When it comes to defining what constitutes a sport, there is a simple dividing line.
If it has a ball in it, it’s a sport.
If it’s pre-pubescent teenies in leotards trying to balance on a beam as wide as Posh Spice or members of the British Royal Family allowing their bottoms to become even more regal by getting on a horse and jumping fences, then it’s a recreation.
Which puts hockey in nobody’s land.
They play it with a ball that has been punched flat by yet another annoyed hockey player. And they spend much of their time in ritual punchups that remind one of fisticuffs on a central London street after the bars have closed.
Fisticuffs between women, naturally.
So hockey isn’t a sport and it is a very peculiar form of recreation.
However, I am heartened that on this late November morning hockey has taken another step forward in its unique cultural development.
Last Friday, marked a great occasion in Guelph. The Guelph Power Play hockey tournament.
If you have no idea where Guelph is, it doesn’t really matter. Consider your mind is now being transported to some cold, northern land, a region relatively devoid of people, hope and healthy breeding.
One particular match caught every Guelphian’s attention. It was between the Duffield Devils and the Niagara Falls Thunder.
You will be stunned to hear that three players from each side were ejected from the game, as well as both coaches.
Yes, a fight broke out and, well, in hockey, so the players tell it, it’s better if the players punch it out according to long-standing traditions of honor, not unlike dueling over nubile girls with long hair and an inheritance, rather than that the fighting should, you know, get out of hand and spill over into the crowd. (Or, in the case of the French, onto the streets of Paris.)
So we should feel that nothing untoward occurred last Friday night in Guelph.
Well, except for the fact that the players on both teams were eight-year-olds.
And, you know, except for this other fact: the coaches actually sent more little pixies onto the ice to gouge an eyeball and thump a scrotum.
Please imagine the sheer beaming joy on the faces of all their parents as their mini-thems flung hissyfists at each other and tried to spring ketchup on their opponents’ pristine little visages.
Meanwhile, just to set an example, one of the Niagara Falls coaches allegedly wandered over to the Duffield bench and spat in the face of one of their coaches.
Did I mention that Guelph is in Canada? Home of decency, reason and exemplary health insurance.
What is extremely curious is that, for all the millions that have been spent on US television, the majority of our violence-forward nation has not embraced (or should that be ‘confronted’?) hockey.
While these barbaric Canadians, cave people with a moral superiority complex, are teaching their children to bloody each other over mere pucking recreation, we have relegated hockey to the Oxygen channel, the Versus channel, the televisual equivalents of Tora Bora.
However, could it be that this disgraceful institutionalized violence is the reason why Canadians grow up to be so, well, reasonable?
Could it be that Wayne Gretzky was, indeed, a nasty little shit when he was just a little shit, and that he got it all out of his system before he became a person so nice and friendly that he was allowed to marry an American?
Could, in fact, the reason that Canada has such an excellent health system be that they need the finest surgeons on hand constantly to rebuild their children’s noggins?
Should we in America be encouraging our languid little leprechauns to eke out the primal frustrations of their existence upon each other while making it easier (and cheaper) for contemporary surgery to bring them back to their former (s)elves?
I think Congress should be examining the role that hockey could play in our society. If we remove it from some hanging chad status of a sport and make it more closely entwined with our school curriculum, then we too might grow a society as healthy as Canada’s.
Surely no child could possibly be left behind once they have developed a screaming left hook.