Following the tragic loss of another player/former player before his time, the American juggernaut news corporation is turning to have a look in. As it happens, they look to the words of former Montreal Canadiens heavyweight and philosopher Georges Laraque.
I've said many things about Laraque and his place on the Montreal Canadiesn. But one thing I probably have never said enough is that I think the guy has sense, good sense. I call him a philosopher in the paragraph above not out of jest, but because every time we hear about Georges Laraque it is because of the ideas he is having, the ideas he's sharing. The man thinks things through and in many cases expresses things wonderfully.
In the shadow of recent NHL events, Georges has once again stepped to the fore and given us all a lot to think about. Take this quote for example:
"It's the night before, the day of the game, before it starts," he said. "It's the shivers that it gives you, the worry in the head and the brain. It's when you go to a movie and you can't watch it because you're thinking the next game about having to fight Derek Boogaard or someone like that. Or you don't feel well, but something happens and you have to go out there. ... It's that pressure that's nonstop that you live with."
Last night I saw former NHLer Jim Thomson say more or less the same thing on the news. It's a thought that until recently hadn't crossed my own mind, but upon hearing makes so much sense.
As Georges says, the dread of having to fight is the painful thing. More than the fighting itself.
I know it's not what Georges intended (he is sticking by the value of fighting mainly as a means to make a good living for people as himself), so I apologise to him for taking his words against his purpose. But I think there is a lot within what he expressed there, and within what Jim Thomson said last night, and within what I have heard round and about from others that shows us the way out of this situation.
It seems to me and to many others that the way fighting has gone in the NHL is wrong. Few are the honest moments of madness where Patrice Brisebois faces Wayne Gretzky, both feeling the red mist of the game's events. Instead, fighting in its more common form is that staged and even scheduled event. The Laraque vs. Belak bill, the McGrattan vs. Boogaard (both may you rest in peace).
If the dread of these staged fights is preying so heavily on the minds of the young men in the game. And, at the same time, the staged nature of the fights is turning off the amjority of the fans. Why on earth does the NHL not do something to eliminate staged fights altogether.
This is not to say that players like Belak, Laraque and others would not find employ in the league. But rather their primary function would be to play hockey, their secondary or tertiary function to protect a teammate who might get into trouble. When and if the situation arises.
Those good enough to play the game (as Georges was anyway for several years) would have their place. Hopefully their dread would not.