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Tales of Violent Gentlemen - Hockey Card Edition

At Violent Gentlemen, we pay attention to detail. Every order is carefully packaged by hand by one of our associates. If you’ve ordered from us in the past, then you already know how each parcel includes a tag that notes who bundled your purchase, along with a hockey card and a packet of candy.

What you may not know is that, when our guys like Hunter or Chewey assemble your order, they are not pulling these hockey cards at random. Rather, they are carrying out a meticulous process that is often painstakingly difficult. The hockey card you receive is based on the sequence of your mailing code and how it relates to our secret algorithm at Violent Gentlemen. Typically, we like to keep this process under wraps, but in the interests of helping our customers better understand our inner workings, we’ve decided to crack open the vault.

In the United States, zip codes have five digits. When you order from us, we take your state’s zip code to determine which hockey card you’ll receive. The first two digits represent the year of an NHL season, the next two signify how a player ranked in penalty minutes during that campaign, and the final number is used as a tiebreaker. Confused? Don’t worry, here’s how it breaks down.

If you’re from Farwell in Clare County, Michigan, your zip code is 48622. Right off the bat, our packager knows to head into the archives and pull the statistical records from the 1947-48 NHL season. From there, they’ll be zeroing in on who racked up the 62nd most penalty minutes from that season. In this case, it would be Norman “Bud” Poile, who compiled 17 penalty minutes while splitting time with the Toronto Maple Leafs and Chicago Black Hawks that year. But wait, Detroit’s Bill Quackenbush also had 17 penalty minutes that season, which means our packager needs to invoke the tiebreaker number. Since the final digit in the Farwell zip code is two, we have to divide each player’s total points by that amount. Whoever still has the higher number is the winner. During the 1947-48 season, Poile amassed 54 points, while Quackenbush only managed 22. Poile’s divided point output supersedes that of his Red Wings’ colleague, and now our Violent Gentlemen associate now knows which card to include in the order to Farwell, Michigan.

From there, they’d head into our vast hockey card repository, only to realize that a 1947-48 Bud Poile Maple Leafs card is incredibly rare. As they thumb through our collector’s guide, panic grips their chest as they realize this card, in mint condition, is worth thousands of dollars. Knowing that we couldn’t possibly part with something this valuable, they randomly grab a card out of the box of 2005-06 Upper Deck we keep in the warehouse and stuff it into your package. And, that’s how we determine which hockey card to include in every order.


Tune in again next time for more behind the scenes at Violent Gentlemen.

Tales of Violent Gentlemen - Fighting for the Stanley Cup

The final battle for hockey’s holy grail is about to commence. Although the competition will be fierce and the intensity will increase to a new level, don’t expect to see any fighting in the concluding clash for the Stanley Cup.

 

Since the 2004-05 lockout, there have been only three fights in the deciding matchup for hockey’s ultimate prize.

These days, players are critically aware that there is so much at stake and that getting into a tilt, particularly if you incur the instigator penalty, will put your team at a disadvantage.

The nature of hockey, however, lends itself to flare ups. Even with Lord Stanley’s mug on the line, tempers boil over and players may look to their fists to settle a score or send a message. 

Prior to the salary cap era, fighting in the Stanley Cup Final was still rare, but it had its place from time to time. There is perhaps no better illustration of this in recent memory than when Jarome Iginla and Vincent Lecavalier dropped the gloves in 2004. To be sure, the tenor of that series had already been set by two separate fights in the second game, but those dust ups were the handiwork of both teams’ noted pugilists.

When Iginla and Lecavalier collided six minutes into the third game, it signalled something more significant. This was a rare bout between two stars. Moreover, while Iginla had already established his reputation as a formidable player who could use his hands to be both score and fight, this was uncharted territory for Lecavalier. Nevertheless, the Lightning forward held his own in a spirited battle against a fearsome opponent, something that his teammates certainly homed in on.

Following the game, Tampa Bay’s captain, Dave Andreychuk noted that, “Vinny has taken charge in a lot of games for us, and he’s made the players around him better. That’s what he did tonight.” Although the Lightning lost that contest, Lecavalier’s heroics galvanized the team for the remainder of the series. Calgary and Tampa Bay would go on to play a hard-fought seven games, with the Bolts securing their first championship in franchise history.

When the quest for the Stanley Cup resumed in 2006, the tone set by Iginla and Lecavalier failed to carry over. The next three Finals were relatively quiet by comparison, until the Red Wings and Penguins squared off in a rematch in 2009. Detroit had vanquished Pittsburgh in their previous encounter, and now the Penguins were eager to exact their pound of flesh. In just the second game of the series, the Red Wings were up by a pair of goals in the final seconds of the third period. After Evgeni Malkin wired a desperate shot on Chris Osgood, Max Talbot followed up by driving his stick into the goaltender’s chest, knocking him over.

 

As tension began mounting around the net, Malkin zeroed in on Henrik Zetterberg and pulled him from the scrum.  As the two began trading shots, the Penguins fan base collectively held its breathe. Although Malkin never shied away from confrontation, he wasn’t exactly known for his fighting prowess. More importantly, he was the team’s leading scorer, a trend that likely wouldn’t continue if he injured himself in an altercation. Although Malkin skated away from the exchange unscathed, he prudently opted not to add to his fight card for the remainder of the postseason. Instead, he racked up six more points in the final games, leading Pittsburgh to the Stanley Cup and taking home the Conn Smythe.

Two years later, in a rough Stanley Cup Final that even included biting as part of the extracurricular activities, only Ryan Kesler and Dennis Seidenberg officially dropped the gloves. With Boston holding a comfortable four goal lead in the fourth contest, they were just nine minutes away from closing out the victory and evening the series.

 

Perhaps, in an attempt to ignite his team, Kesler discarded his mitts and helmet and prepared to engage Seidenberg. The two had been jawing and shoving at each other all night when things finally came to a head. As the two began to grapple, Kesler threw a big right hand but only managed to graze the top of his opponent’s head. The pair fell to the ice where the melee was quickly broken up by officials. Kesler’s actions failed to activate his team and Boston went on to secure the shutout. A week later, the Bruins captured their first Stanley Cup in nearly four decades.

When Boston returned to the Stanley Cup Final in 2013, it seemed inevitable that one of their players would double as a combatant. Sure enough, in the dying seconds of the third contest, with the game well out of reach for the Blackhawks, Andrew Shaw and Brad Marchand got into a skirmish. Both players were ejected and received fighting majors, but this was more of a wrestling match than a donnybrook. Although Shaw landed a solid punch after the two collapsed to the ice, it was hardly lived up to its billing.  

 

Since then, there hasn’t been a brawl in the Stanley Cup Final. Although we’re unlikely to see a fight break out between the Penguins and Predators, we will see a battle.

It will undoubtedly be a hard-fought series that will change the place of either franchise on the hockey landscape. Pittsburgh could be the first team to win back-to-back championships in nearly two decades, only further cementing the legacies of its core players. Meanwhile, Nashville has the chance to win its first Stanley Cup in franchise history. Only time will tell which team rises up and enshrines itself into hockey lore.

Tales of Violent Gentlemen - Jonathan vs Bouchard

Respect, tradition, and sportsmanship are the cornerstones of our brand. It’s no coincidence that these fundamental characteristics are also synonymous with hockey, and have a rich history throughout the sport.

Whether it’s Montreal carrying members of Boston’s “Kraut Line” off the ice before the trio headed off to the Second World War, or the iconic exchange between goaltender “Sugar” Jim Henry and Maurice Richard after the Canadiens eliminated the Bruins from the postseason in 1952, there’s no shortage of examples to illustrate that, even amidst fierce competition, respect and tradition undergird our stories from the game.


To honor this legacy, Violent Gentlemen will be going into the vault each month to bring you tales from the past. In partnership with historian Mike Commito, VGHC will be exploring notable moments in hockey history that highlight the building blocks of our brand and the reasons we love hockey. 

Tales of Violent Gentlemen: Stan Jonathan Topples Pierre Bouchard

Three games into the 1978 Stanley Cup Final, neither the Bruins nor the Canadiens had taken a major penalty. The fact they hadn’t dropped the gloves was curious, but it wasn’t necessarily all that surprising. This was, after all, the championship series and there was far more on the line than simply winning a bout of fisticuffs.

Just a year earlier, the Bruins had bowed out in four games in the Final against the Canadiens, and had been forced to watch their rival hoist its fourth Stanley Cup of the decade. As a result, this matchup presented Boston with an opportunity to shake off the defeat from the previous spring and write a new script. It was, however, anything but a simple rematch. The Bruins had lost every playoff series against the Habs for over thirty years! The last time Boston beat Montreal in the postseason, 1943, Bobby Orr was still five years away from being born. Consequently, if the Bruins could vanquish the Canadiens this time around, not only would they be exacting retribution for last year’s defeat, but they would be avenging three decades of playoff futility against Montreal.  

And it wasn’t as though the Bruins were oblivious to this narrative. Before the series even began, many had expected the Canadiens to repeat and sweep the Bruins in four games. Heading into the fourth contest, however, Montreal was only up by a game and was just coming off being shut out at home. The results prompted Bruins head coach Don Cherry to speak his mind. “So much for the experts and their fearless predictions,” he said. “This team has character. I keep telling everyone that and they refuse to listen,” he continued. With his team now in a position to even the series, Cherry called on the Bruins to continue playing at their peak level of intensity. “We have not had a major penalty in this series, but don’t bet we may not get our first tonight,” he said. Cherry’s words proved to be prophetic.

Six minutes into the fourth game, on May 21, 1978, Boston’s Stan Jonathan and Montreal’s Pierre Bouchard bumped into each other after the whistle and dropped the gloves.

On paper, it appeared to be an uneven matchup. Bouchard was seven inches taller and had over thirty pounds on his opponent.

Jonathan, however, had already established himself as a scrappy and pugnacious player who refused to back down from anyone.

Among the roaring Boston faithful that night was Roger Neilson, Jonathan’s coach from junior and later a legendary NHL bench boss. He’d later comment that “Stan is a little like boxer Joe Frazier. He’ll take two punches to get in one of his own – and the one is a dandy.” Jonathan would certainly live up to that reputation.

As Jonathan and Bouchard began trading blows, it became clear that the size disparity was not a factor. Boston’s truculent winger seemingly took his opponent’s punishment without blinking, and responded in kind with some vicious haymakers of his own.

 

As the exchange continued, Bouchard continued pounding away with his right hand. Jonathan, undeterred, alternated to his left and connected with enough force to knock Bouchard down. At that point, the Montreal forward collapsed to the ice, and after a few more quick flurries, the fight was over. Although it barely lasted ten seconds, the Bruins’ bulldog had demonstrated why he was one of the most fearsome fighters, pound for pound, in the league. 

As Bouchard laid crumpled on the ice, blood was pouring from his nose, the spot where Jonathan had landed his coup de grace. There was, in fact, so much blood spurting out that it also covered the face of linesman John D’Amico, who had been kneeling over top of Bouchard.

The scene led the commentators to speculate that the official had been cut during the course of the altercation. Although it looked a lot worse than it was, it demonstrated that Jonathan, despite being undersized, was not to be taken lightly. 

In some ways, the outcome of that fight mirrored the perception of the Bruins in that series. The Canadiens were a much bigger team and few had given Boston much of chance. Nevertheless, Jonathan had won that fight in dominating fashion, proving that his ferocity and determination were capable of overcoming this or any opponent. The Bruins went on to win that game in overtime and even the series.  

For some, it appeared as though Jonathan’s heroics may have ignited his team and changed the tempo of the series. Following the game, Boston forward Mike Milbury noted “last year, there was none of that nitty-gritty we-hate feeling. Now there is because it’s a lot closer; it’s a more intense series, and because everybody realizes the Stanley Cup is on the line, and it’s really on the line. It’s for all the marbles.” Unfortunately, it wouldn’t be enough.

Stan Jonathan won the battle, but Boston lost the war. The Bruins dropped the next two games and were forced, once again, to watch the Canadiens parade about with Lord Stanley’s silverware. Boston would have to wait another decade before finally defeating Montreal again in the postseason.

Tales of Violent Gentlemen - McPhee vs Tocchet

Respect, tradition, and sportsmanship are the cornerstones of our brand. It’s no coincidence that these fundamental characteristics are also synonymous with hockey, and have a rich history throughout the sport.

Whether it’s Montreal carrying members of Boston’s “Kraut Line” off the ice before the trio headed off to the Second World War, or the iconic exchange between goaltender “Sugar” Jim Henry and Maurice Richard after the Canadiens eliminated the Bruins from the postseason in 1952, there’s no shortage of examples to illustrate that, even amidst fierce competition, respect and tradition undergird our stories from the game.


To honor this legacy, Violent Gentlemen will be going into the vault each month to bring you tales from the past. In partnership with historian Mike Commito, VGHC will be exploring notable moments in hockey history that highlight the building blocks of our brand and the reasons we love hockey. 

George McPhee vs Rick Tocchet, April 12, 1986

The prognosticators didn’t give the New York Rangers much of a chance heading in the 1986 playoffs. The club had barely made the cut for the postseason, and were facing the Philadelphia Flyers, winners of the Patrick Division.

On paper, the Blueshirts were heavily outmatched and it appeared as though they were destined for an early exit. The only problem for the Flyers was that, it seemed the Rangers never got that memo.

When the series opened on April 9, New York stunned Philadelphia. They set the pace early into the contest, and went on to score six goals. Backstopped by the incredible play of young goaltender John Vanbiesbrouck, the Rangers limited the Flyers to two goals and took the first game in the best-of-five series. In reflecting on his team’s performance, Philly’s coach Mike Keenan said, “it was the worst game we’ve played here in two years.” Needless to say, when play resumed at the Spectrum the following night, the Flyers needed to be better.

They didn’t disappoint. Philadelphia responded, and forced New York back into its shell. There was no offensive flurry this time around for the Rangers, who were only able to muster a single goal. Meanwhile, the Flyers fired 44 shots on net, and while they were only able to get two by Vanbiesbrouck, that’s all they’d need. They clamped down on defense, and checked the Rangers at 12 shots to even the series.

With the series tied, the Blueshirts returned to Broadway for the first pivotal matchup at Madison Square Garden. It would be a critical game. If the Rangers were to take control again, they wouldn’t be able to sit back and rely on the stellar play of their rookie goaltender. Rather, everyone would have to step up if they hoped to prove the naysayers wrong.

Early into the second period of that game, the Flyers took a 2-1 lead. Looking to light a fire under his fellow Rangers and turn the tide, George McPhee sought out Rick Tocchet at center ice.

McPhee was in his third season with the Rangers and had already established himself as a hard-nosed, scrappy winger who wasn’t afraid to shake things up. Four years earlier he had won the Hobey Baker Award as a member of Bowling Green University, but now as an NHL regular, he had developed a reputation as, pound for pound, one of the league’s toughest players.

Although McPhee was undersized by league standards, he appeared diminutive compared to Tocchet. The Flyers’ forward had three inches and nearly fifty pounds on his counterpart, but that didn’t matter. This was, in fact, the third time the pair had fought that season.


Given that McPhee was on the losing end of their last encounter, it had all the makings for a spirited rematch. Despite the fact that McPhee had an injured right hand, his determination did not waver. Although the broadcasters suggested that he might opt to throw from his left side, McPhee soldiered on, connecting with a series of punches from his ailing hand. Tocchet landed some good blows as well, but McPhee clearly held his own in the face of a significant size disparity. Both players battled hard until they were broken up by the linesman.


When the dust settled, it was almost too close to call, but given that Tocchet had sustained a cut to his face, the decision narrowly went to McPhee.

While the home crowd raucously supported McPhee’s efforts, Rangers’ backup goaltender Glen Hanlon may have been the most excited individual in Madison Square Garden. In the wake of the fight, he boisterously rapped the boards and shouted across the ice at Tocchet. At one point, Hanlon even got up on the bench and barked and gestured towards Flyers’ coach Mike Keenan.


Although the fight had no immediate impact on the game, the reaction to it, from both the crowd and the Rangers, may have been the shot in the arm the team needed. Still trailing when the third period began, New York scored four unanswered goals to win the game, and retake the series lead.

The Rangers would go on to complete the upset and advance as far as the Prince of Wales Conference Final, before falling to the Canadiens.

While it’s sometimes hard to see how an in-game event like a fight can shift a team’s momentum, it’s that type of energy that can have a galvanizing effect on a club, especially in the playoffs. Despite his size disadvantage and the injury to his right hand, McPhee didn’t back down. His tenacity and willingness to battle for his club certainly didn’t go unnoticed. McPhee’s efforts set the tone for his team and undoubtedly resonated with them for the remainder of their incredible postseason run.

Violent Gentlemen X Warrior

We dance with one stick and one stick only. Our friends from Warrior Hockey dropped the brand new QRL today and its insane! You might be thinking…"why am I getting this paid advertisement?" Its actually a very unpaid, quality appreciated, forward thinking  advertisement. We helped make some of the items in this beautiful promo kits that you can go to your local hockey shop to win. Now go out and get a stick that will rip shots over the top of the net with your signature garage door destroying accuracy and Quick Release ferocity. After you buy the stick tag us in your posts for a chance to win free VG gear. Use the #VGWarrior

Van City

Paid a visit to one of my favorite cities this week. Vancouver is a relatively quick flight, kind Canadian folks, insane city/nature experiences within minutes of each other and of course...a Canadian NHL club. This last point carries a lot of weight that you don't realize until you experience. These people have a passion that is unrivaled. In the first game we went to the Canucks hosted the Kings. It quickly got out of hand and ended in a 5-0 blowout. How much of the sellout crowd left early? Maybe 20 people. Just as packed and loud as the start. I'm not sure if its out of respect for the club or simply getting your moneys worth out of a $300 ticket but either way I love it. 

Met up with LA --> VAN transplants Beau Bokan and Rocket

Got around taking in as much nature as possible

We had an off day in between games and the Canucks training staff were nice enough to let us come through for a tour. What an inspiring place to practice and play home games. 

Last but absolutely most important...stopped by one of our retailers Max Performance. This place is a small mom and pop shop but its perfect. Carry a good selection of VG gear including the more limited, hard to find things like our Game On jersey. If you're in the area stop by and say hello.

Of course finished the trip out by catching the Ducks in town and some poutine. Until next time Vancouver!

PS4 & NHL16 GIVEAWAY

We are trying something new with our giveaways. We are starting with a PS4 and will be giving stuff away the whole holiday season. Spread the word. 

 

OVERTIME, OVER THIS

Let’s be honest; the NHL’s 82-game regular season is merely an appetizer for the league’s main course – a grueling, four-round playoff tournament, where teams attempt to secure Lord Stanley’s Cup, generally regarded as the most difficult trophy in sports to attain. With that now on the table, let’s address the elephant in the room; we still don’t have a worthy conclusion to regular season games that are tied after 60 minutes.

 Somewhere along the way, more than a decade ago, some jokester in the league office thought that hockey fans (read: American hockey fans) couldn’t handle games ending in a tie. Mind you, from November 1942, when overtime was abolished due to train schedules impacted by wartime restrictions, until the 1983-84 season, NHL hockey ended after three periods, regardless of the score.

 Fear not, young puck lovers. These aren’t the words of some old curmudgeon wanting to keep the game pure or trying to return things to the way they were in some perceived golden age of hockey. No, it’s simply an acknowledgement that the current rules are designed to satisfy all parties. Centuries ago, some wise man somewhere, uttered something about you can’t please all the people all of the time.

 So, can somebody somewhere – anywhere – produce a single study showing that adding the shootout has brought one additional fan to the sport? Just one? Yes, fans love it. We get it; they all stand in unison when the shootout begins in NHL arenas across North America. However, that still doesn’t mean one should so casually declare it is the best way to end a game.

 More recently, as the anti-shootout crowd began to have a louder voice, along came the idea of 3-on-3 hockey. ‘Great!’ heralded legions of fans, who previously called the shootout nothing more than a gimmick. Naturally, this was akin to the pot and the kettle becoming dear friends.

 Even some of the players have voiced their disdain, with Winnipeg Jets behemoth Dustin Byfuglien recently calling the NHL’s new 3-on-3 format, “A terrible part of hockey. It’s not hockey." Like seeing him on a breakaway, the concept may not be a thing of a beauty, but it is a means to an end.

 Whatever the end, though, just pick one. That’s all we’re really after here.

We don’t need all of it. We don’t need overtime, 3-on-3, the shootout, a rock-paper-scissors contest, nor a coin flip. Just pick one. If a game is tied after 60 minutes of action, and you’re committed to the shootout, get right to it. If you really hate the shootout and prefer 3-on-3, given it’s more tangentially related to the actual rules of hockey, then just play it for five minutes and live with the results. If we’re tied, we’re tied. The NHL won’t lose one single fan. I promise.

John Hoven

@mayorNHL

 

BIO: John Hoven is the founder and editor of MayorsManor.com - previously named Best Hockey Blog by Yahoo Sports and the Best Sports Blog by LA Weekly. As a past member of the Professional Hockey Writer's Association, Hoven has voted on the top NHL Awards, including the Norris and Calder Trophies. He can also regularly be heard talking hockey on NHL Radio Network, as well as TSN Radio in Canada. Be sure to follow him on Twitter if you aren’t already, @MayorNHL.

  • It Hurts
  • Author avatar
    Violent Gentlemen

It Hurts

I don't remember the last time I didn't have something on my body not hurting.  Wether it's from knee surgery 6 years ago, the puck that clipped my tooth last week in pickup (still got em all, no idea how), or the nail on my right big toe that permanently grows weirdly sideways from a shot I blocked in juniors.  Some of the pain earned from playing competitive hockey for 15 years still lingers with me over 15 years later...and I didnt do it for THAT long.  Can't imagine what the guys who play into their 30s/40s feel like 15 years later.  Having said that, I feel pretty fucking lucky that I was able to play, and still play, without ever SERIOUSLY being hurt.  Thats not to say that I haven't been banged up.  From 1998 to 2001, I suffered: broken collarbone.  cracked kneecap. both shoulders separated. broken knuckle. my teeth went through my bottom lip.  Oh and I "fell down some stairs" and think I broke my ankle, but that happened the night before the first day of practice my first year in juniors, so I just taped it up and tried to hide it from the coaches.  That ankle still sucks.  Fucking Bambi.



"IT HURTS"

My dad is originally from Toronto and has told me my whole life that the word "hockey" is from the Canadian First Nations language and it means "it hurts".  Probably not true and just some shit your dad says when you're a kid to sound smart, cause pre internet, who the fuck spoke First Nations and could tell him he was wrong?  I don't even know if he was being serious, or it was some weird old Canadian inside joke.  Whatever the truth is, its the truth.  Hockey fucking hurts.  When you're a kid it hurts cause you're a kid and pain sucks and so does your gear.  You don't really know how to stop and turn right, so every once in awhile you go face first into the boards or a post and another dumb kid that cant skate.  When you get to be a pee wee (12 years old) and things get more violent, it hurts in a completely different way.  It hurts, but really, you're just trying your best to not be a pussy and embarrass yourself.  You're starting to learn how to hit and get hit.  Some of the worst pain during this age is when you go to throw a big hit, and you end up taking the worst of it.   The dreaded "cold shoulder". You realize it hurts cause you weren't ready for it, which is very important, because when you're on the ice, you learn that you have to be mentally prepared for pain at all times.   

And then you get to the age in which you play against grown ass men, and everything changes. You learn a lot about yourself when you start playing against the big boys.  Prior to playing Jrs, I had spent 4 years playing QB in high school football.  My offensive line was absolute dog shit.  I think we averaged like 175 lbs, which is criminal.  I literally got the shit kicked out of me every single game I played.  It wasn't a big deal to me.  I was a hockey player.  I could take it.  Then I would go play hockey, and think "I play football, this is nothing!"  Well, I got a lesson in what it feels like to play hockey against guys the size of football players when I started going to Junior camps and playing in prospect tournaments.  Thats one of the things about growing up out here...not many of the good players were the big kids.  Also, I had been getting into street fights pretty much as far back as I could remember, so fighting and getting punched in the face never really scared me.  Thats not to say that I was willing to go with a heavy, cause thats just stupid.  But if someone did something or challenged me, of if I felt like in a camp or tryout situation that it would help me stand out more, I would go.  Anyways, story time: 

I will never forget my very first shift of Hockey Night In Boston.  For those of you unfamiliar with HNIB, it was possibly the most prestigious high school aged prospect showcase tournament in the country (others would argue Chicago Showcase) at that time. I've heard its not really a big deal anymore, since there are so many other avenues to be seen by scouts/schools...but back in 1997, it was the shit.  The tournament consisted of a collection of teams from all over the country.  I was on Team Pacific, which was literally the biggest thing that had happened to me in my young hockey life to this point.  I was beyond stoked when I got the letter in the mail that I had made the team and would be headed to Andover, MA to play in the Merrimack rink for 2 weeks in August.

My first shift:  I got the puck on my off wing with a good head of steam coming out of my own zone and made a decision that I was going to try and take this big lumbering oaf of a D-man wide.  I quickly came to the realization that I was skating as hard as I could and he was basically gliding.  I had no chance of getting around him.  I also realized upon a quick glance that the end boards were getting very close.  Within a flash, this big ass dude opened his lead foot and hips, closed the gap on me, and rode me into the boards.  The finishing move he chose to go with while he steered me into the boards was that he put his free hand on the back of my helmet, and literally slammed my head into the glass as he finished his hit.  He crucified me.  I had NEVER been hit like this.   I remember that shitty feeling that all hockey players know, and thats my face being covered in my own snot.  This asshole literally knocked the snot out of me.  I got up, skated around aimlessly for a minute, then made it back to the bench, mostly out of fear that my old man would literally kill me if i stayed down on the ice after traveling 3000 miles to play against most of the best players on the east coast with almost every single college/prep school/junior scout in the region watching.  I'm kind of joking about that, and kind of not.  My dads the guy who when he was coaching kids, would run out onto the ice to make sure that a kid was ok...unless it was one of his kids.  If me or one of my brothers laid on the ice, he would literally take his time, walk out there slowly, stand over us and say "you better be dead, cause if you're not, and you're just laying on the ice, this is the last game you'll ever play."  He meant that.  He came from an old hockey family of Scottish/Irish Canadian immigrants who were tough and mean.  His dads famous line to me as a kid was "if you lose an arm on the ice, you pick it up and go for a change.  You don't lay on the ice."

Anyways.  The next thing I remember was that thing that lots of you who played know.  That "who the fuck was that?" feeling.  What # was he?  I'm going to buckle that asshole.  Then I realized who it was.  Some of you nostalgia fans will remember this name from the past.  The dude was Mike Pandolfo.  6'3" 225lbs, and maybe the strongest person I had played against up to that point.   He was literally on the cover of the HNIB program that year. You want to know the worst part about it?  HE WAS A FUCKING WINGER.  I'm out here flying down the wing getting hammered in the corner by a dude out of position?  Where am I?  Who are these guys?  Do I even belong here?

Back to the point.  IT HURT.  Like nothing I had felt.  I once got hit my junior year of high school football by two linebackers at once so hard trying to get into the end zone that my helmet flew off and landed in the back of the end zone, all 4 snaps on my chin strap broke, and my mouthpiece, which was attached to my face mask broke off and stayed in my mouth.  I was fine, but everyone who saw it thought I was dead.  Getting up from that hit and brushing it off literally won me the starting varsity job (Polk High). This was WAY worse. 

The Funny thing is, you really do learn how to deal with the pain.  You learn how to deal with it because its worth it.  You learn how to deal with it because simply put, you have no other choice.  When you're playing the wing and your D man makes a shit play and throws it up to the point while you're down at the hash opened up for a tape to tape, then you have to get back to the middle and take away the shooting lane while trying to get out there and close the gap on the shooter, cause you know it hurts less the further it gets to travel.  You're doing this while looking at a guy over 6' tall and you KNOW that he has an absolute cannon of a shot.  You know that you better get in the lane.  You know its going to hurt, because you know its going to hit you.  Why is it going to hit you?  Because if it doesn't, if you pull the flamingo, you know you might end up on the bench the rest of the game, and then maybe you're in the stands the next night cause the guy who took your spot had a couple apples and a block on the kill, and then the next thing you know, you're at home playing adult league, because you got cut.  So you MAKE SURE it hits you, even though you know your shinguards don't cover the bottom of your shin/top of your foot because you think smaller shin guards feel better and look cooler.  You make sure it hits you, and to prove its not by accident, you lay down in front of it.  Sure, you're wearing a cup, but have you taken a slap shot straight to the cup?  Doesn't exactly do much.  You pray it hits the right spot, and even then, its going to hurt a little.  You learn to deal with this, and you learn a lot about yourself.  You learn how much playing hockey means to you.  My dad always told me that Hockey doesn't create character, it reveals it.  Nothing I had experienced in my life showed me what I was made of more than doing something that I knew I was going to physically suffer for.  But nothing felt better than knowing that you earned that pain and dealt with it like a man, and that the reward was the love, trust, and respect of your teammates and coaches.  Thats hockey to me.  Thats why I love it, and miss it every day.  I don't miss the pain...just what it meant.

-BO Thomson 

 

 

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