My college roommate and I had a bizarre pre- and post-partying ritual back in the ’90s. We’d pop in a VHS tape of “classic” hockey fights to set the mood. It wasn’t my idea, but I never objected.
Friday night I took the family to a University of Denver hockey game, and the third period threatened to turn into a “Slap Shot” style melee. Nothing serious happened beyond a few penalties and some death stares, but I gritted my teeth until cooler heads prevailed. I didn’t want my sons to see an otherwise entertaining game turn into a brawl.
I used to find it hypocritical for people to change their minds on issues once they became parents. If the argument was sound pre-kids, shouldn’t it be the same post-kids? As a film devotee I specifically questioned parents who suddenly found violent, sexually charged movies intolerable.
If being a father has taught me anything it’s how immature it is not to let new information seep into existing positions.
Now back to the rink.
My love affair with hockey started when the New York Islanders won four Stanley Cups in a row and took a thunderous hip check with one too many NHL strikes. Whenever a sports pundit railed against hockey fights I ignored the arguments, citing tradition and a camouflaged hunger for violence.
Who needs tradition when you have two impressionable sons watch players pummel each other senseless? What lesson would they take away from such a spectacle, that the previous 50-odd minutes of exciting hockey was less important than who landed the best haymaker in the third period?
Hockey remains a tough sell to the masses, regularly trailing other professional sports in terms of ticket sales and TV ratings. Yet playoff hockey can be the most thrilling sport around, particularly in the waning moments of a one-goal game.
The sport dishonors itself by allowing fights to remain a small, but integral, part of the experience. It’s something I should have realized before Elijah and Benjamin entered my life.
Christian Toto is a Denver-based journalist, proprietor of Daddylibrium.com and father of two wonderful boys. I’m a New York native who bounced from Pittsburgh to Washington, D.C. but have no plans on bouncing out of the Mile High City. I’m an occasional guest on “The Dennis Miller Show” and can be found on Twitter @daddylibrium.