After reading the comments last night, it’s obvious that some of you don’t understand my anger and negativity toward this slopfest of a hockey team and its parent culture that values toughguyity over winning.
I love fighting in hockey. Our society has become way too hypocritical with regard to sports. We celebrate MMA and boxing, activities whose main goal is to give your opponent a concussion (somehow, knockout and tko sound better than “I gave that dude a concussion”), while crusading against devastating hits in football and fighting in hockey. In one context, watching a guy get his face beat to a bloody pulp is awesome. In the other, it’s barbaric. It makes no sense. If someone is at the point where they can decide to play football or hockey for a living, they most certainly know the risks. And if two grown men decide they want to square off in a bout of physical strength on a slab of frozen water in front of 20,000 onlookers (hockey fight), then who are we to stop them? FOX will put MMA on in prime time, yet people are all of a sudden squeamish when a hockey player gets a few teeth knocked out in a one-off fight? You suck, America.
And who doesn’t love a good goalie fight? It’s one of the top five most exciting things in sports (inside-the-park home run, playoff overtime, buzzer-beater, kick return). I screamed my head off watching Garth Snow and Steve Shields do battle in 1997. Ron Hextall kicking Chris Chelios’ ass is part of Philly sports lore. There’s nothing more exciting than two masked men skating to meet each other at center ice and dueling. If God himself could’ve designed a way to settle scores, a goalie fight would’ve been it– each town sends their craziest person armed with leg pillows, a helmet and waffle (oddly, in old times, it may have been an actual waffle, which is cool) to fight to the death. So many wars could’ve been avoided, so many lives saved.
But last night, that wasn’t a goalie fight. And that wasn’t a team showing a spark or sending a message or giving a wake-up call. It was a bunch of butt-hurt hockey players showing their frustration by trying to beat the other team to a pulp because their backward-thinking organization and coach champion that sort of thing. If you can’t beat ‘em, beat ‘em.
The problem is, the Flyers could do neither.
Newly acquired (and reformed!) Steve Downie, brought here to add a spark and ignite scoring, got punched in the face so hard in his Flyers re-debut that he had to be taken to the hospital on a stretcher.
Offseason acquisition Vincent Lecavalier got his cherub face busted while trying send a message that he was very much incapable of sending.
Offseason re-acquisition Ray Emery skated down the ice, summoned his chosen opponent, who wanted nothing to do with him, and then proceeded to assault the guy, breaking every measure of human decency along the way.
We love hockey because of its code, because when a guy like Downie looks at his sparring partner with eyes so hollow that a spelunking team would have trouble reaching his pupils, the fight is ended. That’s a hockey fight. It’s part of the game, and it’s awesome.
But that’s not what Emery did. That wasn’t a goalie fight. He told the unwilling Braden Holtby to protect himself, because the thunder is coming, like it or not. Cower into your shell, little turtle, as I rain blows down upon thee head because I’ve given up four goals tonight and can’t find any other way to assert my dominance in this arena.
It was stupid. Everything the Flyers did was stupid. Everything we hated the Pittsburgh Penguins for two years ago in the playoffs when they resorted to goonery instead of hockey– that’s what the Flyers were last night. But, for some reason, that sort of thing is still championed amongst the most hardened, “mom, the meat loaf, FUCK!” OBs. We didn’t win the game, but WE KICKED THEIR ASS! BULLIES!!!! 1975!!!!!!
That Snow-Shields fight was awesome because the Flyers were good then, and that was a good team showing that not only could they score, but that they also had a spine. Last night, however, that was a god awful team embarrassing themselves, and yet some people still love it and act like the Flyers were the big winners last night.
Don’t get me wrong, it was highly entertaining, and I almost pulled a muscle in my wrist switching over from the Sixers game when I heard there was a goalie fight. But what good came out of it? What, exactly, is there to be excited about? Someone in the comments wrote that Emery had to do that to “save the season.” Save the season? What is wrong with you people? The Flyers are 3-9 and lost 7-0 last night. They’re not good. No amount of fighting is going to save the season. Worse, Paul Holmgren’s biggest moves over the past few months have been acquiring Lecavalier and Emery, promoting Craig Berube, and trading for Downie. Last night, Lecavalier got hurt, Downie was taken to the hospital, and Emery likely got himself suspended, all while, almost assuredly, somewhere deep down inside the coach was cheering. THAT’S what’s wrong with the Flyers’ culture. It’s not 1975 anymore. Hell, it’s not 1997 anymore. Like it or not, thanks to rule changes and, well, progress, beating the shit out of your opponent, or at least trying to, doesn’t win you games. Sure, it’s fun to watch, and everyone loves some fighting within the context of the game or advancing the cause. But championing straight-up thuggery does none of that. Yet that’s what the Flyers, as an organization, do. They were finally on the right course three years ago. They had a team that came within a game of winning the Stanley Cup. The next season, they finished with the third-most points in hockey. They had a good core of skill and character guys and a promising (cheap!) young goalie… and they blew it all up. They’re giving contract extensions to goons, they made Craig Berube (CRAIG BERUBE!) their head coach, they brought back Ron Hextall, they’re collecting former players who have “an edge” like there’s no tomorrow, and the owner is angrily defending the cause and telling people “WE DON’T NEED A CULTURE CHANGE!” The Flyers are a caricature of themselves right now. It’s embarrassing, annoying and maddening. I don’t know about you, but I’d sign up today for no more fights if it meant scoring goals and ACTUALLY WINNING SOMETHING! But no, let’s just keep fucking brawling on the ice and then being baffled as to why the Red Wings, Penguins and Blackhawks keep collecting Stanley Cups. Fuck you, Ed Snider. Holy shit! Where’s the Tylenol?