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Scotty Bowman doesn’t much care for how the game is played now

Jun 3, 2012, 7:19 PM EDT

Scotty Bowman Getty Images

Scotty Bowman has been in hockey a long time. He’s seen the game change and evolve many times over through his career but he says the way things are being played now don’t sit well with him.

Jim Matheson hears from Bowman about how the strategy teams use that sees players all falling back to defend and block shots is one that doesn’t help the game look good.

“It’s three against five to score. The two defencemen (on the attacking team) don’t come in because they’re worried about getting caught. You get so many outnumbered situations down low. Look at how close the defending wingers are to their net and how far away they are from the other net. It’s a good ploy defensively, but it’s why there is not as much offence.”

That makes plenty of sense, even to fans that don’t know the game well. Then Bowman draws it up a bit clearer.

“When I was coaching in Montreal, Lafleur and Shutt wouldn’t even know what the ice was like below the top of the circle. Look at Wayne Gretzky; he was always out between the blue-lines. Brett Hull? Maybe it’s wise to put four guys down low and one other guy way high,” said Bowman.

If you’ll recall, Bowman used a defensive system called the “left wing lock” to help the Red Wings shut down opponents. Instead of stopping shots in the zone, it kept teams from gaining the zone easily and turning it over in the neutral zone. A lot of people thought that was a scourge once, too.

  1. tackledummy1505 - Jun 3, 2012 at 8:21 PM

    I agree with Bowman with this 100%. Defense wins games, but when you play strictly a defensive game and you hope the other team turns over the puck to get your chances makes for a boring game. This was a huge problem in the late 90’s to early 2000’s. That’s why the NHL took out 2 line passing and instrumented interference and holding. Yet now with the Devils being in the Stanley Cup, I see that holding is rarely called away from the puck and interference is still being implemented and not called away from the puck. This is why the NHL isn’t getting the ratings for the Stanley Cup, while the Flyers/Penguins series in the 1st round has the same ratings or better.

    Time for the NHL to wake up and enforce the rules it has in place. Baseball made their game more exciting by placing a lighter ball for players to hit further, making the baseball parks more exciting, and creating a more exciting game.

    Football did it by putting rules in place for a more offensive game as well as allowing more player shifts. All these big time sports made the necessary changes to their game to keep it exciting, while hockey allows for their game to be less exciting and slower. So keep on it Mr. Bowman and maybe someone like you can help the game become better, than playing Devil hockey.

  2. mclovinhockey - Jun 3, 2012 at 8:53 PM

    Agreed flyers pens was more exciting and fun to watch then the rest of the playoffs and all of last years as well.

  3. ray2013 - Jun 4, 2012 at 3:16 AM

    Anyone remember Brad Marsh? These playoffs reminds me of Brad Marsh hockey. Marsh played over 1,000 games in the NHL. He scored 23 goals in those games, a record for lowest ever (with 1,000 games played). He was a brutal skater; his skating style was described as “running on skates”. He was nicknamed “the Octopus” because he was a master at the clutch and grab. Don’t get me wrong; I was a fan of his, because it seemed obvious at the time he had the least skill and the most heart of any 1,000 game player of his day.

    A single player, playing that way, can become extremely popular with the fans. But a whole team or set of teams playing Brad Marsh hockey (nearly 100% defensive focus, block shots, try to get away with as many rule infractions as possible) isn’t appealing. A single dose of Brad Marsh was great. 20 Brad Marshes against 20 Brad Marshes is not my cup of tea. I watched one period of this final. Not watching any more. And I’ve watched the last 15 finals.

    • ray2013 - Jun 4, 2012 at 3:17 AM

      And while Doughty’s goal on replay was pretty good, I’m not getting sucked back in. Waiting for the Draft.

  4. billsin20xx - Jun 4, 2012 at 8:52 AM

    I think the players are wearing way too much equipment now which is allowing them to block shots (and hit others) without worrying about injuries. In the LaFluer days you couldn’t physically do what the players are now doing without being hurt.
    This weeks SI has a good article on the Kings, but the pictures of the original Kings vs. the current ones are amazing as to how much ‘wider’ everyone is do to the oversized equipment everyone is wearing.

  5. quizguy66 - Jun 4, 2012 at 11:46 AM

    Of course teams are play 3-on-5 now. That’s why the 2-line pass was instituted back in the 40s, but nobody ever gets that.

    I remember a phone interview on WFAN back a number of years ago (before the red-line was eliminated) with the guy who assisted on Bryan Hextall’s Cup-winning goal back in 1940 – when asked about eliminating the 2-line pass he mentioned it was instituted to bring the defensemen forward and get them involved in the offense.

    -QG

  6. maalea - Jun 4, 2012 at 1:47 PM

    I respect the hell out of Bowman and he’s forgotten more about hockey than I’ll ever know but can you say hypocrite.

    The left wing lock and other trapping systems hurt the game more than anything in the last 30 years
    but I guess when you are a threat to win the Cup every year, you can’t be concerned with little details like what’s good for the game.

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