Monday, January 7, 2013

    Dust off the Zamboni, turn the thermostat back down to 32 F and sharpen the ice skates . . . there's gonna be hockey, NHL style.
Tell Bob Miller we're sorry we didn't get to celebrate his birthday with the raising of the championship banner in 2012.
    In other news around the Staples Center, friend and supporter of the Jim Murray Memorial Foundation, Jeanie Buss got a very special Christmas present from her beau, Phil Jackson . . . an engagement ring! Congratulations to Jeanie and Phil from all of us at the JMMF!
    Thanks to everyone who has sent us donations over the past month! We greatly appreciate your support. Our goal of $25,000 has not been met yet and we encourage everyone to donate if you haven't yet done so. No matter how big or small, every dollar is appreciated and helps us toward our goal of providing scholarships to journalism students across the country.
    If your alma mater is not involved in the JMMF scholarship program, please email us for more information on how to get them involved.
    Thank you all for your continued support and we wish you a happy, healthy and prosperous 2013! 

    Now, enjoy Jim Murray's column — A Bloody Stick Up — from July 18, 1975. Written during hockey's golden age of violence, Jim discusses a particularly violent altercation between Henry Boucha (Minnesota) and Dave Forbes (Boston) that took hockey to court.



A Bloody Stick Up

    As hockey fights go, it wasn't much. One player elbowed another. The other retaliated with a push. Then, they dropped their gloves, and began punching. It was hardly Dempsey-Firpo. It was a routine seven-minute penalty for each.
    They called each other names on the way to the penalty box, but that too is pretty routine.
    The crowd forgot about Henry Boucha and Dave Forbes and went back to the game. Seven minutes is a long time for tempers to stay hot on ice.
    Boucha left the penalty box seven minutes later and skated toward his (Minnesota) bench. Forbes went skating vengefully after him. He swung his right hand at his adversary. It had a hockey stick in it. So, a minute later, did Boucha's right eye. Blood poured out of it.
    Boucha fell face down on the ice. Forbes dropped his stick, and fell on the back of the fallen player and began to punch him in the back of the head. He pounded his head on the ice. Boucha put his hands over his face and thought, "My God, I'm going to lose my eye!"
    If it happened in Central Park, it would be called a mugging. When a guy is hit that viciously, he's usually frisked while he's down.
    Hockey gave Dave Forbes 10 more days in the penalty box, perhaps taking into account the fact he had already served seven minutes. Hockey being what it is, Forbes' team, the Boston Bruins, was outraged at league president Clarence Campbell for throwing the book at him. Boucha had to be operated on to restore his cheekbone and eye. So, his sentence was considerably longer.
    If this had happened in Boston that probably would have been the end of it. The Bruins' viewpoint was that Boucha had invited it, kind of like an owner who leaves his car unlocked and has it ransacked. We live in an age where victims are resented.
    But this happened in Hennepin County, Minn., and the DA there decided to do a little high-sticking himself. He presented the facts to a grand jury. Hockey went to court. And, with it, all of professional sports.
    This represented an unwelcome intrusion to an industry that likes to think it polices itself. A confusing problem arises. Is a fastball in the ear attempted murder? If you sack the quarterback into unconsciousness, is this just a safety — or aggravated assault? If a jockey cuts in front of five other horses on the first turn and three of them pile up, is this just a job for the stewards or is it covered by the penal code? Is a killing justified just because you sell tickets to it? Is winning justification for blinding? Is it an eye for a win, a tooth for a tie? Was Nero right? If it's in the guise of a game, is it all right for the victors to eat the vanquished?
    If so, bring back the lions.
    Hockey, or that portion of it sympathetic to the Bruins' center, wonders why Dist. Atty. Guy Blankne didn't clean up crime in the streets and leave it alone on center ice. Forbes is a victim of society, they claim. He has been led to believe what he did was socially acceptable. What are they to do, they ask, play hockey with brooms? Should they legislate to outlaw the possession of hand sticks?
    The Boston coach admitted he exhorted his athletes that this was a "do-or-die" game. He didn't mean, he says, "kill or don't."
    Whatever the outcome of the People vs. Dave Forbes is, the reminder that the law of the land forbids hitting any citizen over the head with a blunt instrument should have a sobering effect on hockey. One hopes. I mean, what good is the Stanley Cup if it comes full of human blood?"

Reprinted with permission by the Los Angeles Times.

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