Clash of the Titans XVIII: Fighting in Hockey

May 1, 2007, 11:45 am; posted by
Filed under David, Debate, Mike J  | No Comments

In this corner, arguing against fighting in hockey, is Mike!

And in this corner, arguing for fighting in hockey, is Dave!

Hey, I have an idea.

You know hockey? That sport with the small base of rabid fans?

What a sport it is! Such speed, as players fly down the ice; such grace, as the best players weave in and out and around defenders on their way to the net; such precision, as the best shooters pick their spot and put it in the one area the goalie can’t reach; such power, as the best shooters wind up for 100 MPH slapshots that nearly tear the back of the net.

Which brings me to my idea. Let’s clog the ice with goons!

Let’s take that sport, with such a unique combination of athleticism and grace, and let’s make sure every team has at least one guy whose job it is to go out and fight the other team’s one guy. Let’s make sure that the fast, exciting guys (many of whom are from another culture) cower in fear that they might get knocked in the head while Western fans nod appreciatively at the Russian getting his due at long last! Let’s be sure that head shots stay legal and that at least once every game there is a fight with at least one player caught in the flattering “jersey-stuck-over-my-face” pose!

Why would anyone want to watch Sergei Federov or Simon Gagne or Sidney Crosby or Daniel Briere, with their crisp passing and deadly accurate shooting, when we could watch Todd Fedoruk or Colton Orr mangle each other for a while?

Further, let’s make fighting part of an “unwritten code” so that it’s cloaked in romanticism! A near-apocalypse would happen if a dozen (coincidentally?) mostly black NBA players cleared the benches and brawled; lengthy suspensions would result and white America would cluck their tongues at how bad the NBA’s getting. But if we have a “code” for mostly white players to live by, with consequences like getting your teeth knocked out, then suddenly it’s quaint! We can say it’s just part of the game, always has been, and always should be. Hey — Hammurabi had a code! So should we.

What would hockey be without the fighting? Speed, agility, grace, precision, drama? Who would ever watch that?

I am here to defend the use of Goons in hockey. If you don’t know what a Goon is, let me explain. He’s the guy who lumbers off the bench and pulverizes the opponent who dares to initiate, or even attempt to initiate, some type of painful contact with a hockey team’s “skilled” players. A skilled player, of course, has a Russian, Swedish or Finnish name and the same size uniform and skates as the Goon wore in Pee Wee hockey.

I know that the usual tack would be for me to cite the Code, that unwritten (yet often written about) set of laws that serve as the rules of engagement for Goons. I would explain to you that skilled players are valuable assets who need protection and explain how deterrence necessitates fisticuffs — like a safety leveling a wide receiver who catches a pass across the middle, you do it so they think twice the next time they think about doing something they shouldn’t.

But I’m going in a different direction — economic concern. For the Goons.

Here’s the question to consider — what else can these guys do for a living? These are not, as one athlete has said, “the brightest tools in the shed.” These people have struggled to learn human speech and have even found a meaningful way to contribute to society that (usually) doesn’t involve violent crime. Why turn them out?

And Goons are entertaining! During a tense playoff game several years ago between the Flyers and Devils, noted Goon Claude Lemieux (my spell check offers lummox here) was trash talking Flyers captain Eric Desjardins. After a particular rush ended with a Desjardins shot rather than a pass, Lemieux taunted him with the remark, “You always think about yourself first! What does that ‘C’ on your shirt stand for? SELFISH?” And then we have Bernie “Boom-Boom” Geoffrion’s now-famous words of wisdom to his Montréal teammates before a big game: “Three things we must do tonight, and that is shoot and pass.”

Where else can the world use men like this? Burger King? Wal*Mart? Sure, but these places seem to have enough imbeciles already, and if they were also huge and muscular, I couldn’t make fun of them anymore. We need to keep fighting in the NHL — to keep Goons employed and off the streets.

Which side are you on?
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