Wherein the author says many things, most of which will probably be regretted in the morning
I was at the game, on Saturday, when Ray Emery smacked Maxim Lapierre across the face with his stick. Like most penalties that happen in a live hockey game, I didn’t really see it as it happened. I saw that something happened, but it moved fast and I was simply too far away, and viewing the play from a somewhat disadvantageous angle. Unlike most penalties, however, the
I have to say, I got over it pretty fast at the time, because of the excitement of the game, and because, for good or ill, I’ve been having serious second thoughts about Lapierre recently. I liked him a lot the first time he was called up, back in December, when he was scoring goals and didn’t seem like such a bad kid, on the whole. Even after the
Indefensible, that is, except for when they play for one's own team, for everyone seems to love their own dirty players. This is one of the aspects of hockey in general, and hockey fandom in particular, that routinely gives me screaming fits. Hockey fans, from what I can tell, have no ethical standards whatsoever when it comes to their team winning. Anything, no matter now malicious or dangerous, can be and is rationalized if it benefited one’s own team, and most of the time even if it didn’t.
Emery deliberately hit someone in the face with his stick. This was not an accidental high-sticking, or even a heat-of-the-middle-of-the-play high-sticking. This was an after-the-fact act of conscious retaliation. Hockey fans should not have to be reminded of this equation: sticks + faces + force = very, very severe injuries. And yes, I am thinking of the fact that Koivu nearly lost an eye last season and still has a blind spot. And yes, I am thinking of the unfortunate bachche who had seizures on the ice because Perezhogin decided to take a stick to his head. This is the kind of violence that costs people their careers, and sometimes more. We’re not talking about the risk of a bloody nose or missing teeth here, we’re talking the risk of blindness and brain damage.
It’s very, very obvious that I have not made my peace with violence in hockey the way most fans have, and I’m sorry about that, I’m working on it. But I have to believe, for my sanity, for my faith in humankind, that somewhere there is a line that just should not be crossed, not for any reason, and should not be rationalized, excused, or justified if it is. There has to be something that is just never, ever, okay.
Looking around the websites of my ‘rival’ teams the past two days, there’s a lot of people defending Emery and arguing that Lapierre deserved it, or even worse. How do they hate us this deeply, this sincerely? How can you say in the same breath that you know that Emery meant to injure Lapierre, and even that he’s a ‘sociopath’ who you would expect to do such things, and then turn around and say, but it’s okay, because he’s ‘our’ sociopath, and anyway, Lapierre is a Hab, so it’s all good? And then go on to say that Emery got worse than he deserved, with a three game suspension, because the League is racist, or biased against him? As far as I can tell, Emery got lucky that it was only three games, because Lapierre wasn’t hurt. But for this kind of thing, there can’t be a no-harm, no-foul policy, you can’t say its fine because this time there were no real consequences, because the next time somebody does the exact same thing, there probably will be.
I have no interest in defending Lapierre, or arguing that he’s a sweet guy who’s been misjudged, because it shouldn’t matter in this case who he is. I don’t care if he’s The Venerable Sidney or The Accursed Tucker, nobody should ever, ever get hit like that. It is not the moral or physical equivalent of an accident, or even a deliberate thwack to the body. If Emery wanted to provoke a retaliatory fight, fine, let him shove the kid, and if Lapierre ran off, there are still a thousand types of violence to choose from in hockey, at least half of which are more proportional to the offense than Emery’s choice. I know, in the raw moments of a game all kinds of violence seem appealing, it may seem like righteous vengeance, it may seem like the right thing to do, but some things just can’t be allowed. There’s got to be a point where the bloodlust and the rivalry-hatred end, because we know that if we go further, we enter the no-man’s-land of infinite escalation, and eventually there won’t be anyone left standing on either side.
I know there are Sens fans and Leafs fans who read this site from time to time, and, although I now understand more clearly the depth of your loathing for ahbabi, I’d like to hear your thoughts on this issue. Not the specific dynamics of the situation, per se, as there’s lots of discussion of that to be read all over the place, but the general question. Is there, for you, a beyond-the-pale, some action so wrong that you would not defend a member of your team who did it? If the line isn’t swinging a stick to the face, where is it? Or is the rivalry really so deep that you, even after the end of the game, even in your calmest moments, truly want to see the men who play for the Canadiens literally crippled? And how did you come to feel that way?
I ask because I don’t feel that. I mean, I feel it in the games, I get a little crazy over certain varieties of fighting (see previous post), and it’s well known that I have an ongoing love-affair with Komisarek’s checking style. I’ve seen and excused my share of dubious actions on the parts of the Habs. In the end, though, I hate seeing hockey players- in any color uniform- broken, and when I see such breaking or the kind of actions that routinely lead to it, to serious injuries and not mere pain, my team-based-fanaticism evaporates and all I can think is, ‘I hope he’s okay.’ I saw Peca go down in Chicago and I felt that way, and I might have written about it if it didn’t seem so wrong and embarrassing, him sprawled on the ice, a hundred Hawks fans around me shouting ‘DIVER’, and me sitting there- in a Canadiens shirt- thinking, ‘please be okay, please be okay, come on, get up, please…’ And even though Lapierre is fine, and I don't even particularly like him, when I see that clip, I get a shadow of the same feeling, the same fear. I see not so much what the actual outcome was, but the much worse outcome that could have been.
I know I’m just begging, with this post, to get flamed from all sides of this, including possibly some Habs fans accusing me of insufficient commitment to the cause. I know that I’m a terrible, unnatural hockey fan, a pretender to the culture. So help me out here, people, help me understand this mess, tell me what I’m missing. Tell me, please, about your rivals and what you feel towards them and why, and tell me what the boundaries of acceptable violence are for you.
I have to know. For my sanity. For my faith in humankind.