Wacky Mommy Doesn’t Care for the Fighting

by Steve, January 14th, 2007

hockey…she told me so. But when you decide at the last minute to skip trying to get rush tickets to see a play and instead go see your last-place Portland Winter Hawks take on the league leading Everett Silver Tips, there’s a good chance things are going to get out of hand. Especially when these teams see a lot of each other (Portland managed to beat Everett in Everett last night, 3-1).

Portland played with Everett for two periods, helped out by an extended 5 on 3 power play that yielded a tying goal. But then things started to fall apart in the third. When Everett scored their fifth and final goal at 11:30 of the third, making it 5 to 2, I started looking for Portland tough guy Frazer McLaren to pick a dance partner. But it was 16-year-old Tayler Jordan who got things started at 16:27 with Everett’s Brenan Sonne. This one looked like a draw to me. Then off the ice with them! As soon as the puck was dropped again, 5’11”, 185 lb. Matt Sokol squared off with Everett’s Kyle Beach. Beach is 6′ 3″ and pretty much had his way with Sokol, virtually undressing him in the process. To the showers, boys! Then we had to watch a whole minute and a half of hockey before we got a couple of big guys going at it with 6’6″, 216 lb. Max Gordichuk getting some good licks in on 6’4″, 224 lb. Moises Gutierrez.

With a minute 50 left to go, the crowd was yelling for big Frazer McLaren to get into it, but he spent the balance of the game on the bench.

And Wacky Mommy turns to me and says, “How can you like this sport, with all this fighting?” Somehow she forgot that we were going to go to a play, but she was the one who said, nah, let’s go see the Winter Hawks instead. Seriously, I’m not making this up. And you know, Wacky Mommy always says you can just screw so much and drink so much.

Anyway, it got me to thinking. John, AKA Peatycap, AKA Sig from hockey-fights.com and hockeyfansunite.com has a point about a lack of emotion in the NHL. I exchanged some e-mail with a friend in Minneapolis who recently caught a Wild game, and also commented on the lack of aggression. The hockey-fights.com guys blame the new rules enforcement, which we’re also getting in the WHL this year, but they seem to overlook several years of emotionless clutch-and-grab trap hockey that preceded the lockout. They (correctly) target Gary Bettmann as an incompetent assclown of a manager and marketer, and they also are correct that the rules enforcement has gone too far (though I think we disagree on the degree). But I don’t think that’s what’s killed the emotion in the NHL (especially with an eye on how boring the clutch-and-grab and trap game had become).

The real issue is far deeper than zero-tolerance. I saw more emotion on the ice tonight than I’ve seen in ten games in the NHL this season, and a couple of obstruction penalties going both ways didn’t do anything to quell it. These kids are playing their asses off, because they don’t know if they’re going to make it to the next level or not. Intense intra-division rivalries are the norm in Major Junior hockey, even when it’s a league leading Everett, with 69 points, taking it to Portland, with a lowly 30 points. Maybe the pros just make too damn much money to give a shit night after night, and maybe the fact that they’ve “arrived” makes them complacent. I guess that’s why I’m a junior hockey fan, and I’ve never been too excited about the idea of the NHL in Portland.

I understand why Peatycap’s bitter. He’s a Capitols fan, fer Christ’s sake. Shit, now that Jack Abramoff’s buddies can’t take Congress out to the sky box, the team’s probably going to have to pull up stakes and move to a real hockey town. Just don’t come to Portland, okay? (I hear Las Vegas is looking for a team….)

2 Responses to “Wacky Mommy Doesn’t Care for the Fighting”

  1. Comment from John/PC/Sig:

    MHLW… I enjoy your blog. I am glad to see that you have admitted that the NHL lacks emotion. And don’t get me wrong, we still do get the occasional emotion-filled game. It’s just that they are few and far between these days in the NHL. And you are right, it was like this in the mid to late 90s as well. At least now, we have some end to end action! But we are still missing that emotion, the intensity, that once characterized hockey and the players that played the game. What ever happened to the characterization of “hockey tough?” It’s hard to use in a league where grown men are marched to a penalty box for an obstruction call that happened away from the play. It’s hard to use it in a league where guys conveniently forget how to fight through a check because they know the referee will be raising his arm as soon as they conveniently fall to the ice. Again, whatever happend to “hockey tough?” While I’m at it… whatever happened to rivalries? When was the last true rivalry in the NHL??? Does this not bother you? Does it not bother you that anticipation games are few and far between these days??? When was the last time you showed up to a game early in anticipation of some heated play between two teams that hated each other?

    You think this all has to do with inflated salaries? I don’t think so. I think there are safeguards in place, purposefully or not, that prevent rivlaries from blossoming. I think there are barriers in the place that hinder the characterization of “hockey tough” these days. Salaries? Salaries have always been high. Yet guys still found away to genuinely hate another team back when hockey was a “tough” sport. Nowadays, if you hate a team, what exactly are you going to do to convey it? If you do what you want to do (hit the othey player in the mouth) and you do what your fans want you to do, you are going to pay the price. Enforcing is being phased out. If you want to enforce these days, your best bet is to spear the other player in the nuts (e.g. Briere on Ovechkin). Being that Gary lost his balls long ago, plays like that are not met with suspensions from the league.

    And it’s the CapitAls… you know, the hard working team that has a number of very talented young players (OV, Semin, Emminger), a couple of bruisers (Erskine, Brashear, Sutherby, Bradley), and a coach that the Commissioner hates because he still has a set on him (Hanlon).

    Be sure to check out Off Wing Opinion. Great interview there.

  2. Comment from Himself:

    Hey Sig, sorry ’bout the spelling (I always make that mistake) and the dig at the Caps. I know you got a good lineup; I’m just flipping you shit. My dig about the caps not being able to make it without the luxury box revenue from lobbyists should illustrate a point, though: The most important factor in most teams’ bottom lines is the corporate revenue, i.e. luxury seating, not the blue collar market.

    This is why Pittsburgh says they can’t make it even if they sell out every night. Like it or not, most teams don’t give a rip about selling out the cheap seats, and why should they? That’s not where the money is.

    Just another reason I prefer major junior. And none of that stinkin’ instigator in the last five crap, either!