Hockey has had an erratic shelf-life in American sports. While it hasn’t had as hard a time of pushing itself into the public eye as the supreme sport of Planet Earth, soccer (aka football), it hasn’t yet broken into the top tier of American pastimes such as football, baseball, and basketball. Maybe hockey is taboo because only half of the country has ever seen ice, much less strapped on blade-soled shoes and skated around on it. Maybe watching twelve guys float around on the ice hitting a black piece of rubber with a stick just isn’t that interesting. Maybe hockey isn’t as respected as it should because it came to the United States from Canada, and it’s hard to relate to anything that has to do with Canadians and Mounties and ice-fishing, eh?
Today, professional ice hockey is having a surge of popularity. Is it the cohesive strategy of teams creating plays in order score more than three goals? No. Is it the exquisite dexterity displayed as players dance across the ice and force the puck into the minutest of holes that the goalies will allow? No. Is it the replacement of ice technicians dedicated to maintaining the ice between periods with half naked cheerleaders baring snow shovels? Well, maybe.
The biggest reason that hockey is having a renaissance is the fights. The upcoming film Goon, coming to On Demand February 24th and theaters March 30th, commits this love for fighting in hockey in ways usually reserved for heavyweight battles in boxing and mixed martial arts, just with ice skates. In anticipation of this film tribute to hockey enforcers everywhere that bleed for their teams, I present five hockey fights that have a special place in my bloodthirsty heart.
Hockey is the only team sport that that not only refrains from tossing every player out of a game for throwing a punch, but almost encourages fisticuffs on the ice. When two hockey players throw down their gloves and square off in the rink to beat the crap out each other, refs step aside until there is an apparent victor. Only then are the gladiators separated and sent to the penalty box for a few minutes before they have a chance to get back on the ice and do it all over again, as long as they aren’t bleeding so badly that the rink gets watered down.
Starring Seann William Scott (American Pie, Role Models), Jay Baruchel (Knocked Up, Tropic Thunder) and Liev Schreiber (The Manchurian Candidate, X-Men Origins: Wolverine), Goon is a sports comedy that tells the story of Doug Glatt, a genuinely nice simpleton who just happens to be really good at absorbing punishment and cracking skulls, who is invited to play on a minor league hockey team as an enforcer. With the help of his friend Pat and a prerequisite training montage, Doug “The Thug” Glatt becomes a hero to the team, their fans, and their women by crushing heads instead of pucks, until he must face the league’s reigning supreme goon, Ross Rhea.
1) Marty McSorley VS Bob Probert
When you are given the title, “Wayne Gretsky’s Bodyguard”, there can be no debate that your talent for beating people to a pulp in the hockey rink is not only respected, but coveted. That respect was given to Marty McSorley, and it followed him no matter what team he played for and whose back he was watching. Bob Probert was no slouch either, finishing his career in the NHL with the 3,300 career penalty minutes, the fourth highest in NHL history at the time.
So it was destind that, if these two players found themselves on the ice together, a battle of epic proportions would ensue. That destiny was realized, as the McSorley and Probert fought for one minute and forty-two seconds, a lifetime in hockey-time. This may very well be the battle that inspired the showdown of Doug “The Thug” Glatt and Ross “The Boss” Rhea.
2) Jesse Boulerice VS Aaron Downey
While not nearly as epic as Marty McSorley VS Bob Probert, this short exchange between Jesse Boulerice from the Carolina Hurricanes and Aaron Downey from the Dallas Stars not only exhibits the power that some of these players are exhuming from their fists, but how referees allow these fights to be engaged. Just look at how Boulerice and Downey check for the official’s blessing before engaging.
3) St. Louis Blues VS Chicago Blackhawks
Hockey fights aren’t always limited to a stand-off between two players. This game between the St. Louis Blues and the Chicago Blackhawks, nicknamed “The St. Patrick’s Day Massacre”, started off with rival players antagonizing each other with hits and penalties. Thing escalated in 2nd period, as the game became a battle royale. After Dave Manson and Scott Stevens finished off their bout at center ice, other players started pairing off to bludgeon each other. The game resulted in 278 penalty minutes, including 24 minor, 12 major and 17 misconduct penalties, a record that the Halifax Highlanders took too long to try and break.
4) Micheal Haley VS The Pittsburgh Penguins
These days, you can’t say “goon” in New York without referring to the New York Islanders’ Trevor Gillies or, until just last year, the New York Rangers’ Sean Avery. There is one young scrapper that could take the title, provided he stuck around the NHL long enough: Micheal Haley. This kid may not be much good with a stick, taking a year to score his first goal and spending most of his time with the Islanders’ AHL affiliate Bridgeport Sound Tigers, but he sure can bang. In this game against the Pittsburgh Penguins, Haley had already racked up a fight earlier in the game before he took on Maxime Talbot followed by Penguins goalie Brent Johnson. At the end, he still had the strength and composure to skate off the ice and on to the dressing room.
5) Derek Boogaard VS Jody Shelley
Derek Boogaard, aka “Boogeyman”, was one of the most feared NHL enforcers in the past decade. The sheer size of this 6’ 7”, 265 pound sasquatch from Saskatchewan had opposing goons either on the ground or skating for their lives. In one battle, Boogaard shattered Todd Fedoruk’s cheekbone. In another, Boogaard knocked out Trevor Gillies with an uppercut. Derek Boogaard was so intimidating that another feared hockey enforcer, Georges Laraque, retired, stating “I knew sooner or later he would get the better of me. And I just—I like my face, and I just didn’t want to have it broken.” Derek Boogaard even went as far as to open a hockey fighting camp with his brother Aaron in Saskatchewan.
Still, my favorite Boogaard bout came against Jody Shelley, as Boogaard not only knocked a tooth out of Shelley’s head, but broke his helmet…with his fist of God!
Now that you’ve been fully titillated with men beating each other’s brains in for the good of sport, let’s go watch some hockey to get ready for GOON!
By Patrick Emmel Re-posted from ManCaveDaily.com