I’m hesitant to do yet another post about the neanderthal way of thinking about hockey, because I feel that it would just add to the cacophony of idiocy we’ve already heard. And yet we can’t let it go away without addressing. I guess.
Here’s why people want some sort of “justice.” Because it was a name player. It was the Hawks’ best player. It was the Hawks’ most important player. It leaves a fan feeling raw. Why? Because no one else’s most important player went down like that last night. Or recently. Sidney Crosby takes hits all the time, he’s still playing. The Hawks had just lost Patrick Kane to a freak accident, basically. It feels unfair. You want to “set the world right” in some way after something that feels unfair.
But of course that’s not possible. We wouldn’t be having this talk if it was Marcus Kruger or Ben Smith who went down after a clean check. That wouldn’t titanically shift the outlook of the season. So don’t confuse the popularity or importance of the player for gravity of the hit. It’s the same either way, and it was clean.
And nothing in the game angers me more than when a player has to answer for a clean hit. That’s his fucking job. That’s what Brooks Orpik does. And after his last clean hit he was assaulted by Shawn Thornton of the Bruins. Didn’t exactly deter him from doing it again, did it? Because he didn’t go outside the rules to do so.
While I don’t want to get into hockey victim-blaming, Toews does need to do a better job of knowing who’s on the ice and keeping his head up. It’s not like Orpik can approach you that quickly. Toews plays a physical game. He’s not Kane who looks for space to make plays. Toews does his work down low, along the boards, grinding away and winning battles. The shock is that he hasn’t gotten clocked like this more often.
And what would challenging Orpik after the fact do? Pop Toews’s shoulder back in? Please. The Hawks responded the exact right way which was by finally turning their game on and basically hammering the Penguins for the 3rd period. The only reason they didn’t tie the game and probably win it was some wonky marksmanship and some big saves. They used the incident as a time to come together to play hockey. That’s a much more apt response.
I suppose, in some distant way, that if Orpik thought there was some slobbering monster who could actually skate that he might have to deal with for hitting Toews he would think about it twice before the game. But when the clock is actually ticking are we really supposed to believe all those calculations go on in the .3 seconds that a hit takes place?
Adding to this furor is that the old crowd is rebelling against watching the game they knew fade away, because we know better. We know fighting doesn’t protect anyone. We know fighting after a clean check is ridiculous, and they hate to see the game go this way. It’s ok, they’ll be dead before long enough.
They look back on a game where Gretzky or Savard never got hit. You know why? Because everyone’s skating back then sucked when compared to today. The monoliths on the back end couldn’t get to them. Even though Orpik is hardly a speedster out there, he’s a fuck of a lot better skater than whoever was on the second pairing in 1986 on any team. You can’t escape players as easily today. This is just the way the game is now.
We all like a feeling of justice. It applies to more than hockey. When your cleanup hitter gets hit you want their cleanup hitter to get hit, even though it doesn’t actually do anything. It feels like everything is being put back in balance. When you get mugged you want that guy to get the shit kicked out of him, even though you’ve canceled you credit cards and already lost the cash. It feels like balance. But it isn’t.
See the noise for what it is. I’m not sure it’ll be around much longer, and we’ll all be better off.