Mike from Attleboro -- the leading contributor to Michael Felger's old mailbag and one of Felger's favorite callers to his radio show -- is now contributing occasional pieces to CSNNE.com. Today he gives his take on Kevin Paul Dupont's assertion that hockey is being destroyed by an "ever increasing culture of violence."
If you were watching the four-letter network this past week you might have noticed they actually mentioned the NHL. That means one of two things: Either Bill Simmons is pretending he understands hockey again, or something really shocking happened.
This round of coverage stems from a Raffi Torres hit on Marion Hossa that was jarring enough to prompt the customary outrage from talking heads who probably think a Zamboni is some type of Italian pastry. This is nothing new to legitimate hockey fans.
What was both surprising and disappointing was this weeks Boston Globe hockey notes column. In it, hockey guru Kevin Paul Dupont decries what he feels is a toxic situation in the NHL. He thinks that an ever increasing culture of violence is leading to the game's disintegration. According to Dupes, unless something drastic is done, the game will eventually cannibalize itself in a flurry of mayhem.
To give Kevin his due respect, he has been covering the NHL since the late '70s. Hes in the Hockey Hall of Fame writers wing and, as the clich goes, has forgotten more about hockey than I will ever know.
Unfortunately, my problem with him stems from the stuff hes forgotten about.
Quite simply, there's no way the NHL is more violent today than when Dupes started on the beat, or even recently. Its an impossibility, given the on-ice shenanigans that went on decades ago and the way even marginal missteps are dealt with today.
Hop into a time machine and punch up the 1970s. You have complete, bench-clearing riots. Stick fights. Fans being beaten with shoes. The Broad Street Bullies-era Flyers won back-to-back Stanley Cups with a brand of on-ice terrorism so intimidating that players routinely came down with the Philadelphia Flu to avoid three 20-minute beatings. Championships were won with equal parts finesse and fisticuffs.
The violence continued in the '80s as playoffs were marred with more on-ice mayhem. The Flames and Canadiens fought after Game 4 of the 1986 Stanley Cup Finals, and the Canadiens and Flyers brawled before Game 6 of the 1987 Wales Conference Finals. During last years Cup run, the Bruins' rugged play sparked league-wide outrage. The I Love the '80s NHL makes the 2011 Bruins look like members of the Peace Corps.
In the 1990s, Adam Graves lumberjacks Mario Lemieux (fracturing his hand), and Claude Lemieux sends Kris Draper into the cheekbone relocation program on a hit from behind. Both these incidents occurred during the postseason and were lightly disciplined.
And in the past decade Scott Stevens marauded through the playoffs, labeling the previously concussed Paul Kariya and transforming the contents of Eric Lindros brain pan into country gravy with patented headshots that got him into the Hall of Fame.
If you dont have a Mr. Fusion-equipped, time-traveling DeLorean handy, just cozy up to your friendly neighborhood Google machine and take a stroll down memory lane with the Ghosts of Hockey Violence past.
In 1987, Chris Chelios elbows Brian Propp into unconsciousness and starts a one-man blood drive.
In 1988, Dino Ciccarelli spent a day in the pokey after trying to clean Luke Richardsons ears with his Koho.
In 1992, Jamie Macoun broke Pat Lafontaines jaw with his stick.
In 1994 Tony Granato used his stick to play whack-a-mole with Neil Wilkinsons head.
Dale Hunter on Pierre Turgeon. Marty McSorely on Donald Brashear. Tie Domi on Scott Niedermayer. I could go on and on and on. All the above incidents represented levels of violence and intentional menace that dwarf the Torres hit. And every one of the infractions I just mentioned listed got less supplemental discipline than the 25 games for which Torres was suspended.
You want an example of culture change? Watch John Wensink completely destroy Larry Playfair in 1978. Wensink launches, targets the head and uses a forearmelbow to completely obliterate Playfair. But there was no supplemental discipline, no penalty and no response from the Sabres. It was Playfairs fault for having his head down and Wensink, in the words of Bruins color man Johnny Pierson, just delivered a good clean check. If that hit happened today, Katie Couric would get the vapors and Brendan Shanahan would ask Jor-El to make Wensink General Zods roommate in the Phantom Zone.
But according to Dupes' Twitter account, even Chris Neils clean freight-training of Brian Boyle is now going too far?
Times really have changed. Remember when Bruins defenseman Kyle McLaren clotheslined Montreals Richard Zednik in the 2002 playoffs? I wish Dupont did.
Here is what Kevin Paul Dupont wrote about that hit in April of 2002: News to the uninitiated: If you skate full bore, head down, and curl toward the slot, you may not be asking for it, but brother, chances are you're going to get it. Does that mean Zednik deserved what he got? Absolutely, positively not. But it is big-boy hockey, and it is the playoffs, and the Boston-Montreal rivalry is a decades-long powder keg. Zednik just happened in with the book of matches and McLaren lit him up.
"Head's up, folks, and eyes open - wide open. The big boys are playing now.
Instead of making Chris Neils hit illegal, maybe 6-foot-7 Brian Boyle should read more of Kevins older work?
I dont know if Pope Kevin Paul found Jesus because the NHL is actually diagnosing and treating concussions now, or if his tastes for what an acceptable amount of violence are being influenced or pressured by outside sources, but the NHL has changed. Today there are more penalties, more fines and more accountability both on ice and in Shanahans office. But to meddle any more with the danger, physicality and violence inherent in Hockey is going to damage he fabric of what makes the game great.
To further paraphrase what KPD said in 2002, its OK to feel for (injured players) but we have to remind ourselves, once more, that it's the Stanley Cup playoffs, and they're playing big-boy hockey right now.
Couldnt have said it better myself.