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David Booth about to pick up and throw the puck
“Forest Gump” is the title of a comedy/drama film released in 1994, based on the novel by the same name, written by Winston Groom in 1986. As the main character in this unusual flick, Gump is best known for his witty statement: “Stupid is as stupid does!” The impact is simple: a person is not judged by his IQ, but by his actions. In other words—the proof that stupidity exists is its demonstration.
The game’s history overflows with countless examples of behind-the-scenes and on-the-ice incidents which continue to cause observers to shake their heads in disbelief.
To me, hockey is the greatest game on earth. But, like some idiot playing the fool at the beautiful celebration called a wedding—tainting its special significance—there is always someone spoiling the spirit and colour of Canada’s National Sport. It is far from the norm—but it does happen—and it still takes the edge off the good thing.
Just in case the previous year-by-year exhibition of zany moments may have lost some momentum because of their repetitious nature, a flashback to the 1970’s may revive that aghast response.
** It was said of Gilles Gratton that he was “incredibly different”. Doug Michel, CEO of the WHA Ottawa Nationals, was sure that he had struck oil when he signed the goal-tending whiz in 1972. He was naturally gifted at stopping pucks. But he carried so much psychological baggage that it undermined his potential between the pipes. He was so zany that Stan Fischler included his bio in his book, “Flakes of Winter”. He soon became known as “ Grattoony the Loony”. Whether with the Nationals, the Toros, Blues or Rangers, he was consistently an odd ball.
Like everyone else he had the right to his personal beliefs—with him, it included reincarnation and astrology. But it was the fall-out from his philosophies which really grabbed the headlines. The most serious was his refusal to play one game because the planets were not lined up properly. His decision to skate out onto the ice garbed only in his mask earned him the honour as “hockey’s first streaker”! In September 1974 he posed nude with a female masseuse.
His tiger mask was a major attention getter. It is said that one night while he was with the Rangers he took the spirit of his face protection to the next level. Just as the Blueshirts were lining up for a faceoff, he started growling loudly—his animal instincts coming to surface. Needless to say when it prompted his mates break into laughter, the intended strategies went down the tube. Unless it’s a hit song, “Crazy” doesn’t pay too well.
**While it didn’t hit the press for 20 years, another wacky stunt by a “name” puckster a couple of years later, revealed a lot about his nondescript personality. Following a 1975-76 game, Derek Sanderson, then with the Rangers, burned a $100. bill in the team dressing room—with the explanation that “money means nothing to me!” That was an irresponsible act on anyone’s part, but ironically, it was doubly so for the “Turk”. At that time he was well on his way of becoming penniless. In a review of Kevin Shea’s biography of this eccentric maverick, one line summarizes the sad situation: “…from a spur-of-the-moment cash purchase of a Rolls Royce ($78,000.00), to sleeping under a bridge, to stealing bottles of wine…”
Contrast that with a Calder Trophy win, and signing the most published story about salaries in the 12 new WHA clubs ($3.75 million—referred to as the “highest paid athlete in the world”). Yet his noncomformist lifestyle—fashion and fun—prompted the Philadelphia Blazers to buy him out for $1 million. Regardless of the club for which he played, he was constantly in hot water for his off-the-ice antics—and it cost him dearly. It’s a tough road from riches to rags.
**It is not unheard of for hockey teammates to fight. This especially used to happen during the “Original 6” era when only 120 positions were up for grabs at training camps. And even when there were six times the number of skaters on rosters, tempers still flared in practice situations.
But back in a 1990 issue, the Hockey News included in one of their sidebars another level of challenge—at least the invitation for such. In February of that year, Rich Sutter revealed to the Edmonton Sun that one of his coaches asked him to start a fight with one of his brothers. “I won’t tell you who it was!”, explained Rich. “But it was inferred to one of us. I didn’t like it, and you can’t get your teammates to expect you to do that. If it gets down to that, I’d just as soon hand my gloves to the coach and get him to do it!” Blood is not only thicker than water, but in the loyalty department too.
**And, in another venue, involving conflict with one’s buddies, it will not surprise many readers to find the name of Stu Grimson in print. His reputation as a “rock ‘em, sock ‘em” puckster takes precedence over everything else about him — earning him the moniker, “The Grim Reaper”. In December 1993, Anatoli Semenov left a December match with a dislocated elbow when he was accidentally checked by the rampaging left winger, his own teammate. A week later, Garry Valk failed even to get past the pre-game warm-up when Grimson bumped into him, forcing him to retire from any game plans.
The big bruiser was not suspected of any ill intent—just acting in his usual “accident going somewhere to happen” approach to the game. He commented that he “was beginning to feel like one of those bug zappers. People just fly into me and fall down dead!” Like careless driving, careless skating is dangerous.
**The 1994 post-Stanley Cup riots in Vancouver following the Canucks loss to the Rangers in the finals is well documented. The mob spirit coursed through the veins of some 70,000 air-heads, and while there were no fatalities, 200 were hurt. Perhaps one distinct incident stands out from all that idiocy — the prevention of the police from reaching an injured man — who had fallen when he attempted to walk on trolley wires! Last time I looked trolley wires make a mighty narrow path.
**In December of 1998, the Mighty Ducks’ Dominic Roussel launched a $250,000. lawsuit against his father, Andre, who had been acting as his agent. The latter quit his job with Hydro-Québec to represent his hockey-playing son. Dom chose him because of his experience negotiating contracts. His motivation stemmed from the senior Roussel’s advising Dominic to skip training camp as a lever in bargaining for more money per season that the Flyers’ number one backstop, Ron Hextall. Needless to say the deal fell through—as did Dominic’s future. Only the proof in the pudding causes an appetite for more.
**One of YouTube’s most memorable shinny highlights takes us back to March 29, 2001. The Leafs and the Flyers were in the last stretch to the playoffs, and feelings were running high. Not surprisingly, Tie Domi was cooling his heels in the sin bin after a dust up with a Philly opponent. Behind him a leather lung fan continually hassled the Toronto forward. Eventually, Domi had had enough, and he sprayed his heckler with water. Incensed, the spectator feigned a move toward his tormentor. Quite unexpectedly the glass in front of him gave way, and he landed face to face in the box with one of the game’s toughest antagonists. The wrestling match that followed, plus the ejection of the paying customer, is really an anti-climax to the whole thing. Two years later, Christopher Falcone actually sued Tie, charging him with “violently and brutally assaulting him”. Sounds like the pot calling the kettle black!
** On April 1, 2002, Andre Roy went haywire, jumping out of the penalty box and wrestling with an official as he attempted to continue his feud with the Rangers’ Sandy McCarthy. He then challenged the entire New York bench before being restrained. It cost him 27 P.I.M., a thirteen-game suspension, and $45,000. In lost salary. Guess who glaringly demonstrated what April 1st is all about.
**Recalling Dan Maloney’s assault on Brian Glennie (in part one), fast forward to March 8, 2004. It was such a bizarre incident that little more is needed than to mention the names Todd Bertuzzi and Steve Moore. The assailant’s sucker punch was bad enough; but when he fell on his victim, smashing his head into the ice—plus the piling on which followed—it is no wonder it spelled the end of Moore’s hockey career. Three fractured vertebrae in his neck; facial cuts; and a concussion—which betrayed permanent brain damage—pretty well sums it up. Was Bertuzzi’s plan intended to result in the way it did? I seriously doubt that. But even impulsive sneak attacks bring dire consequences.
**If this warranted a title, it could be tagged “In Brief”. Perhaps the NHL doesn’t keep records of this type of thing—but if they did it would have to be considered a record. On October 22, 2005, Colton Orr had been on the ice for one second when he got into a fight with Andre Roy (does that name sound familiar?) That skips “sublime” and goes directly to “ridiculous”!
Back in the day there was an expression used to describe an extreme number. It was based on the patent medicine first introduced in 1868 — “Carter’s Little Liver Pills”. It was so popular that it seemed a numberless amount of them were purchased. An example of its usage might be: “He has more excuses than Carter has pills!”
Hockey history has recorded numberless incidents which fall into the “Just Plain Stupid” category. But, lest we get eased into the “ad infinitum” mode, one more exploit will suffice.
**It was October 25, 2009. The Pittsburgh Penguins squared off with the Florida Panthers. It was a tie game decided by a shootout. But in the third frame a weird knee-jerk decision was made by David Booth. Obviously in a back-checking roll, he dropped to one knee a few feet in front of his own net to fend off a Penguin attack. His stick slipped out of his hands, and, apparently thinking it was broken, he skated toward the boards, picked up the puck in his hand, and heaved it down the ice. Really David? How could you mistake softball and shinny?
Yep! “Stupid is as stupid does!”
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