He is a gentle little fellow, really, but he’s all boy. He showed it in soccer when as a young three year old in a three and four year old league he was quite happy to charge into the pack, knocking others sprawling (accidentally I assure you), often getting sent for a spill himself. And unlike his older sister he will express his anger or frustration with a fist the odd time.
And he likes to kill things.
He sees a bug and next thing you know it’s a foot or a rock or a piece of wood and the bug is a smear on the sidewalk. An ant walks by on our retaining wall and a grubby little finger comes down from the heavens and the ant is a dead ant.
Dead ant dead ant dead ant dead ant dead ant dead ant dead ant.
A few weeks ago a spider was making its way across the porch. The boy noticed it. He walked over and stood over it silently.
Hey there, don’t step on that spider, I said, able to read his the malevolence in his gaze.
He looked at me with complete innocence.
Why not? And he was being absolutely sincere. Why wouldn't I? they are made to be stepped on.
So I’ve been working on instilling some respect for nature in him. Its hit and miss. We were on the Island and my wife called the kids outside to check out a gigantic slug. She turned for a moment and then was startled by a thwacking noise. She turned to see the little guy commiting insecticide with a bat. Thwack! Thwack! Thwack!
The problem is that my wife has an unreal fear of bugs. If one shows up in the house (spiders or stinging insects are the problem) she goes a little mental. She used to sic the big fellow on them, with varied results. She once had a neighbour come over to kill a wasp after she fled the house.
Now the boy has taken over. The problem is that he has not differentiated between our castle and theirs.
Now I am an animal lover. Not one of those goofy folks who thinks that chickens are just geniuses suppressed by poor communication skills and their circumstances (ie/ that they are chickens) – hell I love a good steak and one of my favourite meats is lamb.
But if I catch a spider in the house I’ll try and release it into the wild rather than flushing it.
Back when I was a kid there was a movie where the animals basically turned on the people in this resort, iirc. I just saw the commercials but I found it terrifying – what if the family poodle went bad in the middle of the night? Would he rip our throats out as we slept? Pump carbon monoxide into the house? Make us eat Dr. Ballards?
On the other hand part of me was cheering on the animals. I’ve always been partial to the Far Side cartoons where the moose are sitting around the fire drinking and smoking, cleaning their rifles, while a couple of guys are draped over their pick up trucks. Or the wolves sitting in front of the fire surrounded by the heads of people mounted on the walls, resting their paws on a human rug. This is coming from a guy whose Dad was a moose hunter and whose great uncle trapped for a living but I just never really saw the sport in killing animals with guns or using traps to catch them for fur.
Try and catch them and kill them with your bare hands. Now that would be sporting.
As for the boy, no worries for now. When the neighbourhood cats begin to disappear then I will begin to get concerned.
I’ve always laughed when Don Cherry and others go crazy talking about stickwork in the game and how in the old days you never saw such stuff. Any reading on hockey history will reveal a vicious, violent, brutal sport. A hundred years ago the brawls would include the fans and the officials and often the police and up until twenty years ago or so bloody ugly incidents were still quite common.
What has changed (and why people like Cherry rant about the stickwork) is that until expansion at least, the stars fought their own battles and not just guys like Howe and Maurice Richard who were noted thugs. One of my favourite pictures of all time is one of Stan Mikita and Henri Richard, bloodied and wild eyes, each of them rearing back to throw another punch in their never ending feud. Imagine? Two of the greatest stars in the game. It would be like Sakic and Yzerman trying to kill each other every game.
And it goes on and on. Bobby Orr rarely had to fight once he was tested because as it turned out he was pretty well a sociopath when the gloves came off.
Things changed once money came into the game but we all recall the 80s and 90s when Messier used elbows and stick to great effect and Anderson was a vicious stickman. Stevens and Manson eyegouging and biting, Manson (again) coming out of the tunnel to pound Gary Leeman, the brawls between the Wings and the Avalanche.
So in those days it was important to have guys like Semenko and McClelland and McSorley, guys who could play and handle your shit, and it was important that your stars/prominent players either could handle themselves (Messier, Lowe, Tikkanen, Anderson) or handle the beating they would invariably take (Kurri, Coffey and yes even Gretzky) and you can see why an oldtimer like Bruce (sorry Bruce ;) ) places a greater premium on toughness than most of us might.
Nowadays you cannot look at a club like Detroit or Pittsburgh and say they are not tough, as much as many would have you believe that they are not. These guys can take it. They just don’t dish it out.
Now I can’t speak to team toughness or how any of that stuff works. I play with a pretty closeknit bunch of guys and while the shit usually doesn’t go down in our league when it does guys are quick to stand up for each other but I don’t know that it makes us a better team. Some guys are hard on the puck and some aren’t and there are times when the guys who aren’t are and when they are we play better but I can’t really think of a situation where we pounded on a guy who jumped our goalie or drove a guy who fucked with one of us into the boards and how suddenly we became inspired to play better. We have gotten emotional lifts and we have had our guts torn out and our play has been impacted as a result either way so I guess a physical altercation might get us going. Personally I play better when I get my noise dirty and I’ve gotten a little more space when I have given someone a stick in the balls or across the arm but I find a hard time giving credence to the whole idea of team toughness and all that jazz.
But is it all lip service when guys who do this for a living talk about Ethan Moreau as an excellent leader based on his toughness? When Moreau fought Gratton, was it, with a separated shoulder Kevin Lowe called it the toughest thing that he ever saw. One thinks of Moreau firing Cole into the boards in G6 of the SCF or of Souray pushing Moreau aside and coldcocking your man or even of Gagner fighting Kesler and of how their teammates and the fans are excited by this and whether or not it actually means something. If the men who play the game professionally say that it does then can we argue with them or is it all a myth as some would call clutchness?
Personally I think that if you’re hard to the puck and can take it then you have all the toughness that you need but its not like I’ve succeeded at any level remotely close to professional hockey. I mean Steve MacIntyre has a job in the NHL. Nice story though that is, he’s not much of a hockey player but he's getting paid a lot more than me for his few minutes a game where he twirls around the ice looking for something to stop against.
If its true, this thing, then when is Tambellini going to add the toughness he keeps talking about? Or is it lip service for the fans and a message to the players.
Get hard on the puck and go to the dirty areas.