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12/02/03 Little League Glasses
11/02/03 Capture the Flag
10/12/03 Poor Sport
09/06/03 Dominican, Part 4
08/10/03 Dominican, Part 3
07/10/03 Dominican, Part 2
06/14/03 Dominican, Part 1

Where Did Hockey Go?

No matter how bad life gets, I know that hockey is there for me. It is an altar on which I sacrifice my aggressions. It keeps me from killing the neighbor's dog.

What I want to know is, WHAT THE HELL HAPPENED TO MY GAME?

Every year hockey disintegrates into "family viewing." The NHL issues more dictates to make the game OSHA-compliant, G-rated, PTA-approved.

I blame it on the Mighty Ducks.

Hockey is no place for Disney, and why did they come around to begin with? Did they mistake it for the National Hokey League? Hockey is for gladiators. We should be trying to incorporate lions into the sport.

Fights are down 50% over the past three years. That's something, like...half! What am I to do with all this hostility?

Remember the days when Gretzky got checked? The fans would hush, the referee would squirm, and out jumped Marty McSorely to hunt down the culprit. The rest was Batman: Splosh! Bammo! Wham! Talk about drama.

There is nothing more exciting than a hockey fight. Sticks drop, gloves fly, and the showdown begins. On special nights you get a line brawl, mano a mano, goalie a goalie. And the fans exult like so many Romans.

Duck fans can't appreciate the unwritten rules that a player picks up along the way. If you shoot the puck after a whistle, a large man thumps you on the nose. You learn. If you knee a guy with the intent to injure, five men thump you on the nose. And you learn.

It's like The Godfather before the senate hearings ruined the series: sometimes it gets bloody but only out of respect for the family-er, team.

The hockey fight also has a purging effect. Like a hard rain. Or a good vomit. Skill players get a much needed rest, entertainment included, and the contest begins anew.

Yet the NHL meddles. Disney is meeting with the commissioner right now to propose more Mickey Mouse calls. So it goes.

Let us count the ways we have sissified hockey:

Two referees: no more jostling behind the puck.
The instigator penalty: no dropping the gloves without consent.
Jersey straps: no more bestial, bare-chested brawls.
Automatic game misconduct: no Round Two.
Whistles any time someone falls: no more hitting.
What's next, tea and crumpets between periods? If we must add rules, how about too many women on the ice?

Remember when referees would pocket their whistle and let the boys decide the score for themselves? Man, was that fun. In overtime you could discharge small weapons, providing they were licensed. There was spearing and elbowing and washing of the face, and it made you so mad that you wanted to shout, "I love this game!"

Now hockey is like Dallas without J.R., Nascar without accidents, Hostess cupcakes without crème filling! Some stations even censor fights by cutting to commercial. Who are they to decide? It's like missionaries breaking in and stealing your girly mags.

"It's such a brutal game," say Duck moms.

Yes, but it's the only thing that makes your overinsured, lawsuit-driven, café-mocha-sipping world tolerable.

Even checking isn't checking anymore. Players are terrified of the whistle: charging, roughing, tripping, using the lord's name in vain. Yesterday a guy tapped his opponent on the shoulder and said, "Excuse me, sir, but I'll be checking you momentarily. Please don't overreact."

Commissioner: stop the madness. The tenets of hockey are older than ice. Your job is not to domesticate the game but to make sure the fans are enjoying themselves. Hear that roar in the distance? A fight is breaking out, and the spectators are going nuts. They may even order $10 beers.

If we maintain our present tack, hockey will go the way of basketball: "Johnson dribbles to the key and is fouled. Smith passes to the perimeter and is fouled. McKinney takes-fouled..."

Talk has turned to mandatory face masks, stage four in the conspiracy. The ostensible reason is to protect players' eyes, but we know the truth: enforcers will have nothing to swing at. The best they can do is tattle on each other.

Still-sigh-there is no substitute for hockey. Even if the NHL reduces the sport to figure skating with sticks, I'll have to keep watching...but I won't be held responsible for what happens to the neighbor's dog.


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