The War Against Clownshoes

Posted November 4, 2013

I accept that fighting is a part of the NHL, even though I hate it with the fury of a thousand suns. I also accept that this is an emotional game and sometimes things happen beyond the control of officials.  And I don’t need to write another anti-fighting column because it’s already been done a million times by voices that are much, much better (and louder) than mine.

But we also must accept that if fighting is not dead already, it is certainly dying. Not necessarily from a moral standpoint (although the internet has certainly made that easier), but the first CTE-riddled former fighter that hurts someone besides himself, and when the first personal injury lawyer that sniffs out the financial bonanza of a lawsuit, the NHL will fold quicker than a cheap suit. If the NFL, the most powerful sports organization in the entire history of the world, settled immediately to avoid potential litigation, the NHL has no chance on that front. Combined with the fact that the game’s growing popularity has more skilled players coming from more places than it ever has before to fill out rosters, and the gradual death of fighting at lower levels of hockey, it’s only a matter of time.

So I don’t need to write another anti-fighting column. There are many, many more with better (and louder) voices than mine who have said all there needs to be said on that subject. If we accept that fighting is on its way out, there needs to be a greater focus on what really needs to get out of the game immediately, and that brings me to Friday night’s Caps/Flyers activities.

I don’t think I can blame the officials as much as some people have. Sure, the optics on this are terrible , but Zac Rinaldo, who at that point was out there blatantly attempting to hurt as many people as he could (as was Krys Barch for Florida on Saturday), had already been thrown out once for a 10 minute misconduct. The real onus is on Craig Berube and Paul Holmgren, who from what sounds like is being winked at in this column, essentially told his team to go out in the third and collect scalps. The referees can only control so much, and they had at least attempted to get Rinaldo off the ice once. They can’t control who Berube sends out there, which should lead the league to start seriously looking at something where if a guy like Rinaldo gets sent off for 10, any time he gets put back on the ice after that should result in a thousand-dollar fine for his head coach.

This is what’s wrong with our game. It’s the clownshoes element that makes it look more like sports entertainment than actual sport. Call it “clownshoes” or “rat culture” or whatever you want to. And when writers enable it by awarding Ray Emery a third star of the game, they’re just as much to blame as anyone. We have won the War Against Fighting. It’s time to start the War Against Clownshoes.