One of the most attractive aspects of hockey, to me, was the deep rooted sense of tradition and respect that permeated through the game.

The game is quirky. There’s a sort of debonair attitude taken by its staunch supporters. A sort of, “this is the way it’s always been, and it’s going to stay that way” kind of attitude.

Most people don’t have the ability to just casually follow the game. It sucks you in. You have to be built for it.

You have to understand that deep rooted history of respect and toughness.

Every single kid that’s thinking about playing the game of hockey professionally, every single kid that feels the same way we do about this game, they all need to take a seat at their computer and read the story of Max Pacioretty.

In an exclusive interview with TSN’s Bob McKenzie, Pacioretty disclosed his disdain for the NHL’s decision to let Zdeno Chara off the hook for the devastating hit that may have put the 22 year old forwards career in complete jeopardy.

Which leads us to the main point of this entire article. What is wrong with the National Hockey League?

I honestly, in all my years of watching hockey, cannot remember a year with so many reckless hits, blatant acts of thuggery, and careers put in jeopardy.

We live in a world where publicity for our sport is mainly comprised of “who tried to decapitate who” articles from major sports outlets that could care less about superstars like Sidney Crosby or Alex Ovechkin.

That respect that I referenced in the beginning of this piece appears to be nothing more than an afterthought.

But the players haven’t changed their ways. In fact, one could argue it’s gotten worse. But why should we be surprised? We’re living in an era where taunting an opposing player with an obscene gesture can get you a few games in the press box, but guiding a man’s head into the stanchion between the benches and cracking his C4 vertebrae is just another day at the office.

And now, 22 year old Max Pacioretty might never take the ice again in a professional setting.

The NHL has his injury on their hands.

Trevor Gillies, the NHL hack that we all know and love to hate, received only a 9 game suspension for maliciously boarding Eric Tangradi and taunting him from the entrance to the locker-room while he lay concussed on the ice.

The very next game he played, he took 2 shifts before he repeated that act on another player.

The result was a 10 game suspension.

One single game more than the previous sentence.

With discipline like this, can we be surprised the NHL has taken the route it has?

It’s not just bloggers and fans that are upset. It’s legends and now, corporate sponsors, that are threatening to withdraw their support.

Mario Lemieux spoke out against the organized violence put forth by the Islanders and got chastized.

But now, maybe the league will listen. Air Canada, one of the NHL’s largest corporate backers and cash cows, has threatened to withdraw its support from the NHL if the league doesn’t take immediate and serious action against headshots.

Can you blame them?

With guys like Trevor Gillies getting off the hook easy, I’d be embarrassed too.

Whatever the case may be, this trend has become disturbing and unacceptable.

If meatheads like Colin Campbell allow their fellow meatheads like Trevor Gillies to parade around the ice and hurt everyone they can get their hands on, we’re going to have more Max Pacioretty’s on our hands.

Yes, the game is inherently violent. Yes, players take a risk when they lace the skates up. But what we’ve seen this year extends beyond good natured hitting. It’s malicious, and even in cases like the New York Islanders, it can be considered criminal.

Pacioretty went on record with McKenzie as saying his frustration didn’t have anything to do with simply wanting Chara to pay a specific price for selfish reasons, but to teach a lesson.

“I’m mad because if other players see a hit like that and think it’s okay, they won’t be suspended, then other players will get hurt like I got hurt.”

The league needs superstars and exciting, youthful players to get itself back into a relevant status, a household name. We can’t get to that point if we’re going to put Sidney Crosby on the shelf because of back to back shots to the head.

What Max Pacioretty doesn’t realize is, we’re already past that point. It’s happening, right in front of our very eyes.

And it might be too late for Gary Bettman or anyone else to stop it.

The culture in the National Hockey League is changing, and the big wigs only have themselves to blame.