A couple of quotes caught my eye today and, if you’ll indulge me, I feel like ranting about them a little bit. I’m sure you’ve seen both of these already, but if not, here’s a quick recap. The first comes from an interview conducted by Mile High Hockey with former Avalanche enforcer Scott Parker. As conversations with former enforcers do, the Todd Bertuzzi/Steve Moore incident came up. You can kind of see where this is going.
[Todd Bertuzzi's] a good man. He, he is. I mean, he did get dealt some bad cards, and the thing is, [Steve Moore] always thought he was better than everybody else. He went to Harvard, you know what, blow me. College grad. I never went to college, but I can kick your ass. I’ll bring you right down to my IQ level if you want. I’ll hit you about four times in the skull, that’ll bring you right down.
And Todd, he might have gone overboard, and what’s crazy is, even talking to him after the fact and talking to Moe, Morris and other boys that were in that, that happened, I watched that tape about a hundred times, and just the way Todd hit him, and he actually grabbed him to soften his blow when he went down, and what happened was when Moe landed on him, he actually hit the back of his neck and it actually popped up. You know, just the way Todd was holding him.
But you know, it wasn’t vicious, it was just, it was the heat of the moment. It was one of those things where you, you want to do something, but you don’t know if it’s gonna be big, if it’s gonna be small, or how it’s gonna pan out. But you wanna do something. And Todd, he might not have been right and it might have been a little overboard, but you know, he did something. I mean, at least he responded, at least he tried.
Now, I don’t want to needlessly trash Parker as the rest of the quote (and the interview) is actually quite well-worded, thought out and realistic in its defense of an arguably undefensible act. His outline of the incident and Bertuzzi doesn’t excuse what he did, not in the least, but simply states that there is no way that Bertuzzi was trying to cause this much damage. I actually agree with this. I remember his tear-filled press conference after the incident. I believed his apology then and I still do today. It’s the first paragraph that truly speaks to the larger issue at hand.
The attitude seen in the first paragraph of the quote makes me question where we are in quelling severe injuries in hockey and what it means for the sport going forward. The fact that concussion prevention has become a common topic of conversation is a great thing (well, the fact it has to be at all is a horrible thing but you know what I mean) and awareness, education and science are the only things that will ever end the epidemic (if such a thing is even possible). However, this mindset of retaliation and the notion Parker presents of basically “I don’t like you, so fuck you and I’m going to kick your ass” isn’t helping matters either. Great, he went to Harvard and you think he’s an asshole, just because you play a violent sport doesn’t mean that you’re allowed to be violent.
These are not new ideas. They have all been said before and will be said again. What people need to understand is that ending the culture of violence does not mean the elimination of violence in hockey. I think this is where people get tripped up. So many times when the idea of eliminating the acceptance of violence around hockey comes up, it is met with cries bemoaning the loss of fighting. I honestly don’t know where I stand on the issue of fighting itself being allowed in hockey but I know where I stand when it comes to what fighting means to hockey. This culture of violence that has been cultivated is what prompts people like Niagara Falls Reporter…reporter, bigot and all-around shithead Lenny Palumbo to say things like this:
In spite of this, the league is determined to reduce fighting as much as possible. Meanwhile, the NHL’s abominable, “You Can Play” promotion, which all but endorses homosexuality in hockey, is among its top priorities. Thanks to Gary Bettman and his ilk, enforcers are out, but gays are in.
This is obviously a dumb thing to say and better responses and takedowns of this insanity than I am capable of have already been issued. Obviously, this is the writing of an idiot with an agenda and I am in no way suggesting that proponents of fighting in hockey, nor Scott Parker, subscribe to this ignorant, ridiculous statement. What I am saying, however, is that the notion that fighting is “the tough part of the game” is where trouble arises and how the mindset of punching someone in the skull being okay becomes acceptable. We do not need to focus on eliminating violence, just the idea that violence is somehow okay and encouraged and that anyone who opposes it is somehow “less of a man” or whatever other dumb shit Palumbo believes.
I do not believe that this mindset extends to all hockey players, or all enforces, or all journalists, or even all people. I’d like to believe (and I think I do) that this acceptance of violence is a minority point of view. We’ve all learned a lot about concussions and the risks facing athletes in violent sports in the last few years and this is nothing but a positive. It’s part of the conversation now and the NHL has taken admirable steps towards combating head injuries and our awareness and education on the issue continue to be things to be proud of. But, until the acceptance and encouragement of violence that comes with some aspects of the game can be quelled, things will only get worse before they get better.