December 10, 2010
There are a lot of ways to play dirty in hockey. There's the elbow, the hit to the head, the sucker-punch, the wrist slash, leaving your feet for a hit, the leg slash, the nut-job and about a billion others.
In fact, it was downright scuzzy.
In general, you know if your teammates don't support you in whatever-it-is that you did, you've probably crossed the line (think of Bill Guerin's(notes) lack of support for Matt Cooke(notes) after he Cooke'd Marc Savard(notes)).
So what's the worst thing you can do on the ice? What's guaranteed to cause a scrum?
Today, in honor of the Bourque spear, we're looking at and ranking (what I deem to be) the five worst things you can do that violate the code of hockey, excluding lunacy like Marty McSorely-style hitting Donald Brashear(notes) in the head with his stick, or, say, taking off your skate to stab a guy.
5. The Spear
Hey look, Rene's play managed to sneak onto the list.
I played with a kid in junior who was blatantly speared by an opponent - It was like the perpetrator was fencing two-handed, skipped the parries and went right to the thrust. Unfortunately, the thrust scored, and got our guy right in the junk.
Later that night, said friend could be located having fluid drained from his now-elephantitis-like left testicle in the emergency room. He damn-near lost the thing.
Obviously spearing is cheap because it can cause a lot of damage, but also because it's just so gutless. You're a couple feet away from a guy, obviously wanting to hurt him, but unwilling to engage in hand-to-hand combat - it just takes no courage. It's the drive-by shooting of hockey hate, and has no place in our game.
4. The Butt-End
The butt-end can be extremely injurious.
It's simple mechanics, I guess - if the spear is a pushing motion, the butt-end is the more powerful pull. Since you can generate a scary amount of force with a blunt object, it's a move nobody's cheekbone wants to see coming.
Just as bad is the butt-end that comes in a swinging style, most often used at a face-off. It's like punching a guy with a roll of quarters in your hand, and is basically a concussion waiting to happen. Remember Dan Carcillo on Max Talbot? What about Mike Cammalleri on Marty Havlat?
It's easy to execute as an "accident," (granted, the ones above were pretty obvious) like you're just re-aligning yourself and battling for a puck.
This one's especially slimy for just that reason - you can really hurt a guy, but it's easy to make it look like a mistake.
Hey, he shouldn't have been standing there.
3. The Slew Foot
The player on the wrong side of this action almost never sees it coming, and rarely has time to protect himself. It's another concussion waiting to happen.
It's basically the one-man equivalent of the schoolyard "I'll kneel behind the guy, you push," only with a touch more force and a ton more malice.
It's like admitting either (A) you're not strong enough to legitimately battle for the puck with a guy or (B) you really want to hurt him. And since it's always going to be construed as the latter, here comes the other eight players on the ice, and I think we're about to see a fight.
If you're really good at being cheap, you can combine numbers No. 4 and No. 3 from this list - slip the butt-end into the guy's chin, whip the leg behind, and complete the near-murder you're attempting. Aren't I providing helpful tips today? Such a positive column!
2. The Hit From Behind
This is, by far, the most dangerous play in hockey. A distance of 2-4 feet away from the boards is just about the worst ingredient to add to this violent recipe, and a way to almost certainly break a guy's neck. If we ever see something unspeakable in hockey, it'll be on this horrible play.
Because of the potential for danger, it causes the most chaos on the ice. Following through with one of these hits is reckless, irresponsible, and deserving of the target it places your head.
When it happens in a bang-bang fashion - was that from the side or the back? - it can be tough to fault a guy. You never want to follow-through on the "maybe" hits, but I understand that it can be really difficult to tell if the guy saw you, or if he's going to turn. There can be a lot of grey area on these split-second plays.
But on those pure, numbers-out, guy-doesn't-know-you're-coming hits, the guy delivering the check should have to fight Derek Boogaard(notes) and John Scott(notes) simultaneously. With one hand, and no linesmen on the ice.
.... And finally, in first place for on-ice no-no's, we have what's probably the least dangerous of the entire list ... the symbolic act of....
1. Running the Goalie
This play is rarely dangerous.
It almost never ends in injury.
But damn are those goalies important and off-limits.
If heaven-forbid it were to happen, no single injury in our sport has the potential to kill a team like losing a starting goalie - it'd be like the Indianapolis Colts losing Peyton Manning - I like their opponent's odds of succeeding a little better if Curtis Painter is taking the snaps, much the same way most players would rather shoot on Alex Auld(notes) than Carey Price(notes).
Because of this force-field around the crease, it's the ultimate slap in the face to the entire team if anyone touches your tender.
When we were falling behind in junior hockey, our coach would say: "someone fire the puck on goal, someone else plow their tender, turn around, drop your gloves, and take the first comer."
Um, what, coach?
It was his absolutely insane idea to cause a momentum change, and sadly, it occasionally worked. Players go berserk like they're in the crowd of "Oprah's Favourite Things", so you can be sure that the course of the game is altered.
It may not be the most violent of all the moves, but it's certainly the most frowned upon.
So if you're looking for the grand-slam of cheap-shottery, just remember this move: spear the goalie, then slew-foot him (starting with the chin-butt-end), pick him up, then run him from behind.
I'm pretty sure you'd have to fight members of the crowd after that.