“Do unto others as they have done unto you
But what in the hell is this world coming to?” – Metallica
By Rich Lindbloom
From a casual bystanders view, one would think the scrap between Jamal Mayers and Raffi Torres had little impact on the outcome of the game in the desert last Thursday. I told people at work that I doubted that the Hawks would even waste any energy exacting just retribution on Raffi for his brutal decapitation attempt of Marian Hossa in last year’s playoffs. After all, it’s as plain as the nose on your face that a good beat down will have little impact on the way Torres plays the game. As the saying goes, “A tiger can’t change its stripes.” Goes to show you what I know about hockey.
However, this game of hockey that we all know and love is somewhat unique among the games people play. Whether you admit it or not, part of the allure of hockey is the under lying current of violence that can erupt at a moment’s notice. Despite the seeming futility, players are somewhat inclined to take the matter of administering justice into their own hands.
Some of you may have missed it, but Zac Rinaldo of the Flyers recently knocked B.J. Crombeen out cold in a game against the Lightning. Crombeen was trying to send defenseman Luke Schenn a message, through a beat down of Rinaldo, for Schenn going after Vincent Lecavalier two weeks prior. If you have to reread the last sentence a few times to sort it all out it’s ok, such is the mixed up math of the NHL. Bear in mind, Lecavalier has had a total of two fights in his illustrious career. The Lightning, like that elephant with the memory problems, felt that a message had to be sent to the Flyers (good luck on that one) for taking a run at Lacavalier.
It appears from my vantage point that Rinaldo lays a brutal haymaker on Crombeen after he’s already clearly seeing stars. At the very least I’m sure he could hear the “Cuckoo, Cuckoo Birds” as he was headed to the ice. A classless act if you’re anyone but a Flyer’s fan or Don Cherry. If you think the Lightning, or Crombeen, will have forgotten this the next time they play, I’ve got some beach front property in the Sahara desert that I’d like to sell you. While many of us appreciate hockey for the speed, non-stop action and skills the players possess, the following quote from a Flyer fan describing Crombeen brings out the mano y mano nature of the beast. “He’s been in a stall in the men’s room sobbing, and won’t come out. Someone get him a juice box.” If you own season tickets, I guarantee you are surrounded by fans like this. I know I’ve seen a Carcillo jersey in Section 120!
Actually, in comparison to the Rinaldo/Crombeen slugfest, the bout between Mayers and Torres was at least civilized warfare as far as the NHL is concerned. While I doubt that Jamal asked Torres for the next dance, he met him face to face, the preferable method of violence in the NHL. I was somewhat surprised analyst extraordinaire, Steve Konroyd, was talking about the importance of responding to the infamous hit before the game. It seemed all the Blackhawk players were very appreciative of Mayers administering a little vigilante justice. As Mayers jumped over the boards, it was quite clear that he was not concerned where the puck was. He said something to the villainous Torres and the mittens were tossed.
I’d love to know what Jamal said to Torres as he skated by. I thought about some possibilities until this is clarified:
1. “Hey you yellow bellied sapsucker.”
2. “Your momma wears Army boots.” (Not as effective as it was when I was a kid.)
3. “When you almost killed Hossa, how did that make you feel?” (Somehow, A psychiatrist examining Raffi would probably realize he’d have greater success with Hannibal Lechter.)
4. “Repent Sinner!” or it’s close counterpart, “Revenge is mine. Thus sayeth the Lord.”
5. “It’s Hammer Time Raffi.”
6. “We’re going to the woodshed Raffi. Now!”
7. “There’s a time for war and a time for peace. You don’t hear me singing Cumbaya do you?”
8. “What kind of mom names her kid Raffi?”
9. “Give me your lunch money Raffi. Now!”
10. “Let’s dance.”
#10 reminds me of a bout Troy Brouwer was once in. Some knucklehead skated by him and said “Hey Troy, do you want to go?” Brouwer told him he was at the end of a hard shift and would prefer a different time and location. His adversaries response still makes me chuckle; “Too bad. Cuz you’re going anyway!”, and off went the gloves. Whatever Jamal said, it lead to a spirited exchange of rapid fire blows. If you were a linesman, you didn’t want to jump in too early on this bout. Actually, I was pretty impressed with Torres’s pugilistic skills. I thought the guy was just a cheap shot artist, but it turns out he can go toe to toe with one of the tougher guys in the league.
Of course, Mayers was not thinking about style points, he clearly wanted to knock Torres out; cold. I counted at least five blows that Mayers landed, the last one a hard punch to the back of the head as they tumbled to the ice. Although it’s debatable he has one, Mayers appeared to be aiming at Torres’s brainstem. No doubt, Jamal took a couple for the team before all was said and done. The split decision goes to Mayers in my book. Then again, I thought Shaw bested Rinaldo last year.
I’ve pondered whether or not Coach Q told Jamal before the game to take care of business. Did he bring both Mayers and Bollig into his office and say, “Which one of you two want the honors?” Or, did a seasoned veteran like Mayers instinctively know what needed to be done? Memories of Keith Magnuson surfaced from many moons ago. “They hurt one of our guys, so…” There was actually a spirited discussion over at the Committed Indian blog site on fighting and retaliation in response to a piece penned by Matt McClure.
Everything McClure said about Duncan Keith retaliating for the hit by DesJardins, ironically enough on Jamal Mayers, made crystal clear sense. With the instigator rule and the bizarre face shield rule, you’re basically leaving your team shorthanded of one of our best defensemen for a considerable period of time. (In Keith’s case it was literally almost a period.) The math just doesn’t add up. However, when your alternate captain comes to the defense of an aging fourth line veteran-well-the rest of the team tends to notice stuff like that. Sort of an Elmer’s Glue moment.
While it appeared to be a somewhat legal hit by DesJardins, his clear intent was to launch Mayer’s into the middle of next week. And that ain’t right. Actually Keith was almost steam rolled in the first period when chasing an errant puck by DesJardins – apparently Duncan felt enough was enough. There just will be times in life when that Dan Hicks and his Hot Licks song, OReilly at the Bar makes sense: “You’ve stolen my beer and that ain’t right, you’re getting yourself in a fight, whoever you are, you pushed me too far, now I’m gonna smash your face – O’Reilly was smashing his face.”
Quite a few bloggers went so far as to say fighting will eventually be banned in the sport. (Blasphemy!) Admittedly, I thoroughly enjoyed the Olympics and more recently the World Junior Championships where fighting was a minor, if not totally absent, aspect of the game. Of course boarding, slashing, spearing, crosschecking, charging and high sticking were quite prevalent. After all, what’s a few missing Chiclets or a minor concussion – that’s all part of the game, eh? Do the owners allow fighting to placate blood-thirsty fans? Or is it part and parcel of the innate nature of the game. Which came first, the chicken or the egg? There are not many sports where the combatants are armed with a weapon. Call me a Barbarian, but there are just certain players in the NHL that need a sterner talking to than 5 minutes in the box. Somehow I suspect there will be peace in the Middle East before fighting is banned in the NHL.
Thankfully, Keith sitting in the box for a period did not result in disaster. I’m not going to go so far and say he “inspired” the team either. Fact of the matter is, the Hawks are very talented, hardworking, defensive minded, getting stellar goaltending and the little rubber disc is bouncing in the right direction for us. Actually, the storyline after every game is getting somewhat predictable. (I was really tempted to write boring) The third line is exceeding anyone’s expectations; Hjarmal’s and Oduya have been twin pillars in front of our goalies; Kane scores and spends the rest of the night trying to set up Sharp; Sharp clangs one off a post; Dave Bolland does his best to blend; Toews/Hossa/Saad are a nightmare along the lines of the Exorcist for opposing d-men; Leddy, utilizing his jet propulsion pack, stick handles through the other teams entire defense; Stalberg skates around another defender; our third d-pairing is up to 12 min/game; our fourth line is playing 11 – 12 minutes/game; all the lines are entering the score sheet; Saad continues to develop – how would you like to have Toews and Hossa sitting next to you on the bench, teaching you the intricacies of the game?
Of course there were a few highlights. Toews put a move on Oliver Eckman-Larson that will be on highlight reels for years to come. OEL was lucky his knees didn’t buckle as a result of that ridiculous move. As Toews barreled in on a downtrodden Mike Smith, you could almost hear Smith shout, “You’ve got to be kidding me. Get me out of here Tippet, now!” As Tazer skated by Smith he was overheard singing, “Wam, bam, thank you mam!” As Toews skated off the ice I believe he told OEL, “That’s how we do it in Winnipeg, son.” All poor OEL could say after the game was, “Which way did he go, which way did he go? That wascawy Tazer.”
Another thing I noticed could best be described by a song from the J Geils band. “Hard Driving Man – driving just as hard as I can,” really seemed to be apt description of the Bick’s/Shaw/Stal’s triumvirate. How many times this year have we seen one or two of those guys crashing the net? It’s almost like they form a triangle around it. Shaw is actually starting to looks pretty good in his own zone.
Oh, before I forget – Cor-dawg finally recorded a shutout. Fear not you worrywarts, it’s still a high priority in Stan Bowman’s deal making to acquire a real goalie. He scratched Rinne off the list after Kaner’s goal last night. Quick isn’t looking too hot either.
And of course, there was that Duncan Keith thing with DesJardins. I was reading the Wall Street Journal the other day, and one of the reporters used the term “Civilized warfare,” while contrasting terrorism with the more excepted method of settling disputes. First off, “civilized warfare,” may be the greatest oxymoron ever penned. Secondly, it seems to be a perfect description of the game of hockey, eh? Secure the bayonets and don’t shoot until you see the whites of their eyes, boys. There are still 52 more skirmishes to win this year.
So the beat goes on. The Quacker’s come to town tomorrow night. Anaheim’s off to a rousing start, recording 17 points in 11 games, currently holding down second place behind a team that has 22 points in 24 games. Maybe we should send Shaw out to teach the evil Getzlaf a lesson. “That’s my puck Ryan. You don’t touch Chicken Hawks puck – got it.” That ought to get things off to a rousing start. Keep the pedal to the metal Hawks.
Let’s dance, put on those red shoes and dance the blues.” – Young David