As I type this, the Flyers are down 3-0 to mid-way through the second period to the NY Rangers and Philly's Mike Richards has just nuked Brandon Dubinsky with an open ice hit. Dubes naturally takes exception to this and drops the gloves, an invitation Richards gladly accepts. As the expectant buzz ripsaws through the crowd, a Dubinsky left clocks our intrepid hero and drops him with a bloody gash over his left eye. Meanwhile, Pierre MacGuire is splooging all over his little cube between the benches as he waxes orgasmic about Captain Richards. "THAT'S LEADERSHIP!", he screams at a breathless nation. The Ranger faithful are roaring their approval of Dubinsky's knock down, and I am thoroughly entertained.
Of course that's only because I, and apparently the 18,000+ at MSG plus the NBC/TSN audience are immoral monsters prone to bouts of mindless blood lust between puppy kicking sessions. Or so I am made to understand.
Oh my heavens, but has the last week presented the teeth gnashers with a perfect storm, hasn't it? Trevor Gillies' 10 game suspension. Golden Boy Taylor Hall having his season ended in a fight with Derek Dorsett. And the ugliest of ugly elephants in the room, the release of a Boston University report detailing how Bob Probert suffered from Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy caused, we are informed by countless sports writers cum neuroscientists, by too many Tie Domi or Jeff Beukeboom punches to the face.
And so the soapboxes (no relation) were duly hauled out and the inevitable hue and cry went out across the land: "Fighting has no place in hockey and now must surely be banned!!" Nothing new there. It's as sure a sign of spring as the first robin or another futile Leaf "charge" to the playoffs. But this time, there's a new undercurrent to the debate and it goes something like this: "Fighting has no place in hockey and now must surely be banned. JUST LOOK AT OUR EVIDENCE!! If you don't agree you're obviously a stupid, barbarous sub-human, no different than a Roman plebe cheering on the lion."
To which I, an avowed supporter of fighting's absolute place in the game of hockey (and who will be until they pry my old Sherwood from my cold dead hand), would respond "Oh really? Let's look at your evidence". Gillies' hit on Clutterbuck, as much as anyone hates to admit it, was a clean shot to the shoulder. He was given 10 games because a) Clutterbuck's head bounced off the glass, which in turn caused him to drop like a sack of potatoes and b) he's Trevor Gillies and perfectly disposable. Scott Stevens made a career out of hits like that, and he's in the Hall of Fame. Young Master Hall's injury wasn't caused by the fight but by his inability to fall down properly.
And as for Probert's brain, well...with apologies to the Probert family, how about we broaden the sample a tad and study the brains of dead hockey fighters who didn't spend twenty years in a cocaine and alcohol fuelled haze before we decide what did or did not cause that player's brain damage? Just a thought.
In the meantime, spare me the lecturing nanny-isms and the breathtaking hypocrisy (really, Mike Milbury?). Spare me the righteous indignation born of an inability to compare apples to apples. As Marc Savard or Sidney Crosby could attest, a fight is not the same as a gratuitous head shot on an unsuspecting opponent.
But most of all, as long as the Great And Learned Hockey Pundits refuse to call for the banishment of the Matt Cookes, Dan Carcillos or Bryan Marchments of the world, spare me the aspersions cast upon the characters of those who maintain that fighting belongs in the game precisely because of dangerous, career threatening, cowardly pieces of shit like Matt Cooke, Dan Carcillo and Bryan Marchment.
(Coming up: Thoughts on yet another 3rd jersey, a new man crush, let's not be too hasty my dear and the return of The Angry Chihuahua)