A Fan of the Game

Sports Talk, Straight Talk

Guest Column: It’s a Goony World Out There

Nathan Skytta graces us with his presence yet again! This time, he talks about the importance of “goons” in the hockey world and presents us with a list of some of the best.

Whether you support it or not, fighting is part of hockey, and it is going to be part of hockey for seasons to come.

Fighting in hockey is on the decline and has been since the mid-1980’s. Fans today see less than one fight a game, partly because of the two-minute minor for instigating which can be assessed to the player who starts the fight. Fighting is not the same as it was during the “Gretzky Era,” but it is still around and is much needed to protect the stars of the league.

Now, what non-hockey fans don’t understand is that it’s not the stars of the league that fight (with a few exceptions of course). There are players today who get paid to protect their star teammates and get paid to stand up against the other teams “antagonists.”

Yes, some players do let their emotions get out of control, but if you have ever attended a hockey game where a fight has broken out, you’d see the fans jump out of their seats and cheer on their players.

Tiger Williams was a surgeon of fisticuffs.

Even the players on the bench of the teams support their teammate — usually with a simple tap of their stick on the side of the bench. The “goons” gain the respect of their teammates and fans by being the protector of the star athletes.

They give it their all to prove to the other team that if they want to attack the star players, then they are going to have to mess with the tough guys. The goons in the NHL have earned a spot in the sport, and that’s what makes the NHL different than any other sport.

From the 1950’s when fighting in hockey included stick swinging and bench-clearing brawls, to nowadays, goons have earned their right in the history of hockey. Players like Tie Domi and Tiger Williams made their money not by leading the leagues in goals or assists, but by punishing the other team with strength.

They made sure others did not attack the smaller players of the league. Here’s a top ten list of goons:

10. Red Horner

9. Donald Brashear

8. Tie Domi/Marty McSorley

7. Stu Grimson

6. Gordie Howe

5. Clark Gillies

4. Terry O’Reilly

3. Joey Kocur

2. Dave Schultz

1. Tiger Williams.

This list is just a basic idea of how the times have changed. Ever since the lockout in the NHL in 2004, the NHL has required more speed and more skill than ever before.

For the first time in hockey history, the bigger the player, the less likely they are to get big contracts. Players such as Patrick Kane and Pavel Datsyuk will flourish for years to come because they are fast and have more puck-handling skills than players such as Brashear and Todd Bertuzzi.

Tie Domi legitimized the old saying, "It's the size of the fight in the dog."

The goons in the league have had to improve their skill with the puck instead of sitting on the bench and waiting for the chance to start a fight.

There are players in the league that have a mixed combination of both size and agility, though. Alexander Ovechkin and Evgeni Malkin are two stars that have brought their teams from the bottom to the top of the league.

They’ve done so by using their force and strength but also by flying past their opponents and putting the puck in the back of the net. The more skills a player has and the faster they are, the more ice time they will get.

Hockey nowadays requires speed and skilled hands, but power and strength will always be a necessity in the sport of hockey. So, for those who think goons have lost their place in hockey, you have lost your mind. Hockey would not be the hockey it is today if it wasn’t for those goons who spent their careers doing their best to protect and preserve the star players.

April 14, 2010 Posted by | Hockey | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Inside the Shark Cage, Vol. 21

Quite the underachieving performance by the Sharks, even though they won 4-3 over the Nashville Predators. The Sharks didn’t play like the hot team that they are. They played down to their competition, yet still came out on top.

Devin Setoguchi and Ryan Vesce returned to the lineup tonight after being injured. Vesce only received eight minutes of ice time, so I couldn’t gauge how good he looked. Seto scored a goal in the third period, after looking one step behind all night. That’s two games in a row where players returning from injuries scored.

Joe Pavelski, who did that last game, scored the first goal of the night. Patrick Marleau sped around the net and backhanded it to Pavs, who easily slotted it past goalie Dan Ellis.

But like I said before, the Sharks played down to their competition. Patty, Pavs, Seto and Scott Nichol were the only ones who looked like they wanted to play tonight. The others were content with playing at Nashville’s level. My best guess is they’re coming off two games against Stanley Cup Finals teams (Detroit and Pittsburgh) and just didn’t get pumped up to play the Predators. While I understand that mindset, you can’t come out with it. Not in the National Hockey League.

Picture 11

Joe Pavelski scores a goal (From SJSHARKS.com)

Again, the Sharks didn’t impose their will and their style of play on Nashville. They allowed the Preds to play a slower pace game with controlled breakouts. Nichol tried a bunch of times to spark the team with his speed, but that only seemed to spark Nichol himself to keep doing it.

No team led by more than one goal. The Sharks were trying to be too fancy with their passes and dekes instead of just shooting at the net and getting rebounds. There were a few three-on-twos where the extra passed doomed any chance of scoring. Someone besides Heatley needs to be a little selfish.

Speaking of Heatley, he and Joe Thornton were invisible tonight. Couldn’t find them. Thornton’s mind was elsewhere. I don’t know if it was the communication or him, but he was passing to empty space consistently.

I think San Jose finally woke up when Nashville took the lead 3-2 in the third. Then things started to speed up, checks were finished and more shots were taken.

Seto became selfish and blasted a slapshot past Ellis to tie the game.

Leave it up to ol’ Danny Boyle to finish things off with his patent full-ice skating. A little give ‘n’ go and Boyle took a shot that went through the five-hole of Ellis, with one minute left.

The Sharks survive and are now on a nine-game point streak.

Nashville Commentators

How do these guys have a job? It’s pretty unanimous that these are the worst in hockey. They are so boring to listen to and do not research anything.

If there’s anything that irks me, it’s when a commentator says a guy’s name wrong. Boy, did that happen tonight. Play-by-play guy Pete Weber kept saying VEESEE when it’s pronounced VEH-SEE, and both commentators said Nabokov’s name with emphasis on the first syllable. Wrong. It’s not NAH-ba-kov. It’s Na-BAH-kov. Your whole job is to say people’s names and if you can’t do simple research to see if you’re saying it right, get out of the business.

Also, another research tidbit. Weber said Jason Demers was up with the Sharks only because of Rob Blake’s injury. Are you joking me? He’s been up the whole season! Check a stat sheet and you’ll see he’s been in every game. Sheesh. Do Nashville a favor and quit.

They also compared Seto to Jordin Tootoo. Best non-intentional joke ever.

Other Notes

Hit-O-Meter: SJ 16  NSH 19

It was Thomas Greiss’ second NHL start and he looked decent. He made some awesome saves, but was out of position at times. It’s a learning process. “Jesus Greiss” will continue to get better.

The Sharks battle division rival Dallas on Thursday.

–Ray

November 11, 2009 Posted by | Hockey | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment