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Five for Fighting

ESPN is running a series on hockey fights. Like Jason, I believe that fighting and hockey are two inseperable things. As Jason said: They go together like Philip Seymour Hoffman and movies that make you vaguely uncomfortable.

I miss the good old days when men were men and hockey players didn't wear helmets and if your team was playing the Flyers, you could expect at least one bench-clearing brawl.

Ah, the bench-clearing brawl. Starts with a trip or a high stick and ends up with everyone, including the goalies, pairing off and punching out, sticks and gloves scattered all over the ice, ref and linesmen looking bewildered and, if you're lucky, a goon or two climbing over the penalty box and into the stands. Makes me want to grit my teeth and growl like a wild bear.

Ok, so I'm a barbarian. Not that there's anything wrong with that. It's just that I was raised to believe that a hockey game wasn't complete until someone got a game misconduct. If two or three or even four people got a misconduct, all the better. Of course I like the skating, the finesse, the hat tricks and assists and icing everything that makes hockey a beautiful sport. You want beautiful hockey? Go see Miracle when it comes out. You want raw power and blood and flying teeth? Buy a best of hockey fights tape. Because you damn sure aren't going to see any good, old-fashioned type brawls in today's NHL.

The late 70's and early 80's were the golden age of hockey fights. Tiger Williams, Dave Semenko, Bobby Clark, Terry O'Reilly, Clark Gillies, Marty McSorely, Willie Plett, just to name a few. Even the goalies would get into it, namely Billy Smith and Ron Hextall. It was a time when the word "enforcer" meant someone who protected the forwards, someone who could throw a hip check with such devasting force that the boards rattled, someone who intimidated the opposing team into playing like pansies. Now, you get guys like Tie Domi, who are nothing more than 200 pounds of testosterone wrapped around a low-functioning brain. Yesterday's enforcers could play and score; today's goons are cheap-shot artists with all the skills of Happy Gilmore.

Not all fights had to involve ten players and last twenty minutes. My favorite fight moment by far came when Clark Gilles of the Islanders and Ed Hospodar of the Rangers, both tough guys, squared off. Gillies threw one punch and Hospodar went down with a broken jaw. To this day, my sister and I call him One Punch Hospodar. And some fights involved more than just the players; I recall Terry O'Reilly of the Bruins jumping intot the stands to lay the beatdown on a fan who went after Stan Jonathan.

I miss those days. I miss the aggression and and the bone crushing checks. I miss the dropping of gloves and the Flyers climbing into the stands and players jumping out of the penalty box to join a brawl. Call me coarse or base or whatever it is you call people who find violence between consenting adults who get paid to do such a thing exciting and fun.

Old time hockey. Eddie Shore.

Update: From an interview with Al Secord:

"Then, Terry O'Reilly was hit by a spectator and O'Reilly went into the stands with Stan Jonathan. They caught the guy who had hit O'Reilly, but there were three brothers with their father and they all attacked our guys. While they had their own fight going, one guy tried to escape and was running up the stairs but Peter McNab caught him and pulled him down, right between the benches. I went and pummeled the guy while Mike Milbury was beating the guy with his own shoe."

I knew O'Reilly was involved somehow. Rusty Brain Syndrome.

Hit Somebody (The Hockey Song) by Warren Zevon

He was born in Big Beaver by the borderline
He started playing hockey by the time he was nine
His dad took the hose and froze the back yard
And Little Buddy dreamed he was Rocket Richard
He grew up big and he grew up tough
He saw himself scoring for the Wings or Canucks
But he wasn't that good with a puck

Buddy's real talent was beating people up
His heart wasn't in it but the crowd ate it up
Through pee-wee's and juniors, midgets and mites
He must have racked up more than three hundred fights
A scout from the flames came down from Saskatoon
Said, "There's always room on our team for a goon
Son, we've always got room for a goon"

There were Swedes to the left of him
Russians to the right
A Czech at the blue line looking for a fight
Brains over brawn--that might work for you
But what's a Canadian farm boy to do?
What else can a farm boy from Canada do?
But what's a Canadian farm boy to do?
What else can a farm boy from Canada do?

Hit somebody! was what the crowd roared
When Buddy the goon came over the boards
"Coach," he'd say, "I wanna score goals"
The coach said, "Buddy, remember your role
The fast guys get paid, they shoot, they score
Protect them, Buddy, that's what you're here for

Protection is what you're here for
Protection--it's the stars that score
Protection--kick somebody's ass
Protection--don't put the biscuit in the basket just
Hit some, Buddy! it rang in his ears
Blood on the ice ran down through the years
The king of the goons with a box for a throne
A thousand stitches and broken bones
He never lost a fight on his icy patrol
But deep inside, Buddy only dreamed of a goal
He just wanted one damn goal

There were Swedes at the the blue line
Finns at the red
A Russian with a stick heading straight for his head
Brains over brawn--that might work for you
But what's a Canadian farm boy to do?
What else can a farm boy from Canada do?
But what's a Canadian farm boy to do?
What else can a farm boy from Canada do?

In his final season, on his final night
Buddy and a Finn goon were pegged for a fight
Thirty seconds left, the puck took a roll
And suddenly Buddy had a shot on goal

The goalie committed, Buddy picked his spot
Twenty years of waiting went into that shot
The fans jumped up, the Finn jumped too
And coldcocked Buddy on his follow through
The big man crumbled but he felt all right
'Cause the last thing he saw
was the flashing red light
He saw that heavenly light

There were Swedes to the left of him
Russians to the right
A Czech at the blue line looking for a fight
Take care of your teeth--that might work for you
But what's a Canadian farm boy to do?
What else can a farm boy from Canada do?
But what's a Canadian farm boy to do?

Comments

It was the Bruins' Mike Milbury, I believe, and not Terry O'Reily who went into the stands and hammered a fan with the fan's own shoe.

O'Reily was famous for all manner of other violence, of course.

In Blades of Steel, the LOSER went to the penalty box.

Gotta love video games.

Oh, and don't forget Bobby Probert.

Probert is a psychopath and deserves his own post.

I cannot WAIT for "Miracle" to come out. There was a wonderful HBO documentary about the 1980 Olympics as well - leading up to the USA team lighting the torch at the winter Olympics.

I love hockey. I grew up on the Bruins. I am a barbarian as well.

Edw., you are right. Millbury, O'Reilly and Peter McNab went into the stands. Millbury hit the guy with he shoe and I think the other two were busy elsewhere.

I miss the days when superstars didn't need protection, they were protection. I grew up watching Bobby Orr, a great player who fought like a madman. Nobody messed with him, just like they didn't mess with Howe, Hull or Richard, after a while.

Gretzky is not in my top ten because the wuss needed Semenko and McSorley to protect him.

Gotta watch college hockey to get good (albeit short) fights, which is both sad and funny considering they're the ones who are really trying to crack down on it. Sadly, I see NHL going the way of the NBA: the college game is going to be much better than the pro game in about a decade. It already is more interesting, excepting Cup series.

There are no bench-clearing brawls anymore because the league decided it didn't want them (bad for the image, y'know). So they put in the third-man-in rule and the leaving-the-bench rule, and the brawls stopped dead.

They could stop ordinary fighting the same way, if they wanted to. Obviously, they don't.

That's Tie Domi, and the best moment was when I saw him kick the shit out of Bob Probert at Madison Square Garden. Probert was nicknamed "The Heavyweight Champ of The NHL" at the time, and after Domi beat him down, Domi skated past the penalty and right in front of Probert did a thing with this hands like he was now wearing "the belt."

Great stuff.

Fights are almost non-existent these days and even when they do happen, it takes about 2 seconds for them to fall to the ice and have the refs jump in.

I miss the good old days of bench clearing brawls. You mustn't forget Gary Howatt, who I think held a record for most penalty minutes at one point.

I grew up (and still live) in a place where the ponds and lakes never have ice thick enough for either skating or fishing. The fights are the only part of Hockey I understand.

Growing up in Texas, I never got into hockey as a kid. There's something about having played a sport even as a child that makes it more fun for me and easier to understand. Water won't freeze here, so we couldn't play hockey. :) It wasn't until I got to college and discovered cable that I started seeing highlights. The fights have always been great. They showed on ESPN this morning the guy taking a fan's shoe off and beating him with it. I almost fell out. When they said 'beat a fan with his own shoe' I couldn't believe it really happened. I mean what kind of a badass do you have to be to take someone's shoe off and start wailing on him with it. It also seemed like some of the best fights were between Boston and New York. I know the Red Sox and Yankees hate each other, but I didn't realize there was hatred between all sports teams in New York and Boston. I guess it's a good thing there hasn't been a war between New York and Mass yet.

I remember the big debate in my high school (northern Vancouver Island)being about wether Gretzky was really the greatest player of all time or just a big fucking pussy because he never got into fights. Ah well.

Now, of course, my old high school has a smaller hockey team, but the federal/provincial government built a state of the art curling rink in the town (population ~3000). Curling, ferchrissakes.

The other night I went to the fights and a hockey game broke out. [/Rodney Dangerfield]

Sorry about that. Cheap joke, but I'm a cheap guy.

Roy/Osgood was a good goalie fight of recent vintage.

Ah, but you forgot my Keith Magnusson, who spent more time with fists flying gleefully than any other Blackhawk in history!

I personally don't see that there's any shame in going down after one punch... when your jaw is broken.

I mean, Christ. I'd be sobbing like a little girl after that, unless sobbing made it hurt more.

My feeling is that fighting is a necessary part of the game, as an important inhibitor against cheap shots.

I don't think it should be a featured part of the game, played up like championship wrestling for the amusement of the fans. If someone prefers watching fighting to watching hockey, they should go watch a boxing match or a tough-man contest or whatever.

And people forget the while fights were happening out on the ice, there would also be fights up in the stands.
Learned my lesson wearing an Islanders jersey at 15 up in the Blue section at Madison Square Garden. My Beer Muscles did me no good at all. Islander Ranger games in the 70's and early 80's were a spectacle. 5 fights on the ice, 50 in the stands. And the fans would roar for every one of them...
I am a season ticket holder for the Thrashers now, fun skill hockey, but only 1 good fight every 5 games or so. Not like the good ol days. ALthough, one night I heckled at Tie Domi (our seats are 7 rows up), and man did he glare at me. I could see in his eyes that he would love to come over the edge. Gotta love that psycho.

Patrick Roy has a picture in the equipment room of the Quebec Remparts junior hockey team which he owns and manages. A picture of him bleeding and getting led from the ice after a fight with Mike Vernon. story

I remember a couple years back, a fan was banging on the penalty box holding Domi. Fan was shocked and beaten when the glass gave way and he fell into the penalty box with Domi.