Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Better late than never . . .

As the weekend approaches and with it the end of the NHL’s regular season and the onset of the playoffs, we take a look at the game through the keyboard of the late Jim Murray.
He once wrote: "Hockey is the bloody mary of sports."
Enjoy Murray's column from Nov. 11, 1975. It was headlined: Is this Hockey?



Is This Hockey?

    The Lady Byng Award in hockey goes annually to the player "exhibiting the best type of sportsmanship and gentlemanly conduct combined with a high standard of playing ability."
    Presumably, it will go this year to the guy who has blinded the fewest people on ice in the past season. Or, maybe, to the guy at least 50 percent of whose slot shots were aimed at a puck instead of an eye. Or the guy who helped two out of four people to their feet not necessarily to knock them down again.
    The way things are going, they may have to give that award to a judge. If a player gets it, it may be posthumous.
    I swear, I don't see why they don't just issue these guys swords so they have blades at both ends of their persons. Giving these guys sticks is like giving the Borgias poison. They're not players, they're predators. You'd be safer in a school of sharks with a nosebleed.
    You have all seen the casualty reports. Bobby Hull, who isn't exactly a figure skater, took his sticks and his bridgework home with him and refused to play until they cut down on the mayhem. One hockey player came within a hung jury of going to jail for performing eye surgery with a stick handle. The owner of the St. Louis Blues charged publicly that publicizing the fact his team captain had a bad back resulted in the opposition changing the game from hit the puck to hit the back. For the second time in less than a year, the state had to step in and file charges against a player. The attorney general of Ontario served notice that public mugging would not be permitted in Toronto just because they kept score.
    It is clear, then, in modern professional hockey, the Lady Byng Award is an anachronism. The Ilse Koch Award would be more like it. The Stanley Cup should have bars on it.
    We have, accordingly, a list of recommended awards for the National Hockey League which they may want to substitute as more in keeping with the spirit of the game:
    1. The Hermann Goering Award for the official who says "Who, me?" the most times when asked why he didn't invoke Rules 44 or 49 — match penalty rules — for homicidal attacks. Also eligible are officials who say "I wasn't looking" or "I was only following orders."
    2. The American Dental Society Award for the player who has done the most for the false teeth industry in the course of the season, or the player who has inspired the most root canal work in his lifetime. To qualify, contestants will have to bring in their sticks with opponents' teeth still imbedded in them, with extra points awarded for cuspids and wisdom teeth, and the trophy goes automatically to any one individual over the course of the year. The award will be a set of gold teeth on a bedside stand in a glass of water.
    3. The College of American Surgeons Award for the player who has caused the most sutures in a game, week, or season. The stitches need not be visible so long as he brings a certified copy of the operating room report of interior bleeding stopped by sewing. Bleeding caused by a flying puck shall not count, as that shall be deemed to be accidental, unless the claimant can prove conclusively that his slap shot is so accurate, he can remove an ear at will with it.
    4. Orthopedic medicine will give points for the most Achilles tendons severed by ice skates kicked at an opponent, or used to trip him as he goes by.
    We shall have to have awards for the guys who rupture the most spleens board-checking and the guys who break the most sticks (or heads) by bringing them down on the skulls of opponents. The guy who spends the most minutes (or hours or days) in the penalty box will get a one-year all-expense tour to major disasters around the world, from dam bursts over settled valleys, train wrecks, orphanage fires, and interrogations in Spanish jails, to periodic visits to Siberian prison camps with take-home souvenirs.

Reprinted with permission by the Los Angeles Times.

Jim Murray Memorial Foundation | P.O. Box 995 | La Quinta | CA | 92247


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