Cowards, bullies, thugs, ruffians—those with reckless disregard for fellow athletes and human beings.
Hockey is a great sport, but much of the world views us as a compilation of these types of people. Some teams get players like me to inflict injury, others to protect from it.
When my San Jose Sharks traded for Jody Shelley, they said he fit the latter description. However, earlier in his career, he was certainly the former.
On a play behind the net, he repeatedly punched Brad Stuart in the head, giving him a concussion. Stuart was never the same player after that.
Gary Roberts, who I have always respected, did the same thing in the Stanley Cup Finals, and to a guy who was recovering from a concussion. Look, hockey is not for the squeamish. You go after a guy, especially if he's been hurt—but you do so within the rules of the game.
Hit him hard and try to bounce his head off the ice. Splat him to the boards. But how is punching him in the head—away from the play, no less—a hockey move? Guys with that little respect had two choices if they faced me—drop the gloves or just take a beating anyway.
Dion Phaneuf opted to splat Patrick Marleau off the boards, rather than go for the puck on an icing. That's cheap, but it's a hockey play.
Corey Sarich went in high on Marleau a couple shifts later and committed two penalties with one hit—he charged him (leaving his feet in the hit) and roughed him (hit to the head). If I had been on the Sharks, Sarich would have been a marked man. He either would have had to drop the gloves or anytime he got near the puck I would have knocked his lights out. But it was still a hockey play.
Now the Flames have added one of the worst transgressors in the history of the game to their squad—Todd Bertuzzi. His cowardly act would have gotten him killed if Steve Moore had been my teammate, as would Marty McSorley's act on tough guy Donald Brashear. If I ever see either of them on the street, I will need to be restrained.
I guess being cheap has never been enough for Mike Keenan. He is going full-blown dirty.
Of course, Calgary has been there before. In the 2007 playoffs, when they could not beat Detroit, they tried to beat them up. Jamie McLennan swung his stick like a sword repeatedly. Even Jarome Iginla delivered a couple spears to the ribs at centre ice, over 15 meters from the puck.
Anaheim, the team that had Bertuzzi last year, is another team to hate. George Parros is nothing but a thug, and Travis Moen is one with barely any skill.
But they are nothing compared to Chris Pronger. Pronger has been suspended eight times in his career, the last for stomping on a player's leg who dared fight him for the puck. A guy could lose his ability to walk that way—and Pronger only got nine games.
Why? He's a star. Chris Simon got 30 games for the same action, and had the same number of previous suspensions. (But even 30 games is not enough.)
If you take out his despicable behaviour, Pronger is one of the three or four best defencemen in the game. He uses his size and reach to block, can defend anyone, hits like a bag of hammers, has one of the heaviest slapshots in the game, and can knife passes through traffic.
But he's a piece of garbage. So is any team that employs a guy like him.