Even by UFC standards, the knee to the head by Penguins' forward James Neal on the Bruins' super pest Brad Marchand in the Boston's 3-2 victory over Pittsburgh last Saturday night is considered a viscious and calculated blow. Neal took advantage of Marchand's vulnerability, and it is one of the most cowardly and unmanly cheap shots ever in recent memory. That was followed up by an equally heinous retaliatory slew foot and face pounding by Shawn Thornton on a prone and defenceless Brooks Orpik.
The NHL, and its officials, have allowed this situation to escalate, and has moved one step closer to reporting its first death as a direct result of a violent act since Bill Masterton died in 1968. Former NHL referee Wally Harris characterized the Masteron hit by saying, "he was checked hard, but I'm sure it wasn't a dirty play." That argument sounds vaguely familiar to some of the asinine explanations we have been provided in recent years by many NHL media outlets and "old school" thinkers.
So long as the discussion of fighting keeps getting bastardized with acts of violence that fall outside a conventional dropping of the gloves, the NHL will never turn the pendulum away from barbarism and towards beautiful skillful artistry.
If violence was a successful strategy to glory, then explain why these acts of violence do not take place in the playoffs? Explain why the Montreal Canadiens have 24 Stanley Cups, and Boston and Philadelphia, teams known for their brutish styles of play, only have a handful?
When five year old children register to play hockey for the first time, do we teach them to skate, stop, and pivot turn, or do we teach them boxing and wrestling moves?
The day is coming when NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman will have to look the NHL's Chairman of the Board of Govornors, and Bruins' owner Jeremy Jacobs in the eye and tell him that violence needs to be reduced for the sake of the game, and that a cultural shift needs to start happening in cities like Boston and Philadelphia.
This is exactly what it is...a cultural gap that exists between our two countries.
In Canada, we see spots of societal devastation that involve mass murder. It hits the nation’s citizens hard, and we reject it as being tolerable.
In the USA, they hide behind the constitution and learn to accept the almost daily occurrence of such inexplicable destruction of human life, and it is only inevitable, and somewhat expected, that such inner feelings carry over into the field of sports.
Fighting in hockey was nothing more than a policing measure to make up for the pathetically inept and biased officiating that existed in the game today. And now, we find ourselves one step closer to a ferocious beating, an unexpected clubbing or a senseless kneeing of a hockey player when in a defenseless position that will not only knock a player out or end his career, but will no doubt kill him.
Mr. Bettman, I hope you have a R.I.P. message ready, because it will be needed sooner rather than later unless you put an end to this garbage goon mentality pushed by a few, but powerful owners.