Like most every other kid, I got in my share of neighbourhood scraps which usually involved a lot of wrestling, a headlock or two, some serious swearing, and a taunt from the other kid that he saw my sister naked or something equally lowdown, which led to more wrestling, headlocks, and swearing.
But I hate real street fights.
I hate the thud of angry fist meeting nose or teeth. It’s like Rocky pounding away at slabs of meat in the slaughterhouse. It’s a sound that lingers in my memory bank for years.
Years ago I was standing in a busy crowd with my ex-wife, and a car pulled up to the curb, a guy got out, went over and plowed a guy standing near us right in the face, and then got back in his car and drove away. There was that sound. That sickening sound. And a decade ago I was standing in front of a pub waiting for a taxi and a guy stormed out and drilled this fellow in the face standing beside me. Probably some girlfriend issue, I thought. But it was that sound again. Tightened fist meeting slab of meat.
I don’t like this. What about the make love, not war sort of thing? I’ve also seen my share of bar fights and it interrupts my drinking.
But I sure as hell miss good old hockey fights.
It’s mostly just peace and love now in the NHL. Very few fights are fought, especially in the playoffs when players don’t want to risk getting thrown out. It’s gone. Everybody’s happy. But people still say they remember fondly when Larry Robinson and Dave Schultz went at it, or John Ferguson with every other heavyweight in the league, or Dave Semenko teaching some dude a lesson after harrassing Wayne Gretzky.
Many fans, the majority I guess, plus the league powers-that-be, said fighting was stupid and there was little place for it in the modern game, and it’s become almost non-existant now. Truthfully, I miss it. It was always just part of the game in my world, and I happened to enjoy a good dust-up immensely. Think Habs-Nordiques. Flames-Oilers. Legendary Habs-Bruins or Habs-Leafs wars. Fists flying and nosebleeds and gloves all over the ice.
I miss that stuff. Maybe it’s only me.
Frank Selke, who managed first the Toronto Maple Leafs and then the Montreal Canadiens back in the days when players took care of business and someone like Dan Carcillo would have his jaw wired up in no time flat, had this to say about fighting in hockey in his great 1962 book, “Behind the Cheering.”
“Any time a certain game promises a grudge fight, or features some player who is know to be on the warpath, fans are more determined than ever to get into the game. I am not defending roughhouse. I am merely stating that it does not kill the spectator value of a sport as so many would have us believe.”
Mr Selke also added, when talking about his army battalion team playing Owen Sound in the Northern Ontario Hockey Association:
“We won our first game with Owen Sound by seven goals, but lost to them on their own ice by eleven. The fact was that, while some of my players were eager to play rough hockey on their home ice and would fight ferociously there, they became embarrssingly meek when it was time to fight the enemy on his home territory. That caused our downfall at Owen Sound. But from that time forward, I never retained a player in any of my lineups who showed the white feather at any time.”