I Went To A Fight The Other Night, And A Hockey Game Broke Out: Patrick Roy, his son, Human Nature, ‘Pulling a Gandhi’ and the Military Industrial Complex

That ol’ gag.

I tried to write this blog but it just got out of control. This is what came out. I have no idea if it’s clear, but it’s 2:20 am…

“It’s just a job. Grass grows, birds fly, waves pound the sand. I beat people up.”
—Muhammad Ali

I’m not sure where directing a documentary on boxing places me in terms of glorifying sports violence, but I thought I’d make a comment about fighting in hockey anyway.

This comes after the recent brawl in a junior hockey game, that may not even have reached the rest of the world as news—which is good. Goaltending legend Patrick Roy’s son Jonathan skated across the ice and pounded the opposition goalie. The opposition goalie had ‘turtled’—which means he was unwilling to fight.

Frankly, I commend the choice to not fight, and I think the derogatory use of the term ‘to turtle’ should be replaced with, say, ‘he pulled a Gandhi’ or ‘he did the Martin Luther King.’

It should also be noted that when I played junior hockey, I was no fighter and barely a scorer, which surely accounts for a career of staggering brevity and anonymity. I also disliked showering with a bunch of men, but that has nothing to do with this article.

CODE OF HONOUR

What’s interesting about Patrick’s son’s behaviour—though hardly shocking or even surprising, given hockey—is that it’s not vilified because it was violent, it’s vilified because it was outside the acceptable code for fighting on the ice.

Given that fighting of any nature is allowed in hockey, that’s a bit of a curious comment—but it’s true. But the only fighting that is ‘acceptable’ in hockey—indeed encouraged, celebrated and even honoured—is the fight between two voluntary participants.

No head-butting. No biting. No kicking. And no fighting someone who refuses to fight. Hey, it’s not a free-for-all! This isn’t Iran, you know, it’s smack in the middle of modern civilization!

IN THIS CORNER, WEARING WHITE HOCKEY PANTS WITH A BLACK STRIPE…

The only fighting that’s allowed in hockey is straight ahead bare-knuckle punches to the face, by two willing participants for as long and as hard as they can keeping going without the linesmen having a safe way to break it up. If children are watching, so be it. If they’re cheering (from an economics point of view), all the better.

Suspensions, however, happen to those who commit infractions outside of this code—like Jonathan Roy, in this relatively insignificant outbreak. Whether what happened was excessively dangerous or caused injury is ultimately, but not completely, beside the point.

REAL ENFORCERS

This is instructive, and also disconcerting, because pro hockey players who actually fight for a living, generally within the ‘code’, are incredibly tough, aggressive, powerful and dangerous athletes: they can weigh 240-odd pounds, be adept in martial arts and pumped to the max on steroids—at least during their summer training regime. And the toughest junior players aren’t far behind.

Hell is bound to break loose during the season.

COMING INFRACTIONS

I would not be at all surprised if one day somebody is killed in a hockey game, not by actions outside of the ‘code’ where a loose canon pounds away on a turtling goalie, although something brutal could happen there, but by a clean punch or combination of punches in a fight that is considered acceptable.

Many hockey players more than willing to fight, with a maximum penalty of five minutes for their actions, have had their careers finished from being walloped.

Adam Deadmarsh, for example, was concussed by one punch, and never really fully recovered, putting an end to a promising career. A brutal punch and then falling face-first onto the ice, unconscious, also convinced Nick Kypreos to pack it in.

It’s not pretty, it has nothing to due with the stick or the puck, and it’s after the whistle—but people defend its place in the sport.

UNAVOIDABLE

With regards to what happened in Quebec the other night, my point is simple and two-fold.

One, who cares? It’s only hockey and the importance of sport is ridiculously overblown. I don’t even think anyone was hurt, and we live in a world where sanctioned mass killing goes on day and night.

Not to mention we have endless video war games, a war culture, ultimate fighting as entertainment, films of deep violence without redemption winning Academy Awards, and factory-farm food fed to our children and ourselves nearly 24-7. One can only pray there is a lot of love at home.

LAWS OF NATURE

Two, as long as bare-fisted, unlimited pummeling is an encouraged part of the game of hockey, greater mayhem has to occasionally spill over—including bench-clearing brawls, rude words and even the occasional fashion faux-pas. This is science as much as morality, if not more.

Anyone who can’t accept this truism just doesn’t understand the law of association, the law of thermodynamics, the law of the jungle or the law of being an idiot—heck, just ask any parent. If the zeitgeist created is full of violence, violence will erupt.

To be overly affected by its daily news flashes is to be hopelessly vulnerable. The appalling acts going on all over the globe have very little to do with a scrappy night in a Quebec ice rink. As it says in the Baghavad Gita, “Armed with yoga, stand and fight.”

In other words, understand, in varying degrees, these unfoldings are part of the world. From there, breathe deeply and act according to your nature, as best you can. If love can be increased, or hate decreased, how beautiful is that?

And if one of your goals in life is to have fighting in hockey banned, good luck to you.

LETHAL WEAPON

But the effects of association, of energy, are evident everywhere, and are perhaps even more important to try and understand. Indeed, this is the stuff of life. Take the weapons industry, for example. If trillions of dollars are spent on their production, there is a force behind such ventures—even an energetic force. By design, it seems to me, they will eventually be used.

Is weapons being used the problem, or is weapons being built the problem—or is maximizing profits in any way possible—fighting, drugs, weapons—the problem? And what are the unseen emotional effects of the weapons industry being a major part of, say, the American economy?

It’s the law of association—it’s the allowable parameters within a system. It’s seeing where a question begins, and the question that is allowed to be asked.

Corporations exploit humans and the environment because in this curious world they’re sanctioned and applauded and rewarded for doing so. Discouragement is trivial.

So it goes, in a microcosmic way, for fighting in hockey.

THE SECRET

Being surprised or appalled at what happened in that junior game is like being surprised when Mike Tyson’s nature and profession spilled over into his love life. Tragic? Yes. Surprising? Not so much. Okay, the ear was a bit of a shocker. Okay, the second bite.

Again, way outside the code of allowed violence.

JAILHOUSE ROCK

Take prisons. Is anyone surprised one goes in to those hard, cold, brutal places for a small crime and comes out a hardened criminal? If I had my way, prisons would be (for starters, a lot less full), the meals would be vegetarian, the walls would be a soft colour, and there would be no televisions.

Wait a second, that’s my house.

HUMAN NATURE

Maybe fighting in hockey should be banned, or restrained, or penalized for seven minutes, or maybe it shouldn’t. Either way, is it incomparable to the sickness of sanctioning, endorsing and funding the blowing up of women and children in foreign countries—and obtaining massive wealth for doing so?

What questions aren’t asked in our silly outrage over something like a bench-clearing brawl at a hockey game between boys?

Here’s what I know: if governments and corporations, in some revelatory tandem, stop inflicting their Military Industrial Complexes onto innocent people in other parts of the world, because it’s wrong to do so, I guarantee that fighting in hockey will slowly cease to be.

Indeed, the sport will probably become a sort of figure skating with a stick and a puck. I wouldn’t even be surprised if those one piece sky blue jump suits (with the curious bulge in the middle) cross-over too—maybe even with sequins.

But before we get too honest or too gentle, we should ask ourselves: is that really what we want? Fairly-treated people in light blue jump suits all over the world, eating nutritious salads and unafraid to ‘turtle’? Not ony that, who knows if the Chinese or the Russians will play along.

Maybe I’ve just got to minimize anger and cruelty in my own life—in how I eat, talk, work and play. No, that can’t be the problem!

I love you—garl darn it I love you!

Pete xo

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3 Responses to “I Went To A Fight The Other Night, And A Hockey Game Broke Out: Patrick Roy, his son, Human Nature, ‘Pulling a Gandhi’ and the Military Industrial Complex”

  1. Karen says:

    Hi Pete,

    You must have seen the film “Slap Shot.” I watched hockey with my Grandfather where I learned strategy and the “rules.” I saw it up closer during the ten years my son played year round, and I’m learning about “life after” at work from a gentleman who played for Ottawa in the late seventies-early eighties. I still love the game, loved watching my son play, but I’m glad he let it go after high school.

    You said, quite correctly, the fighting is encouraged, but let’s be honest; violence is part of the strategy. What does that say? During those ten years we were not unfamiliar with the ER, though we never actually put the orthopedist on speed dial.

    I think you’re absolutely right; someone will die on the ice during a fight and probably while being televised. Just watch those video Web sites light up that day.

    But then, sports have always been a microcosm of real life.

    Where were the coaches in that junior game? Oh, sorry, they were suspended too. Could that be part of how this happened? My son had coaches that ranged from lousy to great, but even the worst knew to get a kid who was losing control off the rink, field, or court before fists flew, especially under circumstances such as that night (play-off game, lopsided score, egos on the line). That’s not to say there were never fights, but you’re right, don’t underestimate the strength it takes to “turtle” either. There was one coach who would pull a player who was losing control off the rink, get right in his face, and have him breathe deeply until the kid got it under control. You just never know what kind of person will be coaching your kid, do you?

    Who cares about what happened in Quebec? Everyone should because of what it’s indicative of. Players at the junior level are young men, but that age is a time when mental and physical maturity is out of sync and the mind is racing to catch up to the body. Rare is the 19 year old that doesn’t need direction, but when adults lose track of priorities, how can we guide our children? When we fail to guide our children, we fail the future.

    So we obsess about a microcosm as an acceptable form of denial of the larger issues we feel we can’t control. Heck, we’re only human; and how fragile is that? If I’m busy being appalled by how my kid’s coach messed up how can I possibly find time to think about a civil war in Africa that the government I helped to elect supports so that I can have easy access to some natural resource?

    If the zeitgeist created isn’t full of violence, what might erupt? Perhaps if more adults chose to actually live the life we preach to our children, those children might learn by example and, in a generation or two, the Military Industrial Complex would be overshadowed in importance by the Environmental Redemption Complex.

    Is being human a confusing, amazing, spirit-straining, spirit-renewing journey or what?

    Love to you,
    Karen

  2. Dear Karen,

    As usual, I so agree with you—and you make me happy writing wise too, because my little asides always reach you. You noticed of course, my who cares had a point two. What I really meant was “care”, bbut don’t forget this next fact…

    And I really mean this:

    “And if one of your goals in life is to have fighting in hockey banned, good luck to you.”

    But your point is the key to it, and the challenge to it, and everything your last sentence sums up. What are the kids raised to believe? It’s so much instiled in growing up (or not instilled) I think if I had a hockey-playing kid, I might say (like so many great hockey plaers instinctively believe) that for two men to drop their gloves and fight in a rink takes courage, strength and passion, to be sure, but is just so idiotic that it just shouldn’t be done. I’d tell my son (or daughter), “…in my opinion, on the ice, you should never get in a fist-fight. Finish your check a little harder, push a little harder, back-check a little harder, but don’t fight…Although it’s clearly a very human thing to do, it’s dehumanizing, and it’s only a sport, and they’re your sister and brother, ultimately…”

    Unfortunately, it’s pretty clear millions of people sort of or strongly disagree. But it is a home conversation anyway. And as the famous hockey man Conn Smythe once said: “If you can’t beat ‘em in the alley, you can’t beat ‘em on the ice…”

    Smythe, also, when he heard Muhammad Ali, as a draft dodger, was going to be allowed to fight in Maple Leaf Gardens in Canada (no one in the States would take him, this s 1966)—where Smythe was, I think, Vice President or General Manager—he walked out in protest and never returned to the rink for the rest of his life—so there’s some strong-willed people who disagree wth my beliefs, that’s for sure. Incidentally, Maple Leaf Gardens was called “the House that Smythe built.”

    Pull a Gandhi!

    So we give what we can, teach what we can, learn what we can…and pray for good coaches (who we get so mad at when we lose and they weren’t tough enough!)…alas…deep breaths, and may punching someone in the face, the zeitgeist and our own hearts, soften up, but increase in discernment, in this unbelievable world…

    Love to you and your great comments,

    Pete

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