Eagleson: Print it again.
SI: Hockey has been embarrassed by controversy and court actions over on-ice violence. The NHL has taken steps to cut down the violence. Can't more be done?
Ziegler. Hockey has gotten a bum rap on this. It's a violent sport, there's no denying it. You can't put men skating 20 mph, where part of their purpose is to run into one another, and you can't fire a hard rubber puck at more than 100 mph, and say there isn't violence. But people get confused. There's some unfortunate use of sticks in hockey and if that's your definition of violence, then, yes, that's out. That's bad violence.
SI: But what about the fighting? Doesn't that turn fans off?
Eagleson: No, a lot of them like that aspect of it—I don't know why. But basically, because of rule changes [game misconducts to the third player entering a fight, heavy fines for players leaving their benches to join an altercation, etc.] I think that violence has already become less of an issue.
SI: Divisional realignment, overtime, fighting—at least it's possible to kick these subjects around. But everybody seems stumped when it comes to restoring the NHL's competitive balance, which has been destroyed, above all, by Sam Pollock and company up in Montreal. Wouldn't it help the NHL if there were some suspense about who was going to win the Stanley Cup for the next decade?
Eagleson: Some of the players came up with a cure. Just make Sam an itinerant general manager working one year for each team. Within 18 years you'd have them all balanced. Of course, who'd want to take the 18th spot?
SI: In a feeble effort to spread the talent around, the new players' contract provides for an internal "waiver draft" by which have-not clubs can claim marginal players from haves like Montreal and Boston. The number of players the strong clubs can protect will drop over five years from 23 to 19, excluding first-year players. But realistically, isn't that going to move all of about eight players?
Eagleson: That's probably 80 less than we should move but it's eight more than we moved before. We would have liked a protected list of 15. Again, it's easy for us to say.
Ziegler. If you'd told me 18 months ago we'd achieve even this much, I'd have said. "What've you been smoking?"