In today’s roundup of interesting posts from the NHL blogosphere:  Concern over Jarome Iginla’s back spasms…An idea to break the Doughty contract impasse…An assessment of NHL disciplinarian Brendan Shanahan’s handiwork thus far…A detailed look at the waiver status for the 2011-12 Florida Panthers…Are hockey players of African-descent hampered by those in control of the game?

MATCHSTICKS AND GASOLINE: Arik James suggests Jar0me Iginla’s back spasms may be more worrisome for his season if the condition forces him to miss the pre-season.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: James makes a good point, considering Iginla tends to be a slow starter and usually doesn’t seem to get into his groove until a couple of months into the season. That’s not implying Iginla is lazy or out of shape. Far from it. Some players just need a little more time to get back into their comfort zone, and “Iggy” seems to be one of those players. A setback like missing the preseason to back spasms could take him longer to round back into form.

JEWELS FROM THE CROWN: “Quisp” suggests a novel approach to ending Doughty’s contract impact, involving a lot of “8s”.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: I doubt we’ll see the Kings consider that approach, but I give Quisp points for thinking “outside the box”. After all, 87 worked as a magic number for determining Sidney Crosby’s post-EL contract.

MAPLE LEAFS HOT STOVE: Mislav Jantoljak offers up an assessment of the handiwork of new NHL disciplinarian Brendan Shanahan thus far, and hopes he’ll also be fair in handing down punishment to star players.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: A number of folks – myself included – are curious to see what Shanahan does when a star player commits an infraction worthy of suspension, and how he’ll address it. I daresay we won’t have to wait long for our answer.

LITTER BOX CATS: John Beatty offers up a detailed explanation of NHL waivers, and how they’ll apply to each player on the Florida Panthers roster for this season.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Excellent work by Beatty. Hopefully more team bloggers will follow his lead on this, as it’ll answer the questions many fans tend to have about who’s eligible for waivers and what form.

HOCKEY HOURLY: in a post justifiably lamenting a fan’s apparent racist act of tossing a banana peel at Flyers forward Wayne Simmonds in a recent pre-season game, appeared to suggest hockey players of African descent may be having their development impacted by the white men who control the game from junior up to the NHL level.

“The greatest impact this event will have on hockey is the stark reminder that the sport, and by association the NHL, truly is a white-washed sport. While there have been successful careers carved out by players of African-American or African-Canadian descent, they are few and far between.”

“Unfortunately for players of African descent, there is no way to meet the visual standard of people and fans who believe that hockey is a white man’s game. And unfortunately, white men control the game from junior hockey and beyond. Has anyone else wondered why the best NHLers with African ties aren’t 50 goal scorers or first line center set-up men? While I hate to make an assertion so strong, somewhere along the line these players were relegated to a grinder’s game.

Fortunately for fans of the sport at large, as more Stewart brothers and Joel Wards in the 2011 Stanley Cup Playoffs are discovered, the better chance everyone will have to play our wonderful game; white, black, yellow, pink. And that is a victory for all of us.”

SPECTOR’S NOTE: As I noted elsewhere on this issue, I don’t doubt there’s been racism in hockey over the decades, though not to the level as black baseball players encountered before and in the immediate years after Jackie Robinson broke MLB’s self-imposed colour barrier in 1947. I also don’t doubt subtle racism still exists to some degree in the NHL and other levels, though I believe such racism is held by a shrinking minority of hockey men. 

The real reason why hockey is predominantly still a “white man’s game” has more to do with the demographics of the sport where it is most popular, especially in Canada and the Northern European countries. That being said, it’s obvious the face of the game is changing, black players and players of other ethnic backgrounds have made significant inroads in the sport at all levels, including the NHL, and the latter league has fully embraced this with its diversity programs. It’s only a matter of time until we see more people of different ethnic backgrounds become coaches, scouts and general managers at all levels of junior and pro hockey.

I strongly disagree with the insinuation “the best NHLers with African ties” were relegated to grinder status, or held back in their development. The author of this particular blog post obviously forgot about Calgary Flames captain Jarome Iginla, who twice potted fifty goals in his long career, netted 43 last season, is a two-time winner of the Richard trophy as the league’s best goal-scorer, winner of the Art Ross in 2002, has been an all-star for years, was a key part of two Olympic gold medal winning teams in men’s hockey, and is considered among the most respected and beloved players in the league. 

The blogger also forgot Hall of Fame goaltender Grant Fuhr backstopped the Edmonton Oilers to multiple Stanley Cups in the 1980s, helped his country win the 1987 Canada Cup, won a Vezina Trophy, and was highly respected by teammates and foes alike.

Perhaps they never heard of Tony McKegney, who had nine 20-plus goal seasons in his 13 years in the NHL, including one 40-goal season and two 35-plus goal seasons.

Promising forward Evander Kane of the Winnipeg Jets certainly hasn’t been relegated to a grinder’s role. Neither has Kyle Okposo of the NY Islanders, or Chris Stewart of the Colorado Avalanche St. Louis Blues.

Anson Carter (five twenty-plus goal seasons) wasn’t considered a grinder. Neither was Dirk Graham . who also had five 20+ goal seasons. 

The majority of Canadian players aren’t top goalscorers or playmakers and neither are the majority of American or European players, yet no one is silly enough to make an assertion they’re being discriminated against because of their origins. The insinuation the best NHL players of African descent are being held back in their development doesn’t bear up under scrutiny.