The Daily Rant
Rant archives
RSS feed for The Daily Rant RSS Feed
Streaming Daily Rants
Podcast/MP3 Daily Rants
About me
Home Turf
Pave the grass
My news clips
Contact me
Pa. gambles
Pa. pay raise
Pa. papers
Pa. poliblogs
Pa. columnists
Pa. AP news
N.J. papers
N.J. AP news
Good reporting
White House
GAO news
Iraq war
Peak oil
For Men
News feed
Warp Stock
Site map

as seen on phillyBurbs.com

Open mouth, insert fist
Dissing the honorable dishonors hockey.

It seemed a throwaway comment to be sure, more of an aside than the main thrust of his point.

But last week's column, "Let 'em fight," on the retirement of Phantom and former Flyers enforcer Craig Berube drew a flury of interest a day later when fellow left winger Todd Bertuzzi, of the Vancouver Canucks, leveled the Avalanche's Steve Moore with a cheap shot, breaking the Colorado forward's neck.

A week of international media attention later, Bertuzzi, one of the NHL's top goal scorers not known for being overly physical, is suspended for the rest of the year and facing possible criminal charges for his attack from behind.

I can't condone what Bertuzzi did. Still, I stand by Berube's comments and feel the best way to cure the sport's ills - financial liquidity given rising salaries, shrinking tv ratings and small crowd size - is to let some hockey players give others a headache.

Hockey is blood sport, pure and simple. To deny that, is to deny the very reason fans go to the games and tune in on television.

It's why Eagles fans cheered in 1999 when Dallas Cowboys wide receiver Michael Irvin suffered a neck injury at the Vet.

It's why hundreds of thousands of NASCAR fans pack tracks nationwide each week to watch men drive around in circles at high speeds, just waiting for the crashes.

It's also why the Roman Empire offered gladiatorial games for free to the public to keep the Pax Romana. The diversion kept the masses from focusing on royal intrigues, abuses of power and a nation whose sons were being brought back on their shields from battlefields far away from their homes.

The difference between then and now is that the public now pays - $85 a decent seat at regular season Flyers games - to be entertained.

That, and a big honking Zamboni machine.

Top NHL managers made a pretense of disciplining Bertuzzi, but held off deciding whether the All-Star can play next year - if the team owners don't lock out all of the players first, claiming they're overpaid.

They and the owners ignore the fact that the league over-expanded into markets where interest in the sport is light and so is the attendance. Hell, even the New Jersey Devils, last year's Stanley Cup winners, can't sell out their arena most games.

Let's cut down on the size of goalie pads and restrict net minders from playing the puck, some suggest. Let's get rid of the blue lines and those pesky off sides calls and open up the game like they do in the Olympics. Let's try anything, but facing the truth.

Violence, and even vengeance, are necessary adjuncts to the game.

The Flyers, who haven't won the cup since the days of the Broad Street Bullies, still have few empty seats at even the most meaningless regular season games.

It isn't because they're so good. It's because of spectacles like the last two minutes of the March 5 game against the Ottawa Senators.

Angry that the Senators' Martin Havlat carelessly whacked Flyers center Mark Recchi in the head with his stick a week before, Flyers enforcer Donald Brashear admits he purposely let loose on Senators' bruiser Rob Ray, sparking five separate brawls. In the end, 16 players from both benches were ejected, racking up 419 penalty minutes - an NHL record. Havlat, a "skill" player not good with his fists, sat out the melee in the penalty box.

Brashear maintained he was merely defending the honor of his teammate and sending a message. It's ironic, considering Brashear was the last "victim" of over-the-top hockey violence five years ago when Marty McSorley whacked him in the head with a stick.

Bertuzzi, likewise, was trying to do the honorable thing when he attacked Moore in apparent retaliation for an open-ice hit Moore delivered to Canucks captain Markus Naslund last month, knocking Naslund out for three games.

One can only wonder if the refs had let the players resolve their differences on the ice in that first game, rather than letting Bertuzzi's frustration fester for a month, if honor would have been served with only a few missing teeth and an arena filled with cheering fans.

Dave Ralis' Pave The Grass column appears on Mondays. You can send him an e-mail at  or call him at 215-269-5051. To read his previous columns, click here.

March 15, 2004