I've spent a while on this blog and my other one at Second City Hockey.com lamenting Blackhawks Defenseman John Scott. I don't understand the hockey purpose he serves, and I don't want him on the ice in an Indian Head ever again. This has led to its fair share of meathead responses like, "Bet you couldn't say that to his face" and other things that wouldn't be out of place on a school yard during recess.
I've never taken a shot at Scott personally. I've heard interviews with him and read others. I bet I'd love having a beer with him. He seems like a genuine guy. It's strange, most hockey pugilists are genuine guys (Bob Probert aside). Today only proved this more so, with a pretty deep article in Thursday's Chicago Tribune about how Scott is dealing with the death of his friend Derek Boogard. I'm not here to comment on Scott's grieving or anything like that. But there was one quote that grabbed me:
"I don't think people understand the nerves and the kind of mindset that fighters go through," Scott said. "I've stayed up nights not sleeping a wink because I know I'm going to fight someone the next day. It's one of those situations where it's not natural to go out and fight every day or to have that constant threat of a fight, even though it might not come. … Some guys might not be able to sleep, and they take some stuff to help them sleep.
I've read this kind of stuff from other enforcers in the league before. The stress they put themselves under, the pressure, all of it. And I wish I could understand why this has to happen.
I'm not an anti-fighting ninny, as a lot would like to call me. I think a genuine hockey fight, with two players genuinely agitated with each other, can be pretty entertaining. What I don't have time for are the scripted bouts, between each teams' goons who engage because they can't do anything else and have to justify their existence. It serves no purpose, it doesn't motivate either team, it doesn't protect any skill players, it doesn't move any hockey motivation forward.
And now I read this. John Scott is not a dumb guy. Neither was Boogard. And to hear the sometimes anguish they go through anticipating something the next night that ultimately won't mean anything, I have to sit here and ask why are we putting them through this? I get it, John Scott and his ilk get to earn a paycheck in the NHL because of what they do with the gloves off. Or just the threat of what they do with the gloves off. But there's obviously physical pain, and with it comes a mental or emotional pain, and i just don't see why it has to be this way.
Does the NHL need these guys? I don't think so, and I don't want to take away the dream of the John Scotts. But I used to think this because it wasn't helping the game. Now I wonder if it wouldn't be helping them.
This probably isn't widespread enough for a grounds to ban fighting or finding a way to curb the scripted nonsense. The only thing it does it that the next time John Scott drops the gloves and starts heaving his meathooks at some other guy who can't actually skate, I won't only think it's meaningless and stupid. I'll think it's sad.
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