Steven Stamkos3

There are many more-pacifistic people out there who don’t support the biblical “Eye for an eye, tooth for a tooth” belief, but I assure you that in professional sports, hockey in particular, those folks are few and far between. Sometimes you’re in a vulnerable position and you’re banking on your opponent to recognize that and be human. Usually, people are – peace, love and happiness, bro. When they’re not…

When they’re not you tend to get a little upset. You can forgive some accidents, and you can excuse guys playing hard, but you can’t excuse a guy recognizing you’re exposed and still trying to hurt you, legal play or not. This even applies to rec hockey, because for lack of a better way of putting it, “f*** that guy.” Nobody needs to get unnecessarily hurt. Even if it’s legal you don’t really want to establish yourself as someone who takes abuse well, so you may feel the need to get back at him. It’s not fun getting smoked in any situation, and when you get hurt in the process, double-f*** that guy. Hockey can be pretty, but it can also be pretty ugly if you don’t stand up for yourself occasionally.

Along a similar vein, a small digression: Steven Stamkos is back walking. Without crutches, without a boot, two weeks later, just…walking. It’s pretty incredible. He gave a press conference about it today, and said something fairly innocuous: “It was kind of a routine play, just a backcheck, I knew I had to catch a guy who was skating pretty fast, and…I think it was Hamilton in front of the net there, and…I think there probably wasn’t any intentional contact, but there was a little contact there, and I lost my footing, and those are the areas that as soon as you go down it’s an “uh-oh” moment.”

Now, I have no freaking clue if Stamkos remotely holds Hamilton responsible for his injury. None, and honestly, he probably doesn’t. The way he phrased it, it certainly didn’t make Hamilton out to be the bad guy – “I think it was Hamilton” certainly implies he hasn’t been stressing over the name and feeling like a victim. Yet still, I couldn’t help but wonder if the next chance Stamkos gets to hit Hamilton if he wouldn’t put a little extra stank on it, just cause f*** that guy, I’m hurt and he was semi-involved. (Again: he probably doesn’t blame Hamilton, you got that in English, right? If you read this article and focus on that particular play, please refrain from commenting.)

In those cases where you do feel like you’ve been wronged, you’re told to “take a number.” It’s very rarely the right time to take some retaliatory penalty, and the culture of hockey is built around the concept of putting the team first. It’s sort of a sport where, unlike basketball, having five six good players working together isn’t going to be enough. One bad apple’s bonehead play can kill the whole group, so everyone to a man is supposed to prioritize. OH, you got slashed behind the play so you took a penalty in a close game that killed us? Do you think your calf will ever heal? Enjoy the pressbox tomorrow.

But, the season is long indeed, and you do play guys multiple times, and occasionally you’ll even find your team up or down three-plus goals at a later date. Once you realize that the game is out of reach, it’s probably time to go remind someone of that thing they did that you didn’t appreciate. It’s rarely a matter of flipping the switch and saying “Okay, it’s time to go murder that guy.” Murder is wrong, you guys. You’re just looking for a chance to light him up every time you see that number, just usually in a clean way. It’s once the game is truly out of reach that the standards for “chance to light him up” drop precipitously. Eh, this might be a penalty, but seems like as good a time as any. *BOOM*

And so it goes – suddenly you’re straying from your role as F2 in the neutral zone looking for your chance. Exacting revenge between the whistles (we’re not all fighters, but nobody wants to be messed with) works a lot like cheating and flying the zone looking for breakaway passes. You step out of position hoping things unfold just perfectly to take your shot.

It kind of reminds me of Claude Giroux on Sidney Crosby in the playoffs a couple years ago:

That’s one of my favourite plays in recent hockey history, and I’m a big Sid-pporter. It’s not like Claude Giroux is running out of position here, but he’s definitely got one thing in mind when heading into this play, and it ain’t the puck. There’s also no doubt these two were after one another for the entirety of that series, and like a player leaving the zone early for a breakaway, Giroux was going in for the kill and the play developed accordingly. (Incidentally, this is why I think a lot of skill guys could play the role of “grinders” if they were so inclined, because they have a good sense of anticipation for how plays develop.)

It takes patience for things to unfold for the vendetta hunter, but patience, as always, is a virtue. Whether you’re in a duck blind, a deer stand or skates, it takes some time and discipline to get your prey.

And hey, you don’t always get your guy (because life isn’t a movie) but you can sure as hell try. And actually, in the machismo-fueled world of pro hockey, it’s almost best that you do. The game isn’t for the passive.

Comments (11)

  1. That slash on the back of the caff behind the play is the WORST!! That play, that seemingly nothing little bs slash, has got to be one of the best moves for drawing a retaliation penalty.

  2. Sometimes in beer league, a shot at the foot is good payback. No clapper, but enough he’ll remember it when he puts his shoes on tomorrow.
    i think at the junior/pro levels, good, clean hits are the best way to make your point and not come out looking like a bitch. Like that guy on every team who takes the chance to sucker a guy or get his twig up in someone’s face because of a chickenshit slash or late bump.

    • Absolutely. It’s certainly not cool to sucker a guy or to get all up in his face for a hack to the calf or whatever, but I know I’ve had a few times where “C’mon, touch the puck, motherf***er” was going through my head. Clean hit as a result, but like JB says on Giroux, the puck is secondary at that point.

  3. Back in the early 70′s when I was way behind everyone in ability (I sucked-even on the 4th line), some guy got me one good my first shift. Later when we had the lead towards the end of the game, the coach said “Isn’t that the guy that hit you?” when he sent our line. I caught that guy with his head down in front of our bench and knocked the wind out of him with a clean open ice shoulder pad to chest hit. He lost his stick and a glove (yard sale hit), and I discovered my mojo for hitting. I have never been one of the bigger guys (6 feet, 180), but once I got my skating down, clean, timely, hard open ice hits became one of the strong points of my game. I was always more enthusiastic about revenge hitting; it seemed so much more satisfying, especially when you could really crush somebody and not go sit for it!

  4. Gordie once waited six years for the perfect opportunity to get a guy who asked him if he was “stupid” for a mistake in a card game. Everyone at that table knew it was only a matter of time before the guy paid his debt to society.

  5. I’ve always liked this way of exacting revenge instead of having a team mate come in and fight the offender. Maybe if the instigator penalty was called properly, we’d see more of this, which I find much more exciting than a fight like I mentioned. Plus, if I’m a player, I think it does way more for me to get my own revenge than watch a team mate get punched because I couldn’t avoid a big hit.

  6. We goalies rarely if ever get a chance at this, so it’s nice when you’re on a team that has your back.

    One of the players on our chief rivals would make a point of crashing the crease once a game, without fail. He’d always have a BS excuse for it, but we all knew. And on our level we don’t have backups suited and ready, so if I got hurt on one of these plays, we were up against it. Luckily the guy was about 120 pounds soaking wet, but flying in at top speed and out of control, even that will leave an impression.

    One of my teammates bided his time and waited until he caught the guy with his head down… and our guy was build like a brick Zamboni. He caught him shoulder-to-hollow-chest and literally flipped him end-over-end. He got two minutes (non-checking league) but he was grinning the whole way to the box. And that kid never came near me again.

  7. If patience is a virtue, I’m a f/n saint.
    Theres still a guy I am waiting to repay from 1975. Problem is, the pussy doesn’t play anymore. But I can wait……….

    Read about Bill Goldthorpe (inspiration for Ogie Olglethorpe of Slapshot) for a neat story on waiting years and hunting down those that wronged you.

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