Hockey and fighting not so synonymous anymore
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Blackhawks goalie Corey Crawford pulls on the head of Kings left wing Kyle Clifford and separates him from the Hawks' Jonathan Toews during the third period in Game 2 of the Western Conference finals Sunday at the United Center.
Good to see that there still is some fight in the NHL, even in the postseason.
However, for how long is in doubt.
Sorry to say, pacifists, I'm still a fan of hockey fisticuffs. Imagine then my appreciation when after nearly six periods of the Western Conference finals, a Blackhawk and a King wrestled each other to the ice.
The playoffs essentially are a fight-free zone. Can't help the team by sitting in the penalty box or serving a suspension and all that conventional blah-blah-blah.
So when the Hawks' Michal Rozsival and Kings' Colin Fraser went at it … with an undercard of Jonathan Toews and Kyle Clifford locked in a clutch … and goalie Corey Crawford coming to Toews' defense …
By NHL standards this was a minor altercation. Still, the hostility was encouraging in a series that figures to become more acrimonious upon resumption Tuesday night in Los Angeles with the desperate Kings trailing 0-2 in games.
Look, I'm a wimp. I flex my machismo vicariously through the fists of athletes, which is becoming more and more difficult in this era of sports wussification.
MLB polices beanballs more strictly than ever. The NFL won't allow hitting anyone anywhere but the belly button. The NBA fines players for sneering, smirking or snickering at an opponent.
Ever since I started watching the Hawks in the 1950s — Reggie Fleming being the prime goon shortly thereafter — enjoying a good hockey fight has been in my blood.
As long as, you know, it isn't my blood being spilled.
Now, though, dropping the gloves is on the ropes, enduring a standing eight count, less and less able to defend itself.
How close the end is remains unclear, but politically and medically incorrect blows are taking their toll and indications are that fighting in the NHL is endangered.
This is a positive development, considering the concussions during careers and suicides after them. But what can I say: I still like hockey fights.
Others must, too. I have never been to a hockey game where fans in the stands didn't get up and roar when punches were thrown.
Wienies have railed against NHL violence for decades. Now, though, the wienies are the most influential in this sport.
Canadians, of all people.
A few months ago up there the Globe and Mail newspaper reported survey results that an overwhelming majority of Canadians oppose fighting in hockey.
One reader's response was, "We allow hockey players to fight like animals and knock each other out for our pleasure. We don't allow dogs or roosters to fight for our entertainment. Where's the logic in that?"
All I can wonder is why logic must apply in a sport that administers penalties for slashing. It's all kind of ironic considering that Canadians pretty much invented hockey fighting and Canada is to the sport what the Vatican is to Catholicism.
Canadian athletes are so physically contentious that in the gentler, kinder World Baseball Classic this spring Team Canada engaged in a bench-clearing fight with Team Mexico.
(Sort of puts the U.S. in the middle of a geographic cage match, doesn't it?)
You could hear the most obvious joke: "I went to a baseball game and a hockey game broke out."
Personally, I'm hoping a few Hawks and Kings duke it out this week before fighting is a mere memory in hockey.
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