A comical and nostalgic description of a ragtag hockey team.

One might question how a modern, enlightened society could tolerate, much less enjoy this barbaric, present-day equivalent of gladiators fighting to their death in the Coliseum. Hockey fights have one saving feature: the combatants seldom get hurt. Not because they are holding back. To the contrary, each is out to punch the other into oblivion. The skates prevent that from happening. To maintain balance when pushed or shoved, the blades of the two skates must be parallel. When a player lands a punch, the force of the blow pushed him backward, thereby reducing the force of the blow to his opponent. (In contrast, when a boxer lands a blow, the friction of his shoes on the canvas mat prevents him from moving back, thus the entire force of the blow lands on his opponent.) To avoid moving backward, the players grab onto each other’s shirts. But then, there is no room to extend one’s arm, so again, the punch is weakened.

Despite appearances, the refs played an important part in the melee. They insure that each individual fight involved only two combatants. If the fight turned into a everyone-pile-on-free-for-all, a player could accidentally get a deep cut from another player’s skate. Paring off at the beginning of the fight prevented this. So—the bottom line? The crowd leaves, their testosterone level affirmed, their adrenalin expressed, their tensions released, and their worries temporarily suspended. And no one is the worse for wear. Isn’t hockey wonderful!

A maneuver that maintains the elevated adrenaline level of the players (and the fans) is checking. Checking allows a defensive player, whose team does not control the puck, to literally smash into an opposing player who has control of the puck. The immediate objective is to knock the opposing player away from the puck so that the defending team can take control of it. If the opposing player is knocked down in the process, so much the better. Sometime the opposing player is checked into the wall of the rink so hard that he that he drops onto the ice, and gets up slowly, sometimes very slowly. That provides fan appreciation second only to the hockey fight. But as with the fight, damage looks worse that is is. Within a minute the fallen player is up and skating as good as new, often toward the person delivering the check. Then it’s back to the hockey fight.

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