March 9 - March 15, 1995


Hockey Hokum

By Tom Danehy

WELL, I FINALLY went to a hockey game the other day, and I'm happy to report I didn't lose any IQ points, as I had feared. I do, however, have the urge to scream, "You suck!" a lot more often that I used to.

The Arizona Icecats--that most incongruous of success stories, an ice hockey powerhouse based in the desert--hosted the American Club Hockey Association national championships last week at the TCC. I had managed to avoid the Icecats for all these years, mostly because I hardly ever scratch myself in public and I virtually never burp out loud. But hey, these were the national championships.

I'm not a big fan of hockey. I know the rules and I watched the Miracle on Ice team during the 1980 Olympics, but that's about it. Hockey has always seemed to me to be little more than a bar brawl on skates. It's like they put all those clothes on and then they get this neurotic need to make an overt display of their manhood. Since they can't expose themselves, they start fights.

And what fights they are! Two guys grab each other's shirts with one hand and then use the free hand to pound the other guy's face, all the while skating around. They should play a waltz in the background.

Hey, if fighting isn't in the rules, don't do it. Play the game the way it's supposed to be played and leave the sissy fighting where it belongs, with those wimps who play baseball.

I think hockey would be much better if it were played and officiated like basketball, making it a game of speed, grace and teamwork. Instead, they've grafted on some sort of football mentality without the precision and intrinsic value that comes with hitting in football. What you're left with is a mess. The hitting in hockey often looks incongruous and haphazard. And the fighting always looks stupid.

Football has always been my favorite sport to play and to watch, and it's certainly violent. But the violence is part of the game. Plus, have you ever noticed how few fights there are in football compared to hockey? That's 'cause football's a better sport.

I went to see the Icecats mostly because my kids wanted to see them. My kids are Icecat fans and they like hockey. 'Course, they're young yet; they also think their vote counts and that The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air offers an accurate portrayal of black life in America.

The Icecats were a pleasant surprise. There was hardly any fighting and they played the game at a skillful, yet clearly amateur, level. The way you could tell this is that I was actually able to see a goal scored. In the history of the National Hockey League, I don't think any fan in North America has ever actually seen a hockey goal scored. They see a guy cock his stick, then a light goes on and a bunch of his teammates dance around with their sticks raised in the air.

To their credit, the college guys score lots and lots of goals, unlike their professional counterparts. The first game I saw (Iowa State-Eastern Michigan) ended 8-7. Which, by coincidence, is also the score at the end of the first inning of almost every UA baseball game these days.

The tournament was a huge success, although things didn't go like they were supposed to. The Icecats bit the big one in the first game, losing to something called North Dakota State, which probably has a total enrollment about as big as the number of frat members on the Honor Roll at the UA. The Icecats were probably looking past ND State to their showdown with powerful Ohio a couple days later. They shouldn't have, because they lost that one, too.

That loss knocked them out of the medal round on Saturday, costing the TCC a ton of money in lost attendance revenues. Still, it was a successful tournament and another outstanding season for the Icecats.

A lot of credit has to go to Icecat Coach Leo Golembiewski, who built the program from scratch, enduring abuse at the hands of the UA Athletic Department before finally making his squad one of the hot tickets in town and financially self-supporting.

You gotta' love a guy who looks that bad in a suit. Plus, I'm partial to the way he says "Youse guys in da press."

Finally, there are the fans, a rabid, foaming horde out of an episode of The X-Files. They scream, they cuss, they threaten, they throw things at each other and out onto the ice.

The heck with putting National Guard troops at the Mexican border. We need to put them along I-10 to make sure no more Midwesterners get through.

I'm one of those old-fashioned types who believes that just because you pay $10 to get in, that doesn't give you the right to be vulgar, to make racist statements, or to threaten people, as often happens these days at professional and collegiate stadiums. The Icecat crowd isn't as bad as some, I'm told, but they are still occasionally ugly and embarrassing.

Which, by coincidence, is how my wife describes me, although she usually forgets the "occasionally" part.

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March 9 - March 15, 1995

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