Tuesday, April 17, 2012
The misrepresentation of "old time hockey"
Whenever Don Cherry or anyone else old enough to remember Watergate, Beatlemania and the Treaty of Versailles compares the goings-on in the 2012 Stanley Cup playoffs to "old time hockey," they need to be more specific.
Fighting has long been part of the game, but the blatant disrespect for health and well-being between competitors is a relatively new phenomenon. Rocket Richard once clubbed an opponent over the head with his stick and punched a linesman in the same sequence, Wayne Maki shortened Ted Green's career in what still ranks as the worst stick-swinging incident in NHL history and Dale Hunter will forever be remembered for a brutal cheap shot on Pierre Turgeon after Turgeon scored a series-clinching goal, but incidents of that nature used to occur years apart - not two or three times per playoff series, if not per game. Back in the day, you might have taken an elbow in the chops if you got too much inside Gordie Howe's kitchen, but old-time hockey did not regularly feature blindside head shots, multiple sucker punches, cross-checks to the throat and deliberately slamming an opponent's face into the boards.
So when the discussion turns to "old time hockey," let's be clear that we're talking about physical and emotional intensity that sometimes leads to fights between willing and mutually respectful participants adhering to a time-honored code. Too much of what we've seen in the first round of this year's playoffs isn't old time hockey as much as it's old time aggravated assault.