the cons of prose

Jaromir Jagr isn’t the first right winger to be filing copy for newspapers even as he’s playing NHL hockey. Charlie Conacher was a Globe and Mail columnist in the 1930s, and an outspoken one at that. In the mid-1950s Boom-Boom Geoffrion had a writing gig at Parlons Sport around the same time that his fellow scribe and teammate Rocket Richard was using his column at Samedi-Dimanche as a platform from which (among other things) to blast away at NHL president Clarence Campbell.

And if you followed the syndicated column that Gordie Howe wrote in the 1960s you’d know that the reason the ice improved in the old Boston Garden around 1964 was because (in Gordie’s opinion) they’d reduced the number of trains through the North Station a level below. “They had little ripples in the ice from the vibrations caused by the trains,” Howe wrote. “The shaking also brought down dust filaments.”

Among left wingers, Montreal’s Aurele Joliat wrote a column for La Patrie in the 1930s, which appeared, sometimes, on the same page as that of a column by his friend and centreman Howie Morenz. Wayne Gretzky wrote for The National Post, of course, in the 1990s — although that was after he’d retired from the ice. I’m not sure that wrote is the right word, either: he helped Roy MacGregor write a column, is maybe what we’ll say. Continue reading

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.