Monday, September 5, 2011

Stop Complaining, You Got to Play in the NHL

Recently a number of currentLinkand former goons and tough guys have died from suicide, drug overdose or other causes. This is of course tragic for the players, their families and their friends. This has resulted in a lot of soul searching regarding the role of players whose main role in the game is to fight. It has also resulted in a lot of whining from current and former goons about the stress of the role they had to play.

I have never liked fighting in hockey. I remember the exact time when I decided that. It was during the 5th game of the 1972 Bruins Rangers Stanley Cup Final. This game was a classic which the Rangers won 2-1. At one point a fight broke out, I don't remember betweeen who but I do remember thinking that this was interrupting what was a classic game and how stupid it was.

Many years later when I had seasons tickets I remember a game between Edmonton and St. Louis. Midway through the second period, George Laraque came out for Oilers and Tony Twist for St. Louis. They lined up next to each other. The crowd started cheering, the morons with seats behind the glass started pounding on the glass and of course Twist and Laraque dropped the gloves and had a fight. Both got 5 minutes and the game went on. I remember thinking, "What did that just accomplish". I don't think Laraque and Twist had been on the ice together that game so they had no reason to be angry with each other.

The NHL has always had its' fighers. John Ferguson, Dave Schultz, Wayne Cashman, Gordie Howe, Eddie Shack, and later Bob Probert. The difference between these fighters and the current group of goons is that these guys actually played regular shifts. Gordie Howe of course was the leading career goal scorer for years, most of these guys scored 20 goals a season Bob Probert scored 40 goals one season. (Probert is one of the recent deaths, however he had substance abuse issues as a player and died of a heart attack which may or may not have been related to his fighting history.) Philadelphia, the Broad Street Bullies won two Stanley Cups but these had more to do with the goaltending of Bernie Parent than the intimidation factor.

Sometime in the late 70s some teams started keeping a goon on their bench. This player would play a few minutes a game usually to start a fight with the other team's goon or one of their tougher players. This was in the place of a player who could actually play the game, which meant that many marginally talented players spent their career in the pressbox or the American Hockey League so that a team could keep a goon on the bench.

I am not going to go into the pros and cons of fighting. What bothers me is the current series of sob stories in the media by current or former goons about how difficult it was to fight, how they dreaded games etc. One goon lamented that he was paid the minimum $500,000 a year on which he claimed to pay 50% in taxes (he needs to get a better accountant).

OK guys.

I grew up wanting to play in the NHL. My two sons wanted to play in the NHL. Every Canadian playing organized hockey wants to play in the NHL. Only 1 in 10000 kids in organized hockey every makes the NHL. You got to play in the NHL. Moreover you got to play at the expense at some other player with way more talent than you. You got paid more than the Prime Minister. You certain made or are making more than you would be if you weren't playing hockey. So shut the fzck up. Or you can quit or maybe even learn to skate and see if you can make it on your ability to play hockey.

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