Pardon The Eruption – Fighting must go

Hey Bettman? Can ya’ drag that albatross into the 21st century?

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Call it a day Bettman.

By Terrance Gavan

The day Wade Belak died. I remember hearing the news.

I went for a walk with the dog Billie Jean and I cried a bit.

Three guys went down last summer. Derek Boogaard, Belak and Rick Rypien.

Three tough guys. Enforcers who made a living in the National Hockey League trading punches and throwin’ down. Modern day gladiators. The victims, this off season, of the “thumbs down.” Nero’s not overseeing such swift justice. Who’s wearing the Emperor’s Robes here anyway. In this arena farce? Gary Bettman? The Owners? Or collective apathy?

Or… all of the above. The NHL is the only professional sports league in the world that allows fighting. No wait.

It’s the only organization in the world that supports man to man combat as an intrinsic part of its paradigm.

Bare knuckled fighting was banned from the sweet science – boxing knuckleheads, but I love the alliterative nuance – in 1889. (John L. Sullivan fought and won the last sanctioned bare-knuckle fight in 1889 against Jake Kilrain)

Know why? They outlawed such foolishness? Way back before John Ferguson or Eddie Shack’s grandaddies were born? Because bare-knuckled fighting is considered dangerous and deadly. Now, I’m pretty sure that this is fairly obvious to most upright walkers with an indentured IQ that exceeds oh, say 41.5.

I once watched two bare-chested drunks at the Toronto Zoo popping haymakers over an ice cream cone. They were in front of the baboon cage. While everyone was watching the fisticuffs I turned to the baboons. Two adult males ran to the back of the enclosure, sat down, and covered their eyes. You draw your own conclusions.

Me? I took away a notion that even baboons are smart enough to regard bare-knuckled interaction as intrinsically base. And stupid.

So me and baboons and a majority of small children – really – do not find punch-ups aesthetically pleasing. I happen to teach kids on a ski hill. I know for a fact that kids think fighting is dumb. I’m thinking then that maybe, just maybe, adding the Marquis of Queensbury to a professional sporting event may not be a good idea. You know. In the long run.

That kind of logic has never impressed the suits, general managers, macho rug beaters and the lumpen proletariat in the National Hockey League Players Association. I would name Gary Bettman in this screed but what can I say? He’s just an inheritor of a long tradition who’s still drinking the Kool-Aid baby.

They likes them their fights up top in the rarefied air of the upper echelon board rooms atNHLHQ! Yes they do. “Puts butts in the seats!” Bupkis!

I’m sorry. Have I offended anyone yet? Well, feel free to take a swing. You know. Because that’s how we settle things in the hockey universe. I have been arguing for the eradication of fighting from all levels of hockey for – hmmm – most of my career as a sportswriter and editor.

I bet you already know some of the names I’ve been called. The string of epithets usually square around that most indelicate of four letter words – which I happen to use a lot in my own day-to-day shuffle – followed by charming slanders that include but are not limited to: f-ing (w)ag, pansy, (m)aggot, know-nothing, slug, f—er (redundant), a—hole, idiot, treehugger, bunnyhugger, leftist, commie, liberal, pussy, sap, and moron. Here are some of the rare japes I’ve heard over my three decade crusade against fighting in hockey.

“You don’t know! You’ve never played the game.”

Yes I have. In Sandy Hill on outdoor arenas when it was -30 F. I have never been so freaking cold in my life I found basketball when I was 8 years old. Indoor courts.

I’ve been in three basketball fights. Sucker punched. The guys were all ejected. But? It still freaking hurts. I can’t imagine doing it for a living. Wade Belak, Rick Rypien and Derek Boogaard did just that.

“We need fighting to control the cheap shots and the ‘rats.’ ”

Here’s what we know about that. It never dissuaded Ken Linseman. And controlling cheap shots? That’s why they pay referees. Just spitballin’ for Schlitz and Giggles.

Here’s my favorite: “Hockey’s a fast game and guys need to let off steam. If there’s no fighting? They’ll start using their sticks.”

Well. I’d offer an explanation. But let’s face it. That’s just wavy-gravy crazy. And so unfathomably stupid on so many levels that I wouldn’t even know where to begin. To assert the logic. That line? Sounds like a conversation that Snooki and Pauly D might dipsy-doodle-dandy into on an episode ofJerseyShore.

Here’s the final “Cherryista” cringe-inducing apology for fighting in theNHL: “No one gets hurt in a hockey fight.”

Now. I spent my summers on a ranch in the Interlake, so I’ll attempt to put this as gently as I can. That’s the kinda’ offal stuff that oozes and spurts from the north side of a south-bound Bull.

“No one gets hurt in a hockey fight.”

Heard it?

Yeah. Yes you have. Me too.

Wade Belak. Rick Rypien. Derek Boogaard.

“No one gets hurt in a hockey fight.”

Twitter.com/terrancegavan; terrance@haliburtonhighlander.ca

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