Sports

The problem with international hockey

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Consider the average Canadian hockey player. The lumbering beast weighs in somewhere between a fattened swine and a small Japanese vehicle. His wit is dulled by the genetically engineered Saskatchewan wheat he consumes and he has two natural habitats: the hotel room and the ice.

On the ice he's a menace to all but himself. He rumbles into the corners, elbows high, and fights with all the ferocity of a dog chasing a cat. He's a presence in the slot, where he stands waiting for a pass from a smaller and more skilled teammate. He makes a fluid game static, he wields his stick like a medieval weapon, and sometimes, he forgets it's hockey and starts boxing.

In the hotel room, he drinks copious amounts of Molson and Labatt's. He does things to crackers with his excrement to entertain himself and his teammates. His gargantuan frame is scarred by rashes and boils, no doubt picked up from hockey groupies present in every Canadian arena. This human heap of sexually transmitted disease makes it through junior hockey, gets drafted as a "good ol' Canadian boy" and makes millions playing in the National Hockey League. His education ends in Grade 9 and his math skills do not extend beyond those of a small child.

The European player is a different animal. Groomed in the disciplined confines of the Red Army, he is the pinnacle of style and grace. He doesn't skate, he floats, as if hockey were a ballet. His stick is Picasso's paintbrush, Michelangelo's chisel and Dostoyevsky's pen. His frame is lean and wiry, his hair is long, and he's the last great hope for the disenchanted fans. Surrounded by the fetid stench of brutality he fights to keep hockey a gentlemen's game-not a circus of animal husbandry.

He's the Czech, the Russian and the Swede. He's Jagr, Yashin and Sundin. He wears the captain's "C" in Canada's largest city, leads the league in scoring and plays hockey the way it's meant to be played. And when he wins his Olympic gold medal, we can rest assured he won't put it in his mouth and eat it.

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