Cam Janssen, left, spotted during the only time he was allowed on the ice during the playoffs- i.e. when the other team wasn't around.

The first time I saw Cam Janssen, it was on a wall in Guelph. Lots of major junior arenas have Walls of Fame, usually full of long-forgotten local lacrosse players and old-time NHLers in wooly sweaters, but this was a little different. For one thing, it was hidden, sort of tucked away on a back wall behind a row of drinkers looking out over the game, and for another, all the photos were modern- a big lump of a man in Devil-red winding up a theatrical punch at a twisting opponent, the same man skating to the box, bare-headed and bruise-knuckled. None of the pictures were labeled, and I pored over them slowly, trying to remember if I’d ever seen this guy before, and what he’d done to earn this little impromptu altar on the back wall of a bar.

“That’s Cam Janssen,” the security guard said. “He played here for a while, now he’s in the NHL.”

“Oh yeah?”

“Yeah. He’s a great fighter. People here loved him.”

People love him still. Cam Janssen is, in fact, perennially described as a ‘fan favorite’, by media in New Jersey and St. Louis, by the fans in both towns. Read the praise, and you’d think, wow, Cam Janssen is so much more than just a fighter. He’s a great guy, hard worker, team-first player, a heart-and-soul type. He’s first on the ice at warmups! He trains really hard in the off-season! He’s the sort of guy everyone would want on their team!

Cam Janssen is the guy everyone wants on their team.

Take a minute. Think about that.

***

I’m not shocked by anything Janssen said in the now-notorious interview, but I am surprised that he said it. It is vanishingly rare to hear anyone speak so honestly and directly about the work of thuggery in hockey. See, usually, when people talk about enforcers (hell, when enforcers talk about enforcers; listen to Georges Laraque sometime), they dress up the role in a whole host of pretty, frilly justifications and rationalizations. There are literally enough of these to fill a book. In fact, I have that book on my shelf, it’s called The Code and it describes designated fighters in hockey as if they were blood-smeared saints, dedicated wholeheartedly to noble work of protecting stars, creating space for offense, and valiantly sacrificing their bodies for the good of their team. There is no other role in the game so swathed in moralistic praise, the language of honor, courage, strength, and selflessness, as that of the goon.

Goons need a lot of complicated rationalizations, because on the surface of things, it rather looks as if they exist to ruin hockey. A career enforcer spends most game nights eating popcorn in the pressbox, and when he does play, he plays 5-6 minutes per game of really bad hockey, trying to goad people into fighting and/or cheapshotting players who are actually good. Sometimes, if he succeeds in getting into a fight, it’s entertaining, but most of the time, the minutes the goon plays are the dullest, most insignificant, most boring minutes of a game, enlivened only by the dread that he might, frustrated by his irrelevance, do something stupidly, pointlessly destructive. That’s what enforcers look like, stripped of all the fancy justification.

But listening to Janssen speak, you realize that, in his case anyway, it is pretty much exactly that. Quoth Cam:

But you wanna be scary. You wanna put the fear of fucking God in people’s eyes, and not just, ‘Oh, I’m gonna beat you up.’ No, ‘I’m gonna catch you with your fucking head down and hurt you because you’re not gonna know I’m coming, because I know how to hit.’ Fighting guys is one thing because I know, ‘Oh, I won’t fight you. I’ll just turtle.’ Whatever. But if you have the puck and you know how to hit and you can hurt guys with hits like I know how to do, that’s what puts the fear of God into people

I’ll give you an example, guys will be like, ‘Hey,’ start chirping me or whatever the case when I skate by the bench, and one of the things that I say is, ‘Okay, I’m gonna hurt somebody on this fucking team, whoever’s got the puck with their head down, I’ll fucking hurt you.’ And then I’ll skate away, and they’ll be like, ‘Uh, well, uh, duh, uhhh.’ And then I’m out there next shift and guys just lose the puck, and they get rid of the puck and they get rid of the puck, because they know I’m coming.

Notice anything about that? Notice how there is no mention whatsoever of helping the team, of protecting stars, of making space for scoring? Nope. It’s all the self-aggrandizing rhetoric of threat. It’s all they trash talk me and I will hurt them. Not, if the team needs it, not, if they take liberties. When Janssen talks about his role on the ice, it consists entirely of this: fighting whoever is willing to fight him and head-hunting whoever has the puck. The only person he’s interested in protecting is himself, from people saying mean things to him.

We all knew that this is how it is, right? Since all the rules restricting fighting came into play, the only way real way erstwhile ‘policemen’ can make themselves useful is by trying to use intimidation tactics, and not the intimidation that comes from fighting, but the intimidation that comes from concussing. So let’s just drop all the crap about ‘protecting stars’ and ‘making space.’ Maybe that’s how it was in the eighties, but that ain’t how it is now. Cam Janssen doesn’t exist to make hockey safer for good players. He exists to make it more dangerous for them. He exists to skate around uselessly until he sees someone get the puck and have to put themselves in a momentarily vulnerable position to make a play and then hurt them. And he’s proud of it.

Goons get all the fucking honorifics in hockey. So brave! So tough! So selfless! Bullshit. Where is the fucking honor in that? Where is the courage? What is so selfless and noble about sneaking up behind skill and destroying it? In fact, you know what? If anything, that sounds a bit like cowardice to me, because it’s doing a kind of harm to others that you never have to face yourself. Cam Janssen doesn’t have to worry about somebody leveling him while he’s carrying the puck because in the NHL Cam Janssen couldn’t carry the puck if they let him do it in a fucking Easter basket. Oh sure, he’ll attack people face to face, when he can see punches coming and can hit back. He’ll fight people fairly. But the kind of unfair, non-consensual violence he’s talking about inflicting on others is the sort he doesn’t have to face himself, because he is a terrible hockey player who barely has the puck long enough to be vulnerable with it. He’s not a policeman. He’s a scavenger.

And a self-delusional one as well. Look at the last part of the quote, where he talks about how players are so scared of him that they just cough up the puck in terror. No, Cam, that’s not ‘getting rid of the puck’, that’s taking a shot on your net, which other teams do at a fantastically high rate when you are on the ice. In fact, those four minutes a night that Janssen plays are pretty much the worst minutes the Devils ever play. Every now and then, very rarely, he might hurt someone on the ice, but on the grand scale of things, he hurts his own team way more than he hurts his opponents.

If Janssen’s shit actually worked the way he described, the Devils would be playing him fifteen minutes a night on the top line so he could terrify opposing forwards into coughing the puck up for Kovalchuk. Instead, they don’t dress him for half the regular season and not even one playoff game, and when they do let him play, they give him only five of the very softest minutes against the easiest opposition.  Cam Janssen plays the tenderest, juiciest minutes in the game and he still gets roundly crushed in more or less every available metric, including fights lost.  You know what that means? It means Cam Janssen can’t scare anyone out of anything. Maybe opponents are intimidated in some way. Maybe they know exactly what he means to do to them and feel fear. But, evidently, they swallow their fear and make the play anyway, even knowing that he may come in late and high and knock them out.  But usually he doesn’t.  Most of the time, his puck-carrying opponents succeed in their goal and he fails in his, and the only people who are really intimidated are the Devils’ coaching staff, who are patently scared to have Janssen on the ice in any game or situation that actually matters.

People will tell you that loving tough hockey means loving enforcers. No. Guys like Janssen, Parros, they’re a very recent invention, a product of the last 30 years or so. For most of hockey history, there was no space on rosters for anyone who couldn’t play, and the famous old-time tough guys could carry the puck and throw a hit both. If anything, hockey was tougher when players, star or checker, fought their own battles, rather than downloading the entire team’s violence onto one or two marginal players. Hockey was violent before the designated goon and it will still be violent after. The Boston Bruins, widely considered one of the best and toughest teams of recent years, have not one roster player who registers an average of less than nine minutes of ES time per game, not one who requires the kind of sheltering Janssen does, and not one who gets killed nearly so badly on the shot clock. Call Shawn Thornton a thug if you want, but he can play in the postseason.

People will tell you that hockey has always been violence and gore, and that’s true, but it is also true that it’s changed a lot and is changing still. There are things that used to be acceptable- stick violence, bench-clearing brawls- and are now anathema to nearly everyone. Head-hunting is next on the list. Maybe it was cool in the 90s, maybe everyone loved it back then. But we know things now that we didn’t know then, and among the things we’ve learned is this: if we let it, head-hunting will destroy this game. It will cripple our stars and our grinders alike, it will ruin lives and ruin the image of the game. This story doesn’t just end in bloodshed, it ends in dementia and lawsuits. It doesn’t matter if hockey used to be that way for a hundred years. It can’t be that way anymore.

And, if I may anthropomorphize the game for a moment and scream at it as though it were a benevolent god who might hear my pleas: Hockey, how well and truly fucked are Your priorities, that Cam Janssen is a fan favorite and Alex Semin is considered cancerous? That a player who not only lacks skill but actively tries to annihilate skill is widely beloved and a guy who plays fast, exciting, scoring hockey is openly reviled? Because the former is always first on the ice for warm-ups and the latter doesn’t give good interviews? Your devotees are always crying that they want to see more speed, more wide-open play, more goals, and then they worship at the altar of a man who exists to destroy those things. In the balance between the beautiful and the brutal, why do we Your people have such contempt for beauty and such love of brutality? And the utter, blind hubris to then complain that You are becoming too slow and boring?

Earlier in the interview, Janssen talks about his hopes for a long career, if he can avoid getting “punch-drunk” because “that can happen to tough guys”. Well, Cam, you know, most of us don’t call it “punch-drunk” anymore, we call it ‘post-concussion syndrome’, but yeah, it happens to tough guys. You know who else it happens to? The guys you catch with their heads down. The guys who didn’t have the opportunity to avoid head injury that you have when you talk about dodging punches or eating them the right way. So yeah, maybe you’ll get to have ten more years of hockey. Lucky fucking us. We get to see ten more years of you playing four minutes of shitty hockey per night. Ten more years of Cam Janssen scavenging the ice, trying to take ten years off the careers of the players who make the kind of hockey we actually want to see.

Comments (78)

  1. The people that like the Cam Janssen type should just get over it and go watch boxing.

    There will always be fighting in hockey. It does serve a purpose. But not when done by losers like Janssen who can’t skate and can’t handle the puck. He’s a dinosaur, and I can’t wait for his type to be extinct.

    The NHL could fix this overnight though. Reduce the size of the rosters by a few players. Make the GM’s think a bit harder about whether they want to spend those places on goons.

    • Or just have progressive suspensions after a certain number of fights. Like after your 7th fight of the season each fight carries a suspension and the suspension grows by 2 games each fight. So the 8th fight gets you a 2 game suspension. The 9th fight a 4 game suspension, the 10th fight a 6 game suspension. If a guy fights 11 times in a season he’ll have sat out 20 games due to suspension. That will remove the guys who do nothing but fight. Most guys who are players and occasional fighters fight about 5 times a year. This way those guys would still have a place and the goons would be out. Also you could have fines levied to the teams for employing anyone who gets in more than 7 fights in a season. Then teams would shy away from these players. There are lots of ways to get rid of these guys. Its not hard to come up with them. I just don’t think the will is there.

      • TMS71, Agreed but too complicated. And this doesn’t just apply to fighting. New strict rules that are actually enforced, good officiating who are professional with morals and are not controlled by Bettman and the boys, HEAVY fines not $1250 (what a sad joke) to player, coach and owner, lifetime bans after 3 infractions (3 should be enough even for the goons to count to – if not they can be made to write it out on the chalk board a bunch of times), and the threat of criminal court action. What happened this year with Shanahan was a complete joke and now I hear Bettman has lessened Raffe Torres’s suspension. I would write LOL and leave it at that but it is no laughing matter at all. It is not at all complicated. IMPOSE STRICT RULES, ENFORCE THEM WITH CONSISTENCY, HUGE FINES, BANS IF THEY CAN’T UNDERSTAND THEM, CRIMINAL COURT POSSIBILITIES. Not hard as you say, but you are most certainly right. The will is not there.

        • And Peter S had a good idea in regards to reducing roster size. Anyway, why any team would want to spend a half a mil or so on a goon is beyond me. Tell your players to refuse to get involved. I can hear the pro-fighting wing already. Big deal. Remove fighting from hockey, period. Last pro team sport that allows it and at the expense of hockey talent.

          • Another thing I want to put out there and I could be wrong, but it’s just a thought. In all other pro sports the vast majority of players come up through the ranks of colleges and universities. It is my understanding that in order to play you must meet certain criteria and a specified grade point average first and foremost. Hockey has nothing like that as such but I know some players do get drafted from schools sometimes if that’s what they decided to do for themselves. Look to the N.F.L. and the colleges teams for example. And, the emphasis placed on talent leads to the best players playing. Another thing is, just watch an N.F.L. player being interviewed. You can see and hear an intelligence there and a code or whatever you want to call it of behavior. Interviews with hockey players are obviously quite the opposite. I am generalizing but for the most part it appears to be quite noticable. Other sports don’t seem to me to employ so called role players. If a guy can somehow make it to the N.H.L. or even just the A.H.L. at eighteen to twenty years old and make that kind of money where is the incentive to go to school. Not trying to be a snob, but hockey players in general don’t appear to be the sharpest knives in the drawer. Many of the actions and behaviors I see coming from hockey players are indeed goofy. It is (could be) an amazing sport to watch. It has all the elements. But, those elements that I am speaking of have nothing to do with the abilities of the goon.

  2. Having watched Alex Semin play in DC this last year, I’ll tell you why he’s not liked–and it has nothing to do with his (lack of) interview skills. Instead, it has everything to do with his lack of hockey sense. If there was a guy on the Caps last year who made more boneheaded plays, spoiled more breakaways, or failed to take more shots when he had the chance, I don’t know who it would be. But I, for one, will be happy to see Semin take his alleged talents someplace else.

  3. I’m a Devils fan and I am constantly puzzled by Janssen. Yeah, I get it, the big rivalry games against NYR and Philly have fights…but what a waste of space on a roster.

    That said, for reasons that I can’t explain, I’ve always liked George Parros. So sue me.

    • Parros is generally a likable guy though.

      He’s smart, witty and anyone that can rock a stache like him has an instant cool factor to it.

      Same thing with Laraque. The guy was a genuinely nice guy who had time for anyone.

      Janssen on the other hand is just an asshole.

      • ‘Janssen on the other hand is just an asshole.’

        This isn’t the perception either among fans of teams he’s played for or the media that have covered him in those cities.

      • I’d also say that Parros is a better hockey player. That’s not to say that his skills without the fighting would land him in the NHL, but if you needed to, you could skate him for more than 5 minutes a game (Janssen, not so much).

        • So, these guys are likeable, witty, nice and are goons. Alex Semin is a dink and very talented. What?

  4. It’s not just that Cam is a fan favorite, though he is, he’s a player favorite. I think to some degree, hockey goons also speak to that side of us that wish we could be out on the ice – yes, they are bad hockey players, but presumably, so are we. They got there by sacrificing a great deal, by learning how to be good with their fists and be willing to hit anything that moves. It’s only in the last few years that we’ve realized just what a sacrifice they’ve made, and we’re also realizing that culture-supporting pablum like ‘The Code’ (which I did not read, but the premise of which is absurd) has to go away also.

    It’s a physical game – until it’s not, the idea that players are hitting to hurt will be there. Janssen’s sin is not doing it – we have to be aware that players are doing it. It’s that he’s making explicit one of the facts that we like to pretend isn’t there – that hits are ‘to be physical’, ‘get the opponent thinking about being hit instead of playing the puck’, and so forth. Well, they’re also there to injure.

    • I can’t relate to goons. Honestly I can’t. I’m not that tough. I envy them a little bit for their fearlessness but in reality I was a fairly talented athlete and not so much of a tough guy. I don’t relate to the goons. I relate more to the finesse players. By the way the finesse guys have also worked very hard to get there. They’ve just worked on their skills instead of on fighting and hitting and getting big and strong ( if you don’t think some of those guys have juiced you are really naive). I don’t know how many fans relate to the goons because they are bad players but not all do. I certainly don’t.

      • TMS71, Goons relate to goons. And don’t forget the drunken want-to-be goons. And I guess the sober want-to-be goons too. I believe that alot of the fans who jump to their feet and enjoy watching goons as part of hockey entertainment may be the same types who enjoy watching that sickening U.F.C. fighting if that’s what it’s called. Oh, not trying to speak for how you should feel but I certainly wouldn’t envy them. They are not fearless, they are cowards. Think about it. IMO they do more damage by using their sticks on players in a sneaky way, hits to hurt and injure rather than using the body to remove a player from the puck, very dangerous hits from behind, careless and not careless behaviors in many ways, etc.. An actual fight usually takes seconds to a minute or two and for the most part no serious damage is done and I’m not supporting fighting. Personaly, I’d rather take a fist than a puck to the kisser.

    • WITH THE ADMITTED IMPLICITE *INTENT* TO INJURE! What the hell are we as supposedly decent human beings even talking about? For God sake how pathetic. Really. This is taking place in broad daylight right in front of everyone and everyone knows it. The fact that it is even being dicussed as whether or not it’s acceptable is craziness. A SPORT with the INTENT TO INJURE. Wow. When the Saints got caught doing this, the hammer came down quite severly but still not harsh enough. Miles ahead of the N.H.L., the N.F.L. still should have come down alot stiffer yet. If people can’t see or don’t want to see what hockey has become there should be no wonder at all that it will never attract an increased fan base and will lose the base it has now. INTENT TO INJURE! GEEZ! What year is this again? 2012 or the Dark Ages? AND, WE HAVE ALL BEEN DISCUSSING WHETHER OR NOT ALEXANDER SEMIN IS A BAD BOY! WOW!!!

  5. I was with you right up until you made the Semin argument. This website has spent the past week pumping Semin’s tires so much that you’d think he’s the next coming of Phil Esposito. The fact is that despite being supremely offensively talented, Semin doesn’t put in the necessary effort to help the team when its needed. He puts in effort when he wants to and doesn’t when he doesn’t. That type of attitude affects and pisses off teammates (see some of the interviews with his ex Washington teammates) and causes all kinds of problems both on and off the ice. The fact of the matter is the only reason Alex Semin doesn’t have a contract right now is Alex Semin and you need to stop pretending otherwise.

    • Oh man, you’re going to LOVE (and by love, I mean “not agree with in any way shape of form”) my Semin article. I haven’t actually talked about him at all before now, but… I will.

    • Her whole point in including Semin is to question why “doing nothing positive”, “actively injuring other players”, and taking up a roster spot are considered “fan favourites” while skills players who help win games are considered “lazy” or “locker room cancers”. It’s the same damn thing with Phil Kessel everyone wants him to be Joe Sakic or Sidney Crosby.

      • I understand the point on including Semin, I’m just sick of people all of the sudden making the fact that Semin doesn’t have a contract into something bigger than it is. It’s not a matter of him being Russian, or a bad interview, or not speaking English. It’s because people, even in Russia, believe he doesn’t care, doesn’t try, takes shifts/games off, and takes bad penalties. All you have to do is look at the game tape to understand that. And, all of those things are completely within his control. That is not someone that you commit to a multi-year, $6+ million contract. A one-year flyer for a contender? Sure, give it a shot. But multiple years with that kind of history? No way.

  6. Bravo! Excellent article. Loved reading it and I love your writing style.

    I couldn’t agree more. Being a die hard Wings fan I don’t really have much to complain about. I wasn’t a fan back in the bruise brothers days so I can’t comment on that, but I was definitely a fan for Kocur’s second go-round and I’ll always remember his Final-opening shorty against Philly. He could play. Maybe not that well, but he dressed for the whole post-season. And he was never a head hunter.

  7. You make a lot of good points here, but I really have to disagree with the way that you paint all goons with one brush. Yeah, I’m sure a lot of them are like Janssen and do it because they want to hurt people. But a lot of the goons in the NHL aren’t as focused on that aspect of it, and they do it because it is the only way they can play in the NHL. Look around the league and see how many of the more industrious fighters were not goons at the lower levels. They could (and can) play circles around most guys not in the NHL, but 4th line NHL talent is basically equivalent to top line AHL talent. I agree with you that Janssen is useless and there is no place for him and most of his ilk in the game. But there are a lot of players whose ability to fight, to make space for his teammates, to protect stars, is what separates them from dozens of AHLers.

    • I don’t consider all players who fight to be goons. The guys whose coaches trust them to play a regular shift, take defensive zone face-offs, check elite opponents, penalty kill, whatever, and also fight- this ain’t about them. But guys like Janssen are pretty certainly worse players than a lot of guys in the AHL- hell, Andrew Gordon, a career AHLer who played 37 games as a call-up for the Ducks this season, outplayed dear Cam.

      • I’ve used this example with other before:

        - Ryane Clowe… Good.
        - Cam Janssen… Bad.

        You don’t HAVE to be an idiot to be able to fight. There are lots of people that can stick up for their team mates, and drop the gloves when required you are also excellent players.

      • Yep, Cam can barely skate. If he didn’t fight, he’d be looking for a job in the SPHL….he wouldn’t make an ECHL roster on his talents were it not for his willingness to fight.

      • Just a bone to pick (because I do that, insert image of Army of Darkness here), when you wrote:

        “People will tell you that loving tough hockey means loving enforcers. No. Guys like Janssen, Parros, they’re a very recent invention, a product of the last 30 years or so. For most of hockey history, there was no space on rosters for anyone who couldn’t play, and the famous old-time tough guys could carry the puck and throw a hit both”

        I think you skew the context a bit. The NHL is less than 100 years old still, so 30 years of goonery and thuggery is over 1/3 of the history of the NHL, and even in context of human lifetimes, 30 years is hardly recent. To put that another way, for most of us, the entirety of our lifetimes has been spent watching hockey where it was accepted to have a goon, many people just haven’t known anythinge else. It is then small mystery why Janssen is a fan favourite but Semin is not. Janssen has always played a brand of hockey that has been ‘the right way’ for as long as most of us reading and working on this site have known, and Semin hasn’t. Attitudes are shifting, as they always do, and in this case, that’s a good thing. But I still be very wary of having Semin on my team, but nor would I have Janssen. (Not that I would really have had either in the first place).

      • Incapability to take a regular shift and inclination to intentionally injure may coexist in Janssens, but they are NOT 1-1. If you use skill or ice-time to distinguish predators from honest hockey players, you’re indicting all the wrong guys.

        • I dont believe that was the point of what was said. What she is saying is that Cam’s convoluted sense of importance to his team is in fact false, as shown by these stats.

  8. I wonder what kind of article about Cam Janssen would have been written if he had come out in favour of gay marriage….

    • Probably not much of one, because articles don’t get written about people who aren’t all that important and say rational things. He’d probably get some props, and people would express hope for the future of acceptance of gay athletes in NA sports.

      Pretty obvious, no?

  9. That was a fantastic bit of writing…….well done.

  10. Rip Cam Janssen and other goons all you want, but I have a problem with the way you jumped to headshots. A concussion isn’t the only thing that intimidates players. Hits are designed to hurt. Catching someone with their head down doesn’t mean that he will hit them in the head. Look at Dion Phaneuf and Niklas Kronwall. They catch people with their heads down al the time and intimidate players. In no way am I saying that Janssen is nearly as skilled as them, but that is what he is trying to do. You don’t become a professional athlete without believing that you are one of the best at doing what you do.

    I do agree that goons need to go and skilled players who fight need to stay.

    • If Kronwall intimidated anybody, he wouldn’t need to spend half the season curled into a fetal position between the referees legs.

    • “hits are designed to hurt”.

      wrong. hits were designed to separate player from puck. NOW they’re meant to kill.

      • Checks (body, stick) are designed to separate a player from the puck. Body checking evolved into hitting, which hurts.

      • Only in your own imaginary world are hits not ever designed to hurt. The truth is that both TJ’s and GM’s statements about hits are true. Sometimes they’re designed to take the guy off the puck, other times, they’re designed to separate him from the puck AND crush him as hard as you can.

      • tjcaps, EXACTLY RIGHT!

    • BTW, I was about to point out that mistake as well GM. She took a logical leap and implied that he wanted to take headshots on players (maybe he does, maybe he doesn’t).

      “and head-hunting whoever has the puck”

      Really, he’s just trying to catch someone not paying attention so he can make a big hit. Which is perfectly fine. Everyone on the ice understands players are trying to hit you hard. And I think people who have been crushed know what it feels like to be a bit panicky with the puck if you think some monster is barreling down on you.

      • The distinction between ‘head-hunting’ and ‘trying to make a big hit on someone who doesn’t see you coming’ may be real in theory, but in the great Venn diagram of hockey violence, those two circles overlap more than they don’t. The guys who pursue those huge hits on players with their heads down are often the ones who end up concussing people, and Janssen’s crossed that line more than once already. That style of hitting- and I know, it’s traditional and beloved- is something hockey is going to have to modify or the concussion/CTE issue is going to get worse and worse. But a guy like Raffi Torres could (with time, if he wanted to) change his style of hitting and still be a useful player. Janssen couldn’t.

        • Happening to hit someone in the head because their head was near your crotch (whoever Moore hit, Naslund?) or they weren’t looking isn’t “head hunting”, in my view, unless his head is sticking out and you aim for it. If you hit him with a square body check and his head happens to be down, well that’s just what’s gonna happen when you play a collision sport.

          Chicken winging an elbow, launching shoulders, elbows and hands up towards an opponents head are. Picking off the head is.

          These are two distinct categories of hits, imo. If you want to argue for the elimination of the first type I mentioned, sure, but don’t call it head hunting.

  11. A great article but I’m not sure it’s fair on Parros to compare him to Janssen.

    Sure, they have similar roles and similar GP/PIM for last season…

    However, a quick trip to their respective wikipedia pages throws up some interesting stuff.

    From Parros’ page..

    “He was recently named the 4th smartest professional athlete by the Sporting News.”

    There is also an extensive paragraph on his charity commitments as well as his support for You Can Play.

    In short, Parros knows his role and frankly, it comes across that he plays hockey because he can. He’s clearly got the smarts to do something else if he really wanted to.

    From Janssen’s page…

    “In the second period of a regular season game against the Toronto Maple Leafs on March 2, 2007, Janssen rendered Toronto Maple Leaf defenseman Tomas Kaberle unconscious with a late hit to the head. Kaberle was carried off the ice on a stretcher.[2] The NHL announced Janssen would be suspended for a period of three games without pay, forfeiting $7,220.16.”

    That’s not the kind of hockey I want to see. Railroading someone because they have their head down with the puck, fair enough. Late hits targetting the head? Sheer thuggery. Even if it was Kaberle!

    • Parros is a TERRIBLE player. He seems to be less of a dick off the ice than Janssen, but the point here is let’s put players on the ice who can play hockey. I don’t care if he can play the violin or split the atom off the ice. I care whether he can skate, shoot, and pass.

      By all means, let’s encourage him to go do something else :-)

      • By all means. I’d rather see teams rolling 4 lines of guys who can play hockey.

        However, I think Parros deserves credit for using his meagre skills in hockey to benefit charity.

        • Also, while Parros isn’t a great player, he’s better at hockey than Janssen is.

        • John, Alot of pro athletes contribute to the community and benefit charity. Parros’s wouldn’t be missed.

          • Oh yeah and another thing. Aren’t these guys supposed to be role models for our kids? That also negates his contributions

      • Peter S, Agreed and humorous too. Good one.

  12. The goons thing is almost a parody of itself now. Teams dress goons to protect their team from… other goons. With guys like Cam actively looking to catch guys with their heads down during their 15 sec of fame each night, you need a disposable player on your side to get in their and immediately take him out of the game, i.e. the staged fight.

    Goons are out there to protect the team, but it’s only to protect them from potential damage caused by other goons.

    I’m really happy that one of Sutter’s first changes in LA was dropping Westgarth and rolling 4 lines.

    • I want to suggest a different way of looking at this. Goons are most certainly not needed. However, they are by no means on the endangered list threatened to become extinct anytime soon. To many fans they are wanted. I see this as being indicidive of society as a whole. There is very little respect among people any more. Examples are seen everywhere. In homes, schools, out shopping, driving, you name it. There is no respect in hockey amongst the players either, even those on the same team in some cases. Some people seem to be saying that you need goons to protect the stars. How about this? (rule changes are of course needed). But, if stars are respected there would be no reason to have to protect them. That calls for a fundamental change in hockey to a skill and talent based game. That of course starts with the fans wanting that which in turn values the stars. A fan who truely respects that players abilities to entertain them with their play is a fan who doesn’t boo the crosbys, paint up stupid signs, call them names, etc.. Wouldn’t it be great that no matter who your team was that when a star stepped onto the ice they were given a standing ovasion instead? As a fan of hockey you are going to most likely be entertained by the best hockey has to offer. That’s called respect and IMO is what is needed. I know. Dreaming right? Well it seems better than booing, trying to hurt them physically or in print, etc.. Being a fan of a team or a player playing against another player does not require disrespect. Everyone would be better off if respect itself was a valued commodity.

      • And in keeping with the respect aspects, I’ll just say it. Goons and fighting IMO should have no place in hockey. I know I may be in the minority, but you know what, I really wonder by how much. Hockey fans for the most part like it the way it is but hockey will not gain more fans and will remain the least watched major pro sport. Can’t anyone see that there are more hockey injuries and they are getting worse? I have said this before and will say it again, much big change is needed in hockey and if it doesn’t take place and soon (which I do not anticipate), we will all sit there in silence when some player (and it may even be a goon) is wheeled off the ice on a stretcher either paralyed or dead. Go ahead and shake your head or LOL (I couldn’t care less) but mark my words. It is coming sadly enough. And there is no reason for it except that it seems to be a human failing to have no foresight. In spite of clear and obvious trends no change will take place until after the fact. Even then I suspect excuses will be made and the status quo will continue. Some of you may remember Pres. G.W. Bush say in one of his speeches that money trumps everything. Yep, unfortunate. Maybe however, more and new fans will become interested in the game. In other pro sports you see respect. A pat on the ass, helping eachother up, etc.. Look at Crosby. People talk about him never being the same again. What a terrible shame. The game of hockey has the potential to be awesome if talent and skill are prioritized. IMHO a major shift in hockey and hockey mentality is needed NOW. It starts with the fans. If one wants to be entertained by fighting and bashing the other players etc., there are other options. And one last thing. I don’t want to hear Cherry talk to my son when he goes on about his ” now listen kids and watch” B.S.. To me, most hockey players have no business being role models for children the way the game is played now. Yeah I know, I just wasted my time.

  13. To play Devil’s advocate for the enforcer for just a moment, I’m going to point to a game last season featuring both Janssens and Steve MacIntyre (who, if enforcers are bombs, would be the nuclear bomb),

    What Janssens says about his game is true. If he’s on the ice, he’s either looking for a fight or looking for a big hit. There’s nothing else to his game. There was no fight in this game. What’s noteworthy is that, despite all his bragging about how his job is to go around hurting people with body checks, Janssens didn’t finish a single hit. The reason he did not finish a hit is because MacIntyre was in his face on every faceoff, after every whistle, skating a foot behind him whispering in his ear about what would happen to him if he did. Turns out even meatheads like Janssens have a self-preservation button.

    In that instance, the enforcer functioned exactly as the warrior-poets would have you believe they do, And it’s not an isolated non-incident, it’s just hard to notice. Does Willie Mitchell take ten steps to crush Jonathan Toews if he knows John Scott’s on the roster and might do this to him? http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_795jrQti6I

    Fear and self-preservation are powerful instincts in most people. Watch Milan Lucic, some time. He’s got tunnel vision. Yet nobody hits him any more. It’s because he has no compunction about knocking you out while the referee’s holding you.

    The notion that the mere presence of a Georges Laraque or a Steve MacIntyre might stop some incidents from occurring to other guys is really not that big of a stretch.

    • I don’t think Willie Mitchell gives a flying bag of fish whether or not John Scott is in the lineup when he’s on the ice, especially given the fact that it’s probably a guarantee that Scott won’t be on the ice when Mitchell is (given how little Scott plays).

      And again, if these guys were so effective, why is it that come playoff time they virtually never see the ice. Isn’t that the toughest hockey? Why not have the toughest player in the line up more?

      It’s even odder when you factor in the intimidation angle. Sending your goon out in November doesn’t scare anyone. Why? He plays 3 minutes that night and you don’t see him again for another couple of weeks at best.

      But in the playoffs you play the other team virtually every other night… wouldn’t the intimidation be more useful here? Scaring the crap out of them in game 1 and pouring it on during subsequent games?

      But instead, coaches don’t do that because these are terrible players and you’ll get exposed playing them in the playoffs.

      The ultimate argument for the worthiness of a goon is whether you’d dress them regularly in the playoffs. Time after time the answer is no.

      • Ahem.

        http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=94r8eauXqkU
        http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=obT7dtdXefc

        Brian Boyle’s goon-up on Karlsson tactic didn’t really go beyond a single game due to the types of guys you’re telling me are non-factors in the playoffs. I would bet he never makes eye contact with Karlsson again, let alone decks him for absolutely no reason beyond trying to be something he’s not (a thug).

      • Brian Boyle’s experiences in the first round certainly disagree with you. Or have you forgotten the toll exacted on him by Chris Neil and Matt Carkner for his decision to bully Karlsson for the sin of being good and small. Think Boyle’s ever going to goon up on Karlsson again? Or even look a star player in the eye if either Neil or Carkner are in the other team’s lineup? I don’t.

        • Here’s the thing. Boyle can actually play some. If the Senators have to play worse players (but better fighters) to curtail him, the Rangers gain the advantage. Boyle doesn’t care about bullying Karlsson, because he was playing playoff hockey for three weeks while Karlsson was polishing up his Norris Trophy speech.

          Other guys, though, will definitely bully Karlsson again… because if they don’t they’re out of the league. That’s the Catch-22 of the NHL enforcer. Because they have easily-replaced skills, they are willing to cross lines and suffer great harm in the name of keeping an NHL job. They’re great teammates and they’re great community types because otherwise their presence would be quite disturbing.

          For every Matt Cooke – who can play and who has apparently completely reformed his game so he can keep playing – there are dozens of others who are in the precise opposite difficulty: reforming their game will send them out of the NHL entirely.

          • nightfly, I get your point and you are right. But, I couldn’t care less about goons and whatever circumstances they may face. IMO,they don’t belong. This is hockey, not U.F.C.. Unfortunately, most fans and the N.H.L. want and condone it, at the expense of talent on the roster. Having goons or so-called enforcers in the sport is absurd to me. Many, many very simple ways of getting rid of them if the will is there. But, the will is not there. It’s time to evolve but evolution takes a very long time. Like you alluded to, evolve or die out. Goons are glorified. During any media replay of a previous game on the news, fights are shown along side with nice goals and saves. Sadly, you and I will die out before the goon does in hockey.

  14. Excellent piece. If you ever become a free agent, we hope you’d consider writing for us.

  15. Saying “I’m gonna hurt somebody on this team” doesn’t mean he’s running around going for injuries, it means he’s going to hit you hard and knock the wind out of you. I’ve seen him play for years now and would never call him a dirty player and I think you’d be hard pressed to find him dealing out headshots or cheapshots. People are blowing his phrasing way out of proportion. I guarantee if you ask the players if they think Jansen is trying to concuss them or take them out with an injury they’d so know he’s just trying to be a tough guy.
    And just to be clear, I agree with the fact that he has no buisiness still playing cause he doesn’t bring anything to the table but willingness to fight. I mean c’mon…he doesn’t even win, his fights just last a long time.

  16. Great article Ellen, I think your opinion on Cam is pretty clear. I also don’t understand the continued support of enforcers in the game by the NHL and NHLPA. One dimensional players being signed when the league is concerned about player’s salaries and injuries is confusing.

    I’ve posted lots of articles on the negative impact that fighting has on the game here –
    http://itsnotpartofthegame.blogspot.ca/. I’m not against tough hockey players but I am convinced that fighting has no place in the game. There’s no enforcing, only revenge. Teams that fight the most are less successful, based on stats from the past 12 seaons. Teams that fight the most, also incur more non-fighting PIMs, meaning they are responsible for the cheap shots, not preventing them. I’ve provided the data for these facts on my website, or included links to studies from other, more knowledgeable writers.

    I’d like to see a game misconduct for any fight. If two players really want to go after each other then they know the consequences and won’t drop the gloves unless it’s really, really important. That would put an end to the one-dimensional fighter, and free up a roster spot for skill.

    • 4 of the top 5 teams in fighting majors made the playoffs this year. The Rangers were #1 and went to the conference finals and finished #1 in their conference.

      In 2010-2011, Boston won the cup while finishing the regular season with the second most fights.

      in 2009-2010, Philadelphia had the second most fights (1 behind Anaheim) in the regular season and lost in the Cup finals.

      It would seam that the teams that fight the most tend to do VERY well. I stopped checking the stats at the 2009-2010 season. I think there are more talented players that fight, than pure fighters. Look at Milan Lucic and Brandon Prust. They both aren’t afraid to drop the gloves, but are VERY important to their teams. They certainly aren’t 4th line scrubs.

      • There’s another factor as well. It’s entirely possible that it’s the bad teams trying to slow down good teams by starting fights with their players, leading them to have to fight more often overall to defend themselves.

        It would be difficult but informative for someone to track how these fights actually start: was there a bad hit that leads to retaliation? Was there an uncalled shot that led to the wronged party coming after that person? It seems to me that an interprising team could hire someone in their stats department to keep tabs on this; the information would probably prove useful. Instigator penalties aren’t nearly enough information to go on.

        (Full disclosure: I’m not generally a fan of the instigator anyway, because it often punishes someone who is trying to stop a dirty hitter, and provides shelter to true dirtbags. An aggressor penalty, however, might be a useful tool for refs to help police the game. Being short two minutes because your goon just had to do something stupid is pressure against employing those goons in the first place.)

    • Paul, Hockey needs alot more people like you. I agree 100%. However, there are more people who disagree.

  17. WTF. Take in Mike Brown on the TML he is the hardest working player on the team yet he has the most penalty minutes and the most fights

  18. You seem upset.

  19. This piece is brutal and perfect. Cam deserves every last piece of scathing criticism. Good work!

  20. 100% , bang on analysis – we have hockey players and punks and Jansen is clearly the later. Great write up Ellen

  21. Afuckingmen. I wish I had more to say or open a dialogue with, but honestly, Ellen, I think you nailed it. Yes. This isn’t why I watch hockey and it’s not what I want out of the game. And I say this as a person who’s made her peace with a level of violence/aggression in hockey as a result of the game – tempers flaring or things getting physical or actually, genuinely defending a teammate. But this is not at all that, so… get with the freaking times, hockey.

  22. I like your point about guys who can both fight/ be tough AND ACTUALLY PLAY. As an SJ fan, someone like Ryan Clowe instantly comes to mind (there are plenty of guys who fit the same mold.) Despite a down (i.e. bad) year, he still was tough and stood up for teammates and did “dirty work.” He also fights. But his talent alone will keep him in the league. The fighting is a bonus, I suppose.

    I guess the all time example would be Bobby Clarke? Guy actually could play, and beat the hell out of you.

  23. This needs more advanced stats to support the position.

  24. “He’s not a policeman. He’s a scavenger.”

    I don’t have much to add, you nailed it in the piece. But this, these 2 short sentences, this is poetry. Thank you.

  25. Good read and bang on. I would venture to guess that most who read it will agree. However, I don’t see things changing much soon. It would be very simple. The N.H.L. makes rules that ban this crap and becomes much more of a skill oriented sport entertainment. They then actually enforce the rules and employ good referees. IMO law suits should be a constant threat. The issue is that most, not all, but most hockey fans enjoy watching goon type hockey. Nothing much has changed. The juniors, camps, etc., all play it rough and drop the gloves in order to impress and show that they can hack it in the N.H.L.. There is a long way to go before I see change to a sport that hockey could be. A sport of talent and skill that is inherently beautiful to watch. Oh, and a thing that really pisses me off. You constantly hear that hockey players are supposedly role models for our kids. BULL SHIT! As long as the majority of fans want it this way how can it change? The management and the N.H.L. know who pays the bills. And, one more thing. Selling alcohol at games – bad idea. But it makes money too. Money is cool, but as we constantly hear about Alex Semin, but I’ll reverse it, in regards to what we are discussing, the bad outweighs the good. About Alex Semin, how often do we see and hear about that time he went about slapping Staal? The guy can’t fight. So friggen what?

  26. This is to Ellen, I have been following your articles on Alex Semin, this one and others. I applaud your efforts and agree with you. I understand as a writer you must come up with a hypothesis and go on to argue using all the facts you can along with your own ideas. However, IMO you are wasting your time if you think any of it will have the slightest impact on changing anything we see in hockey today. Yes, the people who care to read it for the most part tend to agree with you but I think that it will in no way begin to plant the seed of change of thought into the minds of the vast majority of fans. I truly wish it would. It’s kind of like trying to convince people one way or the other about topics such as the wars, gun control, etc., take your pick because the list goes on. Only one way! Until and if people stop going to the games and doling out cash for hockey paraphenalia, etc. will the N.H.L. have the incentive to promote change. They can if they want to. They simply don’t want to.

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