Friday, October 12, 2007

Return of the Broad Street Bullies?

NHL logoFlyers logoCanucks logoThe uproar over the Steve Downie hit had just started dying down when another two-bit punk playing for the Philadelphia Flyers, Jesse Boulerice, cross-checks Vancouver's Ryan Kesler in the face ( see video here.) He then stood over Kesler as he lay prone on the ice and challenged him to a fight. And the Flyers were winning 7-2 at the time.

It's close to the point with the Flyers where it can no longer be passed off as a few undisciplined players. It's starting to reek of a culture of nastiness that's being drummed into the soft malleable heads of less than bright lights like Downie and Boulerice. Both of these individuals had reputations as borderline sociopaths during their junior hockey days. It seems this is the type of player thug the Flyers want.

Considered by many to be someone willing to use questionable tactics during his playing days, Bobby Clarke was handed the keys to the Flyers' organization for the better part of two decades. So it's not surprising that the notion of doing absolutely anything to win and gain an edge still permeates the club and has an influence on younger players to a degree.

That there is a tacit consent to go over the line may be a misperception on the part of some players. It's also fair to point out that there have been far dirtier players in the NHL than Clarke. That some incidents he was involved in continue to get so much attention years later is no doubt due in part to the fact that he was also a great points producer and leader for the Flyers.

The current Flyer's GM, Paul Holmgren, played for Philadelphia for years and was also a tough character who amassed huge penalty totals (he also had a few decent seasons in terms of points.) If I remember correctly, Holmgren squared off against Dave "the hammer" Schultz when the former Flyer returned to the Spectrum playing for the Los Angeles Kings in the 1976-77 season. Holmgren was the one who laid a hammering on Schultz that night and so his reputation was further cemented as someone to be feted and held up as an example of what it means to be a true Flyer.

The unfortunate aspect of these two incidents is that the Flyers are off to a good start as a result of the moves they made in the off-season. This crap is unnecessary. I'm not trying to claim that players are being taken aside and told to engage in these kinds of tactics. In fact, no coach would ever be so explicit.

Even if the mindset of Downie and Boulerice is solely the result of their pre-NHL psychopath apprenticeship in junior hockey and was not influenced by subtle validation and a culture that celebrates nastiness, at some point the Flyers have got to take a hit for bringing players like this into their organization.

Boulerice and the Flyers deserve to have the proverbial book driven into their faces for this one. I'm going to make a prediction regarding the suspension...25 games plus a hefty fine for the organization.

1 comment:

  1. Re: the edit. Anyone who checked in over the past few days may have seen a different title and somewhat more biased views within the body of the article. I decided to change them for a few reasons.

    First, not being a team specific blog, I don't want to alienate the fans of any particular club. And, most important, some of the things I wrote previously just weren't justified or fair. Like many, I though the cross-check was gutless and probably went overboard because of that.

    However, I WAS right about the length of the suspension (though off on the fine)!