system.

• President Trump spoke with the Philippine leader, Rodrigo Duterte, and invited him to the White House. Duterte has allowed and even encouraged death squads in the Philippines, targeting drug lords, leaving thousands dead. Duterte, for his part, said he was too busy.

• Last week, Trump released his first campaign ad – for the 2020 election.

• Trump suggested on Monday that President Andrew Jackson has been “really angry” about the U.S. civil war, which began 16 years after his death. He also questioned “why was there the civil war” in the first place. Apparently, he has never watched The Simpsons. 

And on this side of the border

Justin Trudeau wore Star Wars socks for international Star Wars Day, which is apparently a thing. While I didn’t see a word on this in a Canadian newspaper, the New York Times took notice. 

RIP

I get the items for the RIP section of Stuff Happens through a Wikipedia page Deaths in 2017.  Death is apparently on holidays, but I must take notice of the passing of Quinn O’Hara, 76, a Scottish-born American actress whose sold acting credit appears to be The Ghost in the Invisible Bikini.