25 January 2010
Dear Mr. Lombardi,
This open letter is in response to this clip and a series of tweets sent to @RealDenverSport, specifically the below quotes:
- “C’mon, you know the rule. No hockey fights allowed on this broadcast. My way of protesting the hockey subculture that openly promotes the pummeling of hockey players faces.”
- “Why are playoffs different? Why don't goons dress for the playoffs? Educate me please.”
- “Once again: when is the NHL most enjoyable? During the playoffs. Why is fighting curtailed during playoffs? Answer that.”
There is no question that there are plenty of US born sports broadcasters that didn’t grow up with hockey - that don’t understand the game and therefore don’t care for the game. And hey, that’s fine - I’m not much of a cricket fan for the same reasons.
What I can’t stand is when these same guys attempt to belittle hockey by embarking on moral crusade against fighting. I will refer to that group as “your ilk” for the rest of this letter.
Below are three misconceptions about hockey fighting you’ve pedaled on your show and on Twitter. It’s not like you invented these, your ilk have repeated these points to each other so many times that they have become truths. Clearly, you guys need a bit of education, so try to take it in:
Misconception #1: There is a “hockey sub-culture” that promotes fighting.
Guess what all of these Hall of Fame caliber, immensely respected hockey players have in common, Vic? (Besides being hockey players you‘ve actually heard of?) Sidney Crosby (4), Joe Sakic (2), Patrick Roy (3), Ray Bourque (17), Steve Yzerman (9), Wayne Gretzky (2).
Like it or not, fighting is deeply engrained into the fabric of the NHL. The game’s very best players have dropped their gloves at some point in their careers (given the right circumstances). This shows a wide acceptance of fighting – it is certainly not limited to a “subculture” inside of the game.
Misconception #2: “Goons” don’t play in the playoffs.
You know who plays in playoff games? The players that give the team the best chance to win the series. That can and will absolutely include a "goon” (so long as they are effective).
I already tweeted a link to Georges Laraque’s career playoff stats (58 games) to you (which you didn‘t respond to) - so here is a different example: Derek Boogaard’s impact on the Avs / Wild series in 2008.
If you’re not familiar with Boogaard’s game, he is the quintessential hockey “goon”. Case and point - he puts on a fighting camp each summer. He is also beloved by Minnesota Wild fans.
Derek played in all six games in the series and was very effective. In particular, he gave the Xcel Energy Center a big emotional lift whenever he was on the ice. Even though his impact was clear to those watching, it’s a nuance that is difficult to show in a single clip, but I'm going to try anyway. Watch the first sequence in these highlights from game 5. That’s #24 Derek Boogaard getting the forecheck started. His teammates follow his lead and the building goes nuts.
Misconception #3: There are no fights in the playoffs.*
This just simply isn’t true. There were 15 fights in the 2009 NHL Playoffs - including a fight in the Stanley Cup Finals between NHL All-Stars “sub-culture goons” Evgeni Malkin and Henrik Zetterberg.
*To be fair - you said hockey fights are curtailed during the playoffs. No fighting in the playoffs is a misconception I’ve heard before by your ilk and I wanted to address it here. If you would like, I CAN explain to you why there are less fights in playoff hockey – there are actually many factors that contribute to a reduction of fighting, but it’s a topic that requires an entire post in an of itself.
Look - I’ll be the first to admit that there is a legitimate debate that can be had about whether or not fighting should be allowed in the NHL. However, you (and your ilk) should not be a part of that discussion because you don’t understand the large implications that change would actually have on the NHL game.
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