The Myth of Revenge
And the moral of the story is?
Well, despite all the talk and all the cavemen who suggest knocking a few teeth out will teach this guy or that guy a lesson, and how the removal of the instigator penalty would fix all that ails the NHL, the reality is that revenge is a nearly impossible commodity to purchase or otherwise acquire in this league.
|Not much of a payback for Boston fans against Matt Cooke.|
Think about it. Of all the dastardly crimes committed over the past 20 years in the NHL, on how many occasions was revenge truly exacted by the victimized party, or parties?
The truly deranged might say Todd Bertuzzi on Steve Moore in response to a hit on Markus Naslund, but in that one terrible moment, Bertuzzi did nearly as much damage to himself, the Vancouver organization and the futures of his GM and coach as he did to Moore.
You might say Darren McCarty on Claude Lemieux, but did it change Lemieux's game because he and McCarty went toe-to-toe? Did it somehow make it seem at all that matters were square over Kris Draper's crushed face?
Really, the only true sense the Wings got revenge was that they beat the Avalanche in an important hockey series.
Last night in Boston, there was no chance revenge was going to be possible for the Bruins on Matt Cooke unless they found a way to seriously injure him by legal means or otherwise, or if they took it to the Stanley Cup champions and won an important hockey game.
But injuring a guy like Cooke isn't easy. He may be a rat, but he's tough and experienced and had been through that situation more than a few times before. He was prepared, and the only way Shawn Thornton could really accomplish much was to get extra shots in after the linesmen jumped in - hey, isn't that against the vaunted "code"? - and all that did was earn him 10 minutes of extra penalty time.
The Bruins, meanwhile, aren't a good hockey team. They traded away Phil Kessel, don't have Marc Savard and have watched as Tim Thomas slowly become a backup.
Beating the Penguins on this night would have been a big surprise.
So revenge was not accomplished, which has some lunkhead sportswriters in Boston frothing at the mouth even more than usual. What did they think the Bruins were going to be able to do to Cooke? Knock his teeth out? He already was absent a few.
Did they think fighting Cooke would somehow bring Savard back from the deep dark cloud in which his life is now enveloped?
It's always thus. Did the Florida Panthers get revenge on Mike Richards because Bryan McCabe confronted him? Richards can handle himself, and David Booth still isn't close to be the same again.
Did the Leafs make Cam Janssens pay for his cheap-shot on Tomas Kaberle by having Wade Belak fight him? 'Course not. Janssens carried on and Kaberle, I'd argue, is only now getting back to being the player he was.
There's this myth in hockey that fighting somehow evens the score, and it almost never does, either because the perpetrators of various acts are thugs in the first place and able to fight as well as anyone who might challenge them - Chris Simon, Marty McSorley, Steve Downie - or they are like most NHLers, extremely well conditioned athletes who can deal effectively with a pugilistic encounter by grabbing on.
Moreover, like many things in life, there's this romantic belief that in the misty past hockey players were like English knights, settling differences honorably and like gentleman. It's just not true. They used to swing sticks at each other's heads. Cheap shots were plentiful. There were rats and cheap shot artists in the game then. Rocket Richard once said that to understand the time when he played would be understand how violent it was.
The good old days of the NHL never existed. But some convince themselves that they did, that in those days players knew how to take care of their differences and "police" the game.
You know, like Ted Green and Wayne Maki. Eddie Shore and Ace Bailey. Folks, those Broad St. Bullies weren't protecting or policing anyone - they were using intimidation as a tactic.
Fact is, whether it was hockey back then or the way it is now, nothing was going to even the score for Cooke's hit on Savard. Justice is only possible through a third party, and in this case the NHL failed itself and its players badly, while the players union has all but deserted the scene. But the absence of true justice through those means didn't change the facts that getting even was going to be next to impossible for the Bruins.
People who believed revenge was going to be exacted by the Bruins last night are thus more frustrated today than they were yesterday and are, presumably, oblivious to the moral of the story.