Dear National Hockey League,
I hope this letter finds you well. I hear your bottom line is healthier than ever and should stay that way, at least as long as the Canadian dollar is competitive. (Of course, Canadian teams don't even need to win for that...ha ha!) You're talking about getting tougher on debilitating head injuries, and maybe someday you'll treat them with the kind of automatic penalties you call when a high stick makes contact with a player's head. This is all good stuff.
So, anyway, I thought I'd drop you a line because my Habs are about to start their 57-thousandth playoff series against the Boston Bruins. The funny thing, NHL, is teams seem to acquire reputations over the years, and then they seem to stick to them, no matter who's playing or who's in management. The Bruins have always been known as a tough, relentless, hard-working team. The Canadiens have always been fast, skilled, exciting and passionate. Even in years when those things haven't really been true, they're the images we call to mind when we think of those teams, built on decades of rivalry and respect. Those are the identities teams earn and sustain even in lean years because of the proof of history.
Now, however, the Bruins are in danger of straying from their (mostly) classy history and acting as though thuggery and bullying are what they're about. So what I'm asking is that you step in when it's needed and remind the Bruins there are actually rules in the game and every team, including the one from Boston, is answerable to them. So, for example, when Alexei Emelin or P.K.Subban lays a classic hip check on a player in black and yellow, if you could kindly inform both the checked player and the on-ice officials that those are legal and, actually, very solid defensive plays, that would be great. And, when someone like Zdeno Chara goes all ape-like on the guy making the legal hit, it would be great if he's punished properly. Every time.
Also, if a guy like Milan Lucic chooses to spear an opponent in the 'nads, which he's done quite obviously twice in the last month, it would be much appreciated if you could censure him accordingly. Failing that, giving Emelin or his chosen proxy a shot at the Lucic family jewels with a similar free pass would be acceptable. You probably can't do much about a guy who not only spears someone in the groin, but then after the game calls him a chicken because he won't endanger his surgically-repaired face to fight in defence of his stick-endangered virtue. Calling the penalty would help, though.
As for the diving of which Bruins coaches and players will undoubtedly be loudly accusing the Canadiens, I must be totally honest with you. There is diving in Habs/Bruins games. We've seen it time and time and time again. Don't let your officials be fooled into calling cheap penalties when these blatant dives happen. We all want a fair, clean series.
So, in the interest of being completely up front, the Habs aren't guiltless either. They have been accused in the past of faking a life-threatening injury after a good, solid hockey play. Zdeno Chara, in that case, didn't know the stanchion was there, and lots of people believed him. And, Montreal fans made a terrible fuss about poor Andrew Ference's glove malfunction. He said later he really did mean to flip off Habs fans, but that was probably just to save them from embarrassment of their overreaction. Also, in just the last couple of weeks, the Canadiens have been guilty of playing in games officiated by Francophone referees. To top it all off, the Habs are far from blameless in the many, many times they have beaten the Bruins in important series in the past. We won't even talk about too many men on the ice. As you can see, there's lots of blame to go around when games degenerate into less-than-stellar displays of pure hockey skill.
In conclusion, NHL, all of us want to see the best team win in this series without any help from you or your officials. Let's allow the play on the ice speak for itself, and if it happens to throw out some figurative dirty language, we'd like you to wash out the offending mouths with soap.
Thanks in advance for your consideration,