Thursday, August 04, 2005

Pugilist Specialists

This post should do wonders to counter the nerdy literary one that I put up late yesterday...

I woke up to an e-mail from Dorsey Levin this morning, addressing "the only 4 people I know who still watch hockey." Someone took the time to compile a great page of classic hockey fights. And now, little men, like Butch's watch, I give this page to you.

The e-mail was accompained by this advice: "The Probert - McSorley tilt is one of the best ever and the call on the Bonvie - VandenBussche fight is tremendous." Use that as you may.

Slack Song of the Day: Since we're talking hockey today, here's a hot new breakbeat/House kind of jamband from Canada, the New Deal. Eh? I'm not all that much into these guys -- the electronika sound isn't exactly my cup of meat -- but these guys are very good at what they do. Here's a tune called Ravine from the Jam on the River in Philly.


At 10:27 AM, Blogger MDS said...

Let me start by saying I'm really not a hockey fan.

I want to know everyone's thoughts on whether fights are good or bad for hockey's popularity. There's no question that fights are fun to watch and entertaining and all that, but I still think when I want to watch a fight I'll watch boxing or mixed martial arts, and that ultimately hockey fights keep away as many fans as they draw in.

My other question is whether a guy like Probert really hurts his team. As the announcer in the clip said, he's the all-time leader in penalty minutes per game. So, basically, he's a tough guy, but he also gives the other team a lot of power plays. Is it really worth it? My sport is football, and as much as I would want a tough defensive end on my team, I wouldn't want a defensive end who gets a bunch of roughing the passer penalties.

At 11:26 AM, Blogger Ace Cowboy said...

Well, MDS, I think that's a good question.

Me personally, I love a good hockey fight. I think it helps the sport -- it makes hockey the only sport where people can just interrupt the game and throw down, while the refs stand right there and watch them dance. It's really a thing of beauty. I mean, how AWFUL would the movie Youngblood be without that Racki/Dean fight scene at the end? Instead, it's a classic.

I just don't understand how fighting would drive fans away. Doesn't America love fighting? Don't we love to see two guys go at it? And this isn't a heavyweight fight with little punching, these guys actually go at it, and hard.

Plus, fighting gets the teams fired up. And the fans too. If the home team is losing and needs a boost, who does the coach throw out on the ice? The enforcer. If an opposing player just cheap-shotted your best player, who does the coach send out there? This ALWAYS riles up the team and the fans, which makes for a much more interesting game.

And the Probert stat is misleading...he's a penalty minute leader, sure, but that doesn't mean his team is short-handed all the time. If he gets in two fights in one game, that could be 10 minutes in the box, but zero time lost on the ice for his team. I'd be interested to see how much his team has lost out on actual ice time.

Like I said, I love a good fight. See, I'm a big pussy, and I kind of abhor violence in real-life situations, so I get my kicks from WWF and hockey and stuff like that. In a November post I wrote this about Tie Domi:

"Everyone who has ever loved the Broadway Blueshirts has to love Tie Domi. The guy was as tall as James Madison, with Dolly's teeth, but he took on every team's biggest fighter from the rest of the league. I remember vividly in 1992 when the 22-year-old Domi challenged reigning league enforcer Bob Probert (a guy so mean he would punch your wife in the tits if given the chance, and maybe that's because his parents named him Robert Probert) to a fight immediately following a face-off. Despite giving up six inches, Domi ripped Probert's jersey straight over his head and pounded his face without so much as a hint of stopping. When the fight broke up, Probert was bloodied, and Domi skated off the face strapping an imaginary heavyweight belt around his waist. From that moment on, he was a Ranger, and a favorite at that.

Here's the point: A few months later, the Red Wings came to the Garden for a game and you could feel the intensity. Even though my memory is shit and this was more than a decade ago, I remember as clear as day that tickets were going for playoff prices -- this was the toughest ticket in town, people were paying $500, $600 whatever it took to get into MSG for the rematch. Everyone wanted a piece of this game, a random game that all of a sudden became a can't miss event because everyone knew Domi and Probert would tangle like Racki and Youngblood. Before the game, chants of "Do-mi, Do-mi, Do-mi" flooded the world's most famous arena, and the atmosphere was incredible. There were no playoff implications and no division rivalry, but the fans knew both sides were charged up about this little meeting and they knew that there was gonna be a first-class rumble like the Socs and the Greasers. And while there wasn't a pregame fight, fans got their wish just 37 seconds into the game, when the boys dropped their gloves. There was some dancing, and about 10 seconds elapsed before the fight began in earnest, when sadly, Probert got the upper hand. Haymakers were flying, but Domi was receiving much of the free dental work this time. A bloodied Domi stood up after the fight, dusted himself off and just smiled. He sparked his home crowd, he sparked his own team and everyone went home happy. Even Domi, he knew what he had done."

At 2:24 PM, Blogger Matty Mac said...

I agree with Ace. Growing up a Bruins fan, I was never without a good fighter on the team: Brad Park, Terry O'Reilly, Chris Nilan, Lyndon Byers, PJ Stock, and even scorers like Bobby Orr and Cam Neely were good fighters. They pumped the crowd up which would then pump the team up in turn.

I was reading about an interview with a hockey player, I forget which one and it may have been Tie Domi, in which the player was talking about fights. What this person said was similar to why NBA players like Rasheed Wallace sometimes get technical fouls: to fire their team up. He went to say that before or during a game, one of the team roughnecks will go up to the other bruiser on the team and basically say "hey, my team needs some fire. Can you help me out?" and they'll drop gloves soon after. I think that is great for any team, it shows loyalty and unity and it also does the job. Besides, it's pretty damn entertaining too.

Indoor lacrosse also allows free for all fighting, and they have some good fights themselves. I've been a one or two, and if you are on the bad end of it, it's none too pretty.

At 2:25 PM, Blogger Matty Mac said...

I just re-read what I wrote and I think I used the word "team" about 13 times too many. Sorry.

team team team team team team

At 2:27 PM, Blogger MDS said...

Interesting. As I mentioned, my sport is football, and I've actually done some research that indicates that there's no real correlation between how many penalties a team has and how good it is. It sounds like from what you guys are saying that the players who get in fights don't really harm their teams in terms of penalty minutes, both because the guy they're fighting also gets a penalty, and because there's some benefit to rough play.

At 2:34 PM, Blogger Matty Mac said...

At 2:36 PM, Blogger Matty Mac said...

You are correct MDS. A penalty for a fight is a five minute major for both players, which also means that both teams still play at full strength. However, an additional penalty for instigating a fight can be tacked on, which would mean the team being down a man for however long a penalty is.

At 2:39 PM, Blogger Matty Mac said...

If you want to talk football and penalties, look at the Patriots and Rodney Harrison. Tons of penalties, no real bad repercussions for the team.

At 2:41 PM, Blogger Matty Mac said...

Bench clearing brawl here.

At 2:43 PM, Blogger Matty Mac said...

I'll stop now.

At 2:46 PM, Blogger Ace Cowboy said...

Nice fights. Nice beaver.

At 3:07 PM, Blogger TJ in OH said...

Thanks, I just had it stuffed.

I've never claimed to be a fan of hockey (knowledgable or otherwise) and have actually asked Acey Deucy to come to Columbus to watch a Blue Jackets game with me to explain the finer points of the sport. He hasn't taken me up on it yet, but we'll see.

As for the fighting, I am 100% against it. Like I said, I know dick about hockey so maybe I can't appreciate the historical context or any other sugarcoating you want to defend it with. But it's disturbingly violent, and I think it's wrong for people to support/encourage it.

As a parent (Ace, 90 percent of your readership just tuned me out, but stick with me), I stopped taking my daughter to Blue Jackets games as soon as she turned two. I don't think a bloody brawl on the ice is a good thing for children to see. It sends the wrong message. We live in a society that supposedly values intellect over brute force; let's live that instead of just giving it lip-service. The fights in hockey appeal to the lowest of our instincts, and frankly the fact that these fights go on unchecked is a big reason why I don't get behind hockey more.

It's exciting for you to see two human beings get violent with each other and try to resolve conflicts in the one way that people in a decent society are never supposed to resolve conflicts? I say go see an analyst. It's disturbing to me. Watching a hockey fight to me would be no different than watching a video of (or in many cases being there live while) some asshole beats his wife bloody or smacks around his children. The sport itself, I'm cool with. The fighting...come one peeps, grow up.

At 3:33 PM, Blogger Ace Cowboy said...

Well, now I'm never coming to Ohio for a game...

TJ, you know in every segment of society other than sports I agree about violence...but in sports, I think it's perfectly reasonable for men to take out their agression on each other. How do you condone football? There may not be fighting, but there's definitely "disturbing violence" along the line and under the fumble scrums. These are men that get paid to do a job that's inherently violent, and I think if we can keep it to the professionals than we'll all be better off.

As for your daughter, I think it's your job as a parent to explain to her that this is part of a game, part of an act, like movies or television that feature violence (God forbid nudity, though). It's a parent's job to say, "Honey, darling, sweetypie, we live in a society that supposedly values intellect over brute force, and this is NOT what we do in the real world. We work things out with our brains and mouths, not with our hands. Remember that."

Then you should say, "Honey, darling, sweetypie, we live in a world that has walls, and those walls need to be guarded by men with guns..."

At 3:52 PM, Blogger TJ in OH said...

C'mon, that's a reach on the football analogy. Let me put it to you like this...when was the last time you heard someone excitedly exclaim, "Man, the dirty play along the line and under the fumble scrums is the best part about football!"? Or, "I went to a fight and fumble scrum broke out." You get the point...

I hear that crap about hockey often, which is too bad. It's such a cool game to watch live, so fast and graceful. The game itself is interesting enough, why not let it stand on its own merits? Are there so many fucking psychopaths out there that the NHL thinks they'll sell half as many tickets as they do now if they stop the fights? And this is the perfect time to do it - reach out to a new group of fans on the verge of the big comeback. Let civilized, educated and peace-loving folks know that hockey wants them, be inclusive.

I say modernize the game, bring it into the new millenium. Respect the game, the players and the intellect of the fans. The product is good, why cover it up with streaks of blood?

And you're absolutely right - it's my job to police what my daughter sees, and I perform in that regard by not letting her watch hockey. I would hope that if enough parents did this, the NHL would take notice (hell, the loss of me and daughter probably accounted for a one percent drop in viewership, but that's a different issue). But how can I really argue with you when you go all Jessup on me in the close? You had me at "You want answers?".

At 3:54 PM, Blogger MDS said...

"Watching a hockey fight to me would be no different than watching a video of (or in many cases being there live while) some asshole beats his wife bloody or smacks around his children."

Come on. Some dick pounding on a woman or child is in no way similar to two grown men choosing to fight each other. In a hockey fight both people choose to participate, they're wearing pads, a bunch of other people are around who will try to stop it before one person is badly injured, etc. I admire you from keeping your child away from violence, but please don't compare the violence in sports to the violence in real life.

At 4:07 PM, Blogger TJ in OH said...

Valid point, MDS, but as I wrote originally, TO ME it's equally revolting. Watching people lash out at each other like that makes me uncomfortable, whether they're grown men in pads or not. How would you compare hockey fights to those internet videos of the homeless beating up each other?

I love the original question you posed; I've thought about that often. You raise another when you mention comparing violence in hockey to violence in real-life. I think in the past you could've argued that violence in sports was a symptom of violence in society. I don't know that one could make that argument these days, it's all part of a bigger issue.

But you're right - fights in hockey should not stand shoulder to shoulder with domestic violence. But for me, I'd rather not see either and that was my point.

At 4:15 PM, Blogger Ace Cowboy said...

TJ, you're as level-headed as anyone I know, but I just don't see your point here. You're a peace-loving man. I like peace. Hey, we like Phish and Shakedown grilled cheese. MOST of the country does not see it our way. I'd argue more Americans want to see people beat each other senseless (see: Springer) than those who'd like things to be cool.

Re; Homeless men vs. hockey players -- you're talking exploitation versus professional duties here. The homeless people may be paid for their Internets fights, but they're not doing it for any other reason than a group of popped-collared fratboys gave them $20 and a scrap of meat. The hockey players, on the other hand, despite having less teeth than the homeless, are fighting because they choose to do so. Nobody HAS to fight in the NHL, they want to fight. They want to pump up their team or get revenge on an opponent. They're not even looking to kill or even maim, they're looking for some action with a clearly defined goal.

As for the "best part of hockey" line -- I don't know a single person that considers fighting to be the best part of hockey. It's a part, though. It's part of the sport, it's been part of the sport and it always should be a part.

At 5:07 PM, Blogger TJ in OH said...

"They want to pump up their team or get revenge on an opponent. They're not even looking to kill or even maim, they're looking for some action with a clearly defined goal."

Or maybe they're just fucking animals with rage problems that like to beat people. Six in one, half dozen in the other, right?

But why is it a part of the game, and why does it have to be a part of the game? They used to play football (and hockey for that matter) without helmets, for chrissakes. Was there "that guy" back in the day saying, "Risk of serious head injury is a part of the game, has been a part of the game, and should always be a part of the game"?

It's a physical, aggressive sport. I'm not saying they should stop people from playing it that way and turn it into the Minnesotan equivalent of two-hand touch. I'm just saying when these simple creatures start throwing haymakers at each other, the refs should stop it instead of skating the two-step around them while all of the frenzied fans in the arena scream for blood and pound on the glass. It's like fucking Thunderdome half the time. I don't care who runs Bartertown, I just want to see these fuckers skate and move the puck around.

You're right, though - a lot of Americans would rather see someone get beat down than not get beat down. It's all just so...I don't know, depressing. I wanna give all of these people an old-fashioned Dustin Greenberg "You're better 'n 'at!"

At 5:19 PM, Blogger Ace Cowboy said...

That was Dustin Berger. Dustin Greenberg was one of my 13 y/o campers that summer.

I guess we're just on opposite sides here and we're not gonna meet in between. I can't be more clear: In life, on the highway, at parties, in bars, on the streets, it's never acceptable and rather grotesque to throw around the fisticuffs. But in Judge Randolph says to Captain Jack Ross while Kaffee's questioning Jessup about his packing habits, "I'll allow it."

There's a perfect world, and then there's not. We know where we want to be, but it's rare we'll ever get near it.

At 5:53 PM, Blogger TJ in OH said...

What does Randolph say to Jessup when he asks him what kind of court he's running, something like, "I'm quite sure I've earned it." Love that shite.

You're right, my man. Agree to disagree. The game would be no worse off without the barbarism, but what can you do.

You know, that's not the first time I've confused the Dustins. Didn't Berger have a brother named Colby? And then there was that Colby guy from Maryland that had his cack pierced. Never seem to confuse those two, though.


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