Thursday 26 April 2012

Hockey Heresy

I’m not a hockey fan.  This is fairly close to sacrilege for a Canadian but it’s the truth. 

I don’t like watching sports in general but I find professional hockey particularly hard to follow.  I probably could learn the subtleties of the game if I wanted to but there’s a substantial reason why I don’t.

I don’t like the violence.

Physicality doesn’t bother me.  I enjoy seeing a bunch of athletic strong men moving swiftly and precisely.  But a game which allows flat out hitting of other people in order to gain control of the puck (or ball) diminishes that.  It’s cheap.  It’s much easier to hit someone and then take what you want than to be good enough to finesse it away from him.  That’s one side.

The actual fist fights are worse.  Two grown men squabbling and pounding each other like two toddlers in the sandbox removes any pleasure I might have in watching athletic men in competition.  It changes them from men into children, at least in my eyes.  In the sixth Senators-Rangers game, I watched one of the players slam his stick down on the ice in a tantrum after the other team scored a goal.  It’s evidence of a basic immaturity.

Ironically, I don’t have a problem with martial arts or boxing matches.  There’s a certain violent grace to it, watching two people compete physically.  But whatever Don Cherry says, the point of hockey is not to beat up the other players.  People who compete in fighting matches know exactly what they’re getting into, there are enforced rules and they take their training and matches seriously.  Hockey is supposed to be about playing the game.  A team composed entirely of brutes would still lose because they wouldn’t score any points.

If people want to see on-ice violence, they ought to start some kind of ice rink martial arts franchise.  Hockey should be about precision, speed and stamina, not fists.

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