While sharing a few drinks and talking hockey with one of my buddies at a cottage this past long weekend, the exploits of a fringe NHLer/American League goon came up.
Turns out my buddy plays in a summer league against this guy and, despite the fact he’s a pro playing with amateur rec-leaguers, the Western Conference player can’t stop acting like a thug – something made a lot easier by the lack of any other professional thugs to play against.
This is not a new phenomenon. Something similar is alleged to have happened with Vancouver winger Alex Burrows over the weekend. And Dominik Hasek famously came out of retirement once to, it was suggested at the time, escape possible charges in the Czech Republic after an inline incident – charges were never filed.
My friend had played the pro’s team earlier this summer and the pro was in net, something my buddy thought was pretty cool – when you’re better than everyone, play net and just have a good time, kind of like an adult playing with kids. But the next time the two teams met, the pro wasn’t in goal. And from my understanding, it would have been tough to discern which position he was playing when the teams weren’t lining up for a faceoff.
He was all over the place – hacking, whacking and challenging anyone who would listen to fight him. This is a guy who averaged more than 200 penalty minutes a season in junior and has had 25-plus fights between his past two pro seasons. He’s 6-foot-2 and about 220 pounds. Most NHLers don’t want to fight him, let alone rec-leaguers.
Now this is a competitive league. The guys are all pretty good and want to win, but most feel giving their lungs a workout is just as important. They range in age – early-20s to mid-30s – and some, like my buddy, have taken to wearing full cages to avoid injury. It’s not exactly fighter’s gear, but these are people with jobs who can’t go into work the next day missing teeth or with a face full of stitches.
And as my friend said: “I want to watch my son grow up with both my eyes.”
Some will say pros who play in summer leagues have targets on their backs – everyone wants to dance with an NHLer to show how tough he is. I’ll admit that can be the case at times, but it wasn’t this time. The pro was the instigator. He was the one with a complete lack of respect for his opponents. Why that is only he can say. Machismo? Maybe. More likely, he’s a spoiled hockey brat who thinks he’s the king of the world, when he’s playing against amateurs. Lord knows he wouldn’t pull that crap in a pro game, let alone get away with it.
Now I know most pros wouldn’t act like this, but what I’d like to know is why there are any who can’t turn down the edginess and turn off the antics? Or why they’re even out there playing? Was this goon home for the summer and just playing with his buddies, like old times? If that’s the case, you’d think he’d be a little more relaxed.
Is he trying to stay in shape? There are safer ways to do that. And I’m sure his NHL employer who pays him in excess of $600,000 would rather he not injure himself punching out a 34-year-old father of two with a day job during a ball hockey game.
That’s right, folks, this is a ball hockey league I’m writing about. So you can’t say the pro is working on his skating, his shooting, his puckhandling or really much related to his six-figure salary job. He’s just out there wreaking havoc and ruining everyone’s good time. Can you imagine? What a joke.
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