Sunday, June 6, 2010

Hockey Violence, not a proud Canadian tradition!

Canada Russia, 1972, the film (all four hours of it!) aired again last night on CBC. Having seen it at least half-a-dozen times before, I wondered what the sense was in seeing it again, this time with my American-born wife of nine years.
Whether or not the seriousness of the competition depended for its frenzy, in part, on the Cold War waging between Russia and the West, this was definitely a "mini-war" with sticks, bodies, pucks and "chirping" words of invective as the weapons on the ice, not to mention diplomatic strategy, distrust, trickery, lying, failing to keep commitments, and geo-politics off the ice.
Playing while virtually unconscious from a concussion, and scoring the winning goal in the final game, to give Canada the series win, Paul Henderson, has become a walking, talking emblem of the series in this country. Ken Dryden, the scholar in the team room, had both "highs" and "lows" riding almost exclusively on the number of goals scored in his net. Harry Sinden and John Ferguson, he of infamy in a Canadiens sweater for many years, distinguished themsevles by their ruthless, often panic-stricken decisions and "take-no-prisoners" approach, and Phil Esposito showed the power of leadership, even superior to that of the supposed leaders, Sinden and Ferguson, who were not trained in active listening skills.
But it was the immature, incessant getting-in-your-face "slash and burn" of people like Clarke, Bergman and Cashman, not to fail to notice or mention a similar approach of several Russian players that produced pools of blood, a sliced tongue, and a career-ending slash on Valery Kharmalov's ankle and a wave of embarrassment, angst and disgust among Canadian "intellectuals" as they are so named and so despised by the "hockey crowd".
The anti-intellectualism of this country, epitomized by the "hockey crowd," is nothing short of racist.
It was demonstrated in the contempt of his team-mates for Ken Dryden, inside and outside the dressing room, until he played an important role in the final victory; it continues today in the "Coach's Corner" with Don Cherry and Ron Maclean on
CBC's Hockey Night in Canada.
It is a reverse form of snobbery, given the glacial movement to change the game, even to remove the blind-side head-shots, and the icing rule, both of which have ended careers unnecessarily. "We may not be as 'smart' as the rest of you, but we know that hurting other people in violence is what the people buy tickets to see!"
And the bread and circuses continues, at somewhere between $200 and $2000 for a single seat in the Conference Final between Montreal and Philadelphia just last month in the Bell Centre.
It was in 1976 that Judy LaMarsh chaired a Royal Commission on Violence in Hockey. In a formal submission to the commission, I wrote then that only if and when the advertisers stand up and really threaten to remove their dollars from these spectacles, will the violence cease. However, why would the NHL attempt to restrict the flow of dollars from advertisers? And thirty-four years later, that still holds true.
Like sex, violence sells both tickets and the products of its long waiting line of advertisers.

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