Hockey Writers Fail in Post-Belak Fallout

I’ve been waiting it out, and wading through the hockey media’s attempts to write about what Bruce Arthur called probably the worst off-season ever for a professional sports league.  I attempted to tweet at (attweet?) some hockey writers to comment on my argument that it’s a cultural problem, as opposed to an NHL or enforcer problem. But I received no responses. I guess when you’re not relaying a deadline rumour, or agreeing with their simplistic and under-researched “journalism” you’re not worthy of a response. Or you’re just some writer with a blog who really doesn’t warrant a moment of thought.

Either way, what was written was so simple and so naïve it’s not worth directly referencing or linking. Some wrote about the mixing of drugs and alcohol as the problem, and while I’m not saying it isn’t a part of the problem, if mixing drugs and alcohol led directly to these kinds of events as often as they have this summer in the NHL, then the next two weeks of Frosh Weeks in Canadian universities should be on the lookout for some mass deaths. Drug and alcohol abuse are a result of many variables, something these viewpoints did not understand. And to blame the drugs and alcohol themselves? I’ve seen contemporaries drop pills into cocktails like they were ice cubes, and when it came time to evaluate what got them to that point, no one blamed the pills and cocktails. It’s like blaming a concussion on the brain. Or blaming a head and spinal injury on a turnbuckle and not an abhorrent and violent irresponsible action. Oh, wait. They already did that.

Some called for an end to fighting, and while I wouldn’t complain if fighting was removed from the game, I’m not naïve enough to believe it will happen for at least a generation. Maybe two. Some, like the ever-ignorant-yet-more-employed-than-I-am P.J. Stock was hesitant to call Belak’s death a suicide, despite the Toronto Police calling it just that. Perfect. Stock’s not even willing to admit what happened. I guess he’s fully expecting Derek Boogaard to be taking a few shifts this fall for the Rangers. Some wrote very well-intentioned yet benign and useless odes to the wonderful person that was Wade Belak.  Nice? Yes. But sort of Monday morning quarterbacking, if you ask me. They weren’t obituaries as much as they were examples of the further ineptness of the hockey journalism community to reach anything beyond the simple, or what is fed to them by the hockey machine. At least those pieces were in competent English and showed evidence of a simple understanding of the decade we’re in. Bruce Dowbiggin referred to an “online website,” and Steve Simmons couldn’t even get his verb tenses correct. It’s hard to believed they get paid.

Many made calls for not jumping to conclusions. To take our time. To respect and measure a process.  How typically Canadian. To slow down, call an inquiry. Extend the process over several years. Is Charles Dubin still alive? Does he need work? The only hope I found over the weekend was the news via Dave Hodge that Michael Farber was expected back to work soon (he has been battling an illness.) Farber is one of the few hockey journalists around who won’t kowtow to the hockey community. He wrote about the issues facing fighters some decade-and-a-half ago in Sports Illustrated. If only we had listened. But, of course, a voice of reason has no place in hockey. Here’s a link to Mr. Farber’s phenomenal piece from SI, as well as a clip below of him taking on Don Cherry in a TV interview after the Punch-up at Piestany.  This is the kind of opposition, and questioning of the establishment that could lead to a productive and useful discourse.