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Jun. 18, 2021 | Friday
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Ross' Ramblings: Enough with pro hockey's outdated embrace of 'The Code'
The good ol' hockey game - not so much. (Supplied)

A lot of NOTL adult men have been missing their weekly Old Timers hockey fix. Captain Bill Dickson, no referees, slow-motion hockey, team showers and then breakfast and camaraderie at Silks Country Kitchen.

The ongoing deadly global pandemic has paused so many parts of our lives. Somehow though, the NHL wangled permission to play a modified season.  Now, the Toronto media vociferously believe Leaf Nation will soon be celebrating a Stanley Cup win. Sheesh ...

The analysis and hype on TV is unending. Talking heads nicknamed Noodles and O Dog. Who are these guys?  Who cares about Group 2 unrestricted free agents? Playing the cycle around the wall? They're boards, darn it. You don't get a penalty for walling.  It's not "puck drop."  It's a faceoff.  Next, they're going to rename the puck.

Sadly, after some 70 years as a fan and player of one of our national games, I say goodbye to professional hockey. It's difficult. I have been so loyal and enthusiastic, but earlier this month, the disgusting incident in Madison Square Garden was the tipping point.

Many Canadians don't think Americans will watch "our game" unless there are fights, Assault and battery is part of "The Code." "Let the players play." Violently chucking knuckles at each other. In the face, never on the stomach or bum. Trying to concuss each other, endangering careers and lives.

What kind of example is this for our children, watching adults violently smashing away at opponents? Yeah, yeah ... "The Code."

So, another disgusting and condoned incident for the NHL. Admittedly fewer brawls than in the 1970s, but assault and battery it was. "The Code" is again discussed ad nauseum and the experts tell us the players prefer to handle this stuff "in house." Please, spare me.

During a game two nights earlier, known Washington Capital thug Tom Wilson pummelled a few New York Rangers. He slam dunked the much smaller Rangers' top scorer head first on to the ice, which ended the skilled star's season early.

The pundits talked about "The Code." So sad, eh?

Two nights later the same teams. The referee dropped the puck. Instantly all the players dropped their gloves. A lengthy brawl. In 2021, yes 2021. A record was set for penalty minutes assessed in the first minute of a game. The announcers opined, "The Code" had been respected.

Author's note: I understand "The Code,"  Playing for the Sudbury Wolves against the North Bay Trappers in the old NOHA long ago in 1967, I was one half of three very one-sided fights during the first period. Coach Marcel Clements had told me, "You have to establish yourself and send a message." I did, and finally the kindly referee threw me out of the game.   

"The Code." I set a league record that day, 37 minutes in penalties, The ref had humorously added, "A further penalty, Sudbury's number 5, Robinson, two  minutes for delaying the game." I would have laughed, but my face hurt.

Which brings me rambling back to professional hockey. What an embarrassment to our peaceful and respected nation. We are better than this. Hockey can be such a bewdyful game.

The day after the horrible brawl at MSG, I spoke to several friends in the States and Canada. Not one of them mentioned the awesomeness of Connor McDavid, or the goal-scoring flash of Auston Matthews, this year's Rocket Richard Trophy winner for most tallies. Each of them said, "Why does hockey still allow that fighting garbage?"

So, sadly, I have said goodbye to hockey. I will now watch rugby and women's indoor volleyball.  So exciting, and respect for the rules of the games. Lotsa love.