Hockey Fight in Canada
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Hey Don Cherry: It's not Hockey Fight In Canada!

By Andrew Wyatt - November 14th 2007.

Hockey games are really going downhill and you know its getting worse when the announcers start praising the fighters and analyzing the fights like its a boxing match.

Imagine watching a baseball game and hearing the announcers praise a pitcher for hitting a batter in the head. Then imagine them talking about how much the fans love a good bean-ball war and how it's just what the game needs.

It would never happen of course. We're not about to hear football announcers calling for more clotheslines or basketball announcers singing the praises of flagrant fouls.

But in the bizarre world of hockey, this is all a regular part of the show and nowhere is it more in evidence than on Hockey Night In Canada.

Take Saturday's Rangers-Leafs game for example (clip shown to the right) from November 10th.

It all started with some pre-game shoving between New York's Sean Avery and Toronto's Darcy Tucker, which prompted CBC to interrupt its pre-game show for comment from Don Cherry. The old fight promoter didn't disappoint his legion of fans, berating the Leafs for not taking care of Avery and adding that his old Boston Bruins would have knocked the Ranger forward out of action for six months.

Not surprisingly, the two came to blows during the game, which really got the CBC crew excited.

After calling the tussle as if it were a championship fight, announcer Bob Cole could barely contain his enthusiasm.

"So this is going to get the crowd going," he gushed as cameras showed delirious fans and appreciative players. "There may be more to come later on tonight. Gotta get them going somehow."

As if fans somehow didn't get the point, analyst Harry Neale then pointed out that this really got the fans and players going.

Is this game so utterly BORING that it needs two guys staggering around the ice while throwing punches to get fans excited?

Needless to say, the fight was the main subject of CBC's Coachs' Corner, which started out with Don Cherry decrying the pre-game foolishness. But before viewers wondered if the world had tilted on its axis, Cherry got to his real point: There should have been a brawl then and there.

More importantly, the Leafs should have dressed designated goon Wade Belak to settle matters and boost the level of "entertainment" for the fans.

"If the instigator rule wasn't in you could get this guy and wipe him out," Cherry thundered belingerently, apparently not sated by the first-period fisticuffs and not realizing the full meaning of his statements. "This is what's bad about hockey when you have a little guy yapping around and you can't do anything about it."

That Cherry would call for MORE violence is hardly surprising. After all, while listing Eric Lindros' credentials for Hall of Fame consideration later in the segment he included, "put out (Ulf) Samuelsson, remember, broke his shoulder."

You'd think a show that features fresh-faced young kids to open the show every Saturday might think about toning it down a bit, but we forget how popular Don Cherry is. He was even voted into the Top Ten Greatest Canadians for the CBC's television show The Greatest Canadians.

This basically means that Don Cherry can do no wrong. He can more or less say whatever he wants on live television, whether its supporting the war in Afghanistan, voicing his support for Stephen Harper or calling French-Canadians a bunch of pussies because they wear visors on their hockey helmets.

But all of this betrays the true nature of hockey and what fans really want to see: Violence.

The average hockey fan (and I count myself as one of them, although a black sheep in the crowd) loves a good fight. That is just the kind of brain dead people we are. Give us some beer and a hockey fight to watch and we're happy. We're not the sort who normally reads (unless its the Sports or Cars section in the newspaper).

When I was younger I played hockey and got in my share of scraps on the ice, but the referees always pulled us apart very quickly. You'll notice that on Hockey Night in Canada there isn't a lot of referees and they're pretty powerless to pull grown men out of the fights they get in to.

My solution is simple: More referees and a no tolerance policy for fighters. One fight and you're banned for a year without pay. Two fights, another year with no pay. Three fights... banned for good.

It would solve the problem of hockey fights but I can guarantee that hockey would lose fans... they'd go to wrestling and boxing matches instead.

Or if you're looking for something different, try the PFL: The Pillow Fight League.

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