The Diachronic Barber Pole Observations of a Recovering Hockey Exile

Visor and the Donkey – Georges Laraque is Wrong

February 10, 2009, by Homme De Sept-Iles

Georges Laraque was interviewed yesterday (Monday, Feb 9th on the eve of the Montreal Canadiens’ 6-2 loss to the Calgary Flames) and said a few things that just might be dead wrong.

Laraque, one of Montreal’s newest additions is one of the top enforcers in the NHL (if not the top guy) and is respected  throughout the league for his general gentlemanly nature.

A thoughtful and intelligent person, Laraque wrote an insightful blog on CTV’s online website, Sportsnet.ca until January when he was asked by the Canadiens brass to stop (for reasons of fairness beyond the scope of this article).

Despite his pugilist role, Laraque isn’t a dirty player.  And certainly not a bully.  He honourably fulfills a role made possible by the culture around the game which, generally, approves of fighting as a part of the game.

That culture has been criticized in recent weeks with the tragic and unnecessary death of one player, Don Sanderson,  following an OHL fight and the seizure of another shortly after an AHL fight.  Sanderson died three weeks after his helmetless head hit the ice.

Fight proponents have suggested the introduction of rules preventing the removal of helmets before a fight.

Laraque added his own thoughts yesterday, highlighted below:

  • I know fighting will stay.
  • It sells the game in a way. The NHL always talks about making the game bigger and selling the game.
  • There are tons of people who are not necessarily big fans of hockey, but they love watching fights. Taking fighting away would be a tremendous change to the game.  They would never do that.

Progress, as long as basic structures (like democracy and country borders and laws) stay essentially the same, is inevitable.

One day fighting will go the way of the mastodon.

Among many other variables eroding the culture of fighting, is the eventuality that the pro game will go international (Europe) and the elimination of fighting will become an economic necessity in order to win over the new demographic.

As the percentages of NHL players shift away from a Canadian majority (from about 90% in 1980 to about 60% today), it is only the flat-earth society members of the NHL media, fans and media that struggle against the shift.  And it is Canadians that most defend and want fighting in the culture.

Big Georges also added:

  • Guys with a visor, if they want to fight, they should have a special clip so they can take the visor off.  If you have a visor, you have to take your helmet off, otherwise you get a 10-minute misconduct.
  • The NHL is so good at adjusting equipment. It would be so easy to quickly just clip your visor off your helmet.

At some point, it will have to be admitted that keeping fighting in the game creates some very awkward positions and outcomes.  What sort of foolishness requires a player to remove his visor before embarking on what, in theory, is a violent act?  It only proves the calculated nature of violence in the NHL and detracts from the fight proponents popular argument that asserts that the hitting and stick-work in the game need an outlet that releases frustration.

It will also look hilarious.

There is a lot more to be said on this topic (and I will address more fight points in future pieces).

For now, here is a parable from Aesop to close out the day.  Keep the image of two players ripping visors away as they circle one another to do battle…

A man and his son were once going with their donkey to market. As they were walking along by its side a countryman passed them and said: “You fools, what is a Donkey for but to ride upon?”

So the man put the boy on the donkey and they went on their way. But soon they passed a group of men, one of whom said: “See that lazy youngster, he lets his father walk while he rides.”

So the man ordered his boy to get off, and got on himself. But they hadn’t gone far when they passed two women, one of whom said to the other: “Shame on that lazy lout to let his poor little son trudge along.”

Well, the man didn’t know what to do, but at last he took his boy up before him on the donkey. By this time they had come to the town, and the passers-by began to jeer and point at them. The man stopped and asked what they were scoffing at. The men said: “Aren’t you ashamed of yourself for overloading that poor donkey of yours with you and your hulking son?”

The man and boy got off and tried to think what to do. They thought and they thought, till at last they cut down a pole, tied the donkey’s feet to it, and raised the pole and the donkey to their shoulders.

[ed. note: An awkward sight, indeed.]

They went along amid the laughter of all who met them till they came to the market bridge, when the donkey, getting one of his feet loose, kicked out and caused the boy to drop his end of the pole. In the struggle the donkey fell over the bridge, and his fore-feet being tied together he was drowned.

“That will teach you,” said an old man who had followed them:  “Please all, and you will please none.”

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