hug thuggery

Reckless Endangerment: Yvan Cournoyer risks it all in 1972. (Photo: Denis Brodeur)

National Post columnist Christie Blatchford was raving this week after she saw a bunch of teenaged Toronto boys hugging one another, which is wrong for boys to do, apparently, because it betrays sickliness of spirit or dangerous delicacy or … something unsavoury. The thread of the logic was hard to hold. “I know men have feelings too,” Blatchford wrote. “I just don’t need to know much more than that. On any list of The 25 Things Every Man And Boy Should Know How To Do, hugging is not one of them. Killing bugs is. Whacking bullies is. Kissing is. Farting on cue is. Making the sound of a train in a tunnel is. Shooting a puck is. Hugging is not.”

Agree or don’t, in the hockey context, this is something that Hall-of-Fame right-winger Andy Bathgate was warning about as far back as 1963. All these years later, is it finally time for hockey to face facts and take action against a real and present threat before it’s too late? A reading, while there’s still time, from his book Andy Bathgate’s Hockey Secrets, page the 138th, chapter the 13th, “The Worst Injuries Are The Foolish Ones:”

Although I may be knocking a time-honoured custom, I
strongly oppose the traditional mauling and grabbing which
greets a player after he’s scored a goal. This may be considered
a display of team spirit by some, but to me it’s nothing more
than pure danger.

I’ve watched players embrace and hug each other every time
a goal is scored. All it takes is one slip and the whole group
will go down with skates flying in all directions. A skate blade
can cut an arm or leg just like a knife. Sometimes even more
serious injuries can result. When I was a boy in Winnipeg I
once saw a boy lose an eye in one of those hugging
demonstrations. Give a scorer a pat on the back or a yell of
encouragement.You can show spirit without foolish mauling
which can lead to disaster.