This Hockey Honey Isn't Impressed

Article excerpt

What's wrong with me? I'm a huge sports fan. I even like watching men play for money. But I just couldn't go to hockey heaven with the rest of Canada when Gretzky and the gang took gold in Salt Lake City. Even the Canadian women's victory left me cold. The only saving grace to the Olympic triumphs was that we kicked American ass.

Hockey matters too much in this country. There I said it. My Canada may include the game of shinny but it does not define me or my life and it pains me to think that it has become synonymous with Canadian identity. The passion, the closing down of everything else on the Friday afternoon Canada played Belarus, the everything-must-stop-mentality that went with Sunday afternoon's gold medal game -- hey people, it's just not that important.

I started to hone this insight at the turn of the millennium -- when newspapers and magazines were entertaining nominations for the photograph that most encapsulated the spirit of Canada during the 20(th) century. A huge percentage of Canadians picked any shot of Paul Henderson scoring the winning goal of the 1972 hockey summit series with the USSR. I'd have chosen Canadian troops landing in Dieppe, representing Canada's decision to join the war independently of Britain or Trudeau repatriating the constitution; hell, even Nancy Green promoting Mars Bars, before I'd go for a couple of guys pushing a robber disc along the ice.

Then came the appalling case of hockey dad Thomas Junta killing Michael Costin, his kid's coach -- in front of his son's eyes -- outside of an arena in Cambridge, Massachusetts. As I watched our country come to a halt during the Olympics, I realized that, if the game is important enough to supplant a nation's commerce for a full half day, we shouldn't be so surprised that hockey dads get so invested in their son's games that they murder hockey coaches.

There may have been a time when there was such a thing as a graceful team sport played lightening fast, but we've gone and wrecked it. The Canadian game of hockey, as represented by the style of play in the National Hockey League, has become so dirty and violent as to sully any of the beauty that comes out of what has become a rare crisp passing play.

Pro hockey is the only game that hires players to act as goons. But despite the fact that no one threw a punch on the Olympic ice -- and that spectators ate up the violence-free version -- there's been barely a peep about banning fighting in the NHL. It's ludicrous to have to listen to the hand wringing from hockey lovers who think that the murderous Junta went too far when he killed Costin but defend professional hockey's right to stage brutal fist fights to appease the fans' bloodlust. …