WASHINGTON, DC – APRIL 27: Braden Holtby #70 of the Washington Capitals reacts after allowing a goal Pittsburgh Penguins in the third period in Game One of the Eastern Conference Second Round during the 2017 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs at Verizon Center on April 27, 2017 in Washington, DC. The Pittsburgh Penguins won, 3-2. (Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images)

The hockey mailbag is here and there’s no rookie tournament mentality here. It’s a passionate discussion about the NHL changing a rule. It’s the garbage ownership in Calgary trying to bilk fans out of money for a new arena. It’s the exhausting year-round nature of the NHL.

And, of course, it’s the trash person that is Captain America, best known for covering up a double homicide. Mailbag!

1. The Cider House Rules

Yesterday, ESPN’s Emily Kaplan posted a story (or is it an oral history of an interview if it’s all quotes?) that had a bunch of NHL players saying what rule they’d change if they were commissioner. Outside of Boston’s Tuukka Rask and Nashville’s Roman Josi wanting the red line back to slow the game, all the suggestions were really good. Tanner Pearson wanting to change escrow really doesn’t do anything for the game, but he wants more money and I can respect that. If someone asked me how I’d change sports writing, my first answer would also be, “I’d like more money.”

I’ve written so many rule change things over the years that it’s hard to pick one, but I’ll side with Washington’s Braden Holtby and Florida’s Jonathan Huberdeau — referees should call the game in the playoffs with the same consistency they do in the regular season. A penalty is a penalty, whether it’s the second period of Game 36 or overtime of Game 7 of the conference finals. It’s been a thing for decades, so we are all just resigned to referees cowardly swallowing their whistles for two months. We can muster outrage for a round, two tops, before we all shrug and root against Blackhawks.

“Let the boys play” is some loser mentality bullshit people throw out when a shitty player has to illegally impede a better player without any punishment from officials. We’ve somehow developed a culture where if teams roll through a regular season averaging six power plays per game and click at 25 percent, it’s frowned upon if that team wins with a lights-out power play in the playoffs.

The sport’s “toughness over skill” mentality is bananas when you consider it allows employment to crap-ass fighters who can barely skate. It’s even crazier when there’s somehow a stigma around a team like the Capitals (hey, this is probably why Holtby said this) are drawing seven penalties in a game, but only three get called because playoffs or whatever. “Nah, I don’t want to watch Nick Backstrom draw three defenders to him so he can tee up Alex Ovechkin for a bomb — I need more Nick Bonino waterskiing through the neutral zone on the hip of Matt Niskanen!”

That shit wouldn’t fly anywhere else. “Yeah, the Saints average 450 yards passing per game in the regular season, but I want to see Adrian Peterson ram the ball ahead two yards at a time because this is the playoffs! Let the cornerbacks mug the wide receivers on every play! Passing is soft! Toughen up! Gotta fight through it! It’s playoff football!”

Also: Jack Eichel wanting to get rid of offside is great. That’s the answer to getting through the neutral zone easier. Park two guys in the offensive zone and problem solved. If you think it’s easy to clog the neutral zone now, go back and watch a 1995 Devils game and tell me how you think shrinking the middle of the ice will help.

2. Money Monster

This is trampled ground, but if a billionaire is asking you for money to build something for them, fuck them. If anything, Flames ownership should be building a house for any fan who has supported the team since 1996. There are countless examples of the public getting screwed after fronting money for stadiums and arenas. It’s crazy that it’s still a thing.

Billionaires asking poor people for money reminds of the SB Nation situation with its team sites that feature writers who either aren’t paid or barely get paid. The argument is it’s “recreational” when really it’s a job, but the reason why some people work for team sites for little money is because they love that team or sport so much that they don’t mind. That’s a lot of sports jobs — they prey on people who really love something and can be convinced they don’t need to make a livable or fair wage for a full-time job because it’s something they love. You can find the writers making $600 a month for 100 hours of work that will argue that’s a good model. Shit, even Connor McDavid took $1 million less per season partly because of this idea.

Billionaire owners know fans love the team so much that they’ll pony up money to keep it around, so why not shake all the cash they can out of them? “Hey, they love the Flames and it’s a recreational hobby, so what’s wrong with that?” What’s wrong is you have a shit ton of money and this model takes advantage of people who most times don’t know they’re being taken advantage of, that’s why. It sets an example for other teams to do the same thing to other people. It’s really not difficult to understand.

3. Sleepless in Seattle

Wouldn’t Seattle Flames work really well when the team relocates? You can make your logo a stoned hippie lighting up a bowl. How great would it be to flip on a Seattle game and see ads for weed dispensaries on the boards? Or having them sponsor segments of the broadcasts?

“Tonight’s hit of the game is brought to you by Marijuana Joe’s — Marijuana Joe knows how to deliver a hit!”

“Tonight’s bowl upgrade is located in section 254, row 18, seat 5! Congratulations on moving from the upper bowl to the lower bowl for the rest of the game. The bowl upgrade is brought to you by Marijuana Joe’s!”

There is no place in Seattle called Marijuana Joe’s, but there should be.

Of course, the league would ban any weed advertising because the NHL sucks. It’s still fun to dream.

4. Just Friends

Sean Penn and Brad Pitt were pretty terrible. I don’t blame Friends for going after Pitt, though. He was maybe the biggest star in the world and a cast member was engaging in sexual relations with him, so you have to try. I understand it. A friend of a friend knows Margot Robbie, so you better believe I harassed the shit out of him for a month to get me an introduction to get her on a podcast.

Here’s the one I think is the worst because it lasted so many episodes: Bruce Willis. Jesus, he was bad. It’s weird, because he’s generally funny, but the role was more forced than usual on a show that forced everything. They’re not quite as bad as Emily episodes but episodes with the Moonlighting guy are tough to watch.

5. Leap Year

The NHL gives you a break in August. But it sure does slam rookie tournaments down your throat in early September, huh? No team has a roster full of good prospects, so take the 10 best ones you have and play 3-on-3 tournaments. Who cares? Playing 5-on-5 against a bunch of dudes who aren’t ever going to be good in the NHL isn’t doing anything for development. Entertain the fans. Let them show their skill.

August is the month where GMs, coaches, players, executives and team employees screw off to their summer homes (or cottages) for a few weeks with no worries about big signings or trades. The only time you have to do any actual work in August is if a neo-Nazi hate group is appropriating your team’s logo at a march. I still can’t imagine that phone call from the first person to notice Nazis running around with a Red Wings logo on a shield.

(Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

“Mister… Mister Holland?”

“Who is this? Pavel? Are you coming back?”

“No, it’s Kevin… I work in your social media department.”

“Social what now?”

“It’s not important, but this is the number to call in case of emergency so I’m calling it.”

“Oh, wow, OK. What’s wrong, Kevin?”

“So, yeah, are you familiar with the alt-right movement?”

“You mean when we’d play Datsyuk and Zetterberg on a line together and we’d have one on the right side, which is the alternative to them playing center?”



“Mr. Holland, I’m gonna call someone else. Sorry to have bothered you.”

I just want to know how many people had to read/write that Red Wings statement condemning the use of the logo before it went out. And how many people were on the text/email chain explaining what was happening. Someone had to be hung over on that chain. Was it all lawyers? You know the scene in Charlie Wilson’s War when Tom Hanks is going over his statement with his three secretaries and there’s mild panic in the room? I’m picturing that only with way more freaking out. Please someone write that story. Thanks.

6. Boogie Nights

Boogie Nights is actually genius, because Paul Thomas Anderson needed the lead actor in the movie to be a bad actor, but I imagine it’s hard for a good actor to convincingly play a bad actor. Could you imagine Daniel Day-Lewis meeting with him for the role?

“Danny, I need you for the role of a lifetime. It’s going to be a challenge like you’ve never faced before. You’d have to play 15 years younger than you are now.”

“I can do that.”

“You’d have to wear a giant prosthetic penis.”

“No problem. Don’t even need the prosthetic.”

“And we need you to be the worst actor in the history of cinema.”

“Oh, that’s just not possible for me, sorry.”

So you get Mark Wahlberg, who probably didn’t have to stretch too much to play a bad actor. There probably wasn’t much instruction from behind the camera. “Can you deliver your lines a little more wooden because… no, actually, I just rewatched, it’s perfect.” Although John C. Reilly is a good actor who played a bad actor very well in the movie, so maybe it’s do-able. I don’t know. Whatever.

But the best movie ever is My Cousin Vinny.

7. American Assassin

I don’t know enough about Captain America as a Nazi to expound on it, nor do I care enough to look it up to see what it’s about. But even if that’s not a thing, him covering up the murders of Tony Stark’s parents because he’s friends with the brainwashed dipshit that did it is still a crime that should result in his death. I’m still confused as to how anyone watched Civil War and was like, “Yeah, this guy did dozens of murders, including the murders of a friend’s parents, and I’m going to cover them up because we both tried to pick up girls in Brooklyn 80 years ago.”

Captain America sucks anyway, but that was too much. I hope the next Avengers movie is just Tony torturing Steve for two hours.

“Tony… please… no.”

“Sorry, Cap, but I’m brainwashed. [sarcastically dances around while holding a blowtorch] Look at me! I’m brainwashed! I don’t know what I’m doing! Someone said a bunch of words and now I’m not responsible for my actions! You understand, I know, because this was why you never told me about my parents being murdered by ol’ Bucky one-arm.

“Yeah, you’re right. Continue.”

And that’s the whole movie. Two hours. No, three.

Thanks for reading the hockey mailbag.