for publication December 4, 2015
News from the NHL this season seems to have a touch of panic running through it.
Whatever morsels they allow the media to know through a regular pipeline of orchestrated leaks, or the trial balloons the League sends up to gauge public opinion, are agitating their fans.
Having reached the first quarter of the season last week, we were already looking east to NYC because of the NHL’s definite “maybe” concerning changing the dimensions of the goal nets. It had a size problem, mostly the vertical of their goaltenders and the width of their oversized equipment. Turned out to be hardly worth the ink and air time.
But now it’s the fight fans, and according to the decibel level it seems of a couple of media members who were brought to my attention are stridently saying bring back fighting because those not on the “Save the Goons” bandwagon, are simply sissies, weenies, and pinkos.
So, this resurrection of the fight crowd is stinking up the kitchen, and their question is, where has all the fighting gone?
See, the NHL needs your views, like they needed your opinions they steadfastly ignore and dismiss whenever a lockout pops up. It’s usually followed by Gary Bettman’s firm, wobble-head concurrence that “maybe it is, maybe it isn’t.”
There are those in the media who fall for these ploys each time fighting comes up, allowing them to browbeat one-and-all with “it’s a cherished tradition.” Then urge the like-minded to drop’em and start throwin’ haymakers at the “blight on the game” crusaders.
The elderly among you, anyone born before 2000, may recall the 1970’s “Broad Street Bullies” of Philadelphia as lovable makers of mayhem who terrorized all on their schedule. In doing so they coined a malady known on other teams as “the Philly flu,” or in ruder neighbourhoods, “the orange enema.” Some teams were known to have a noticeable penchant for sudden phantom injuries before any approaching tilt with the Flyers.
In today’s game, millionaire NHL players using three-hundred-dollar sticks will spear an opponent in the area known to curtail any hope of fatherhood in the foreseeable future. It’s a despicable, cowardly act, and this year I have seen three such incidents that failed to produce any hint of a rumble. No-one jumped to the defence of the speared one.
I have also seen several perfectly “clean hits,” no elbow, no knees, no blow to the head, that have touched off a vigilante-style response by teammates of the hittee, totally spittle-flying and incensed based on “leeway was taken,” or some other lightweight flexible excuse made up to cover the situation. Let’s just say it doesn’t take much to trigger a fight for the wrong reasons.
Despite such provocation, fighting in the game is apparently on the decline. My response is, “it’s about time.” For me, decline is good, because fighting will always be there in hockey whether you, I, or they like it or not. Fighting will only be curtailed a bit. But to hear some in the media, people who should know better, this is the end of “the game.” The will show it’s only a phase.
And, while several of the “goons” remain, the herd has been culled. Examples. No longer are Paul Bissonette, Colton Orr, and George Parros taking up space on the bench but Jordan Tootoo and John Scott are, with Scott leading the All Star Game balloting. Big, bad John, all 6’ 8”, 260 pounds of him has played only 6 games this season for Arizona, has 1 assist, and last played on November 21st. Even fun-loving Big John is asking fans not to vote for him.
That should tell you all you need to know about Scott, fan balloting, and the depths to which the All Star event has fallen.
But I would caution my media colleagues. The next time you are calling for resumption of goon-warfare here’s a short reminder of the results of those big men throwing big punches.
Think of Wade Belak, Derek Boogaard, and Rick Rypien, gone before their time, and the many others, including the linesmen charged with separating the parade of combatants, and living with the hell of accumulative post-concussion purgatory.
It’s the ugly part of fighting most fans tend to forget.