Fighting in hockey is great. Everyone loves hockey fight clips–even the announcers go nuts for a good scrap (check out Ken Wilson in the clip below–“Main Event! Get everybody to the ropes!”). Great fighters–Tony Twist, Bob Probert, Tie Domi, Joey Kocur–are beloved in their home cities. A fight gets the crowd fired up, it gets the players fired up. Self-regulation through fighting also leads to cleaner play overall–you don’t have to be a genius visionary like Don Cherry to know that. Everyone who loves hockey loves a good fight, and understands its place in the game. So why doesn’t Gary Bettman get it?
Kenny Rogers knows the answer.
Everyone considered him the coward of the county.
You know the song. Young Tommy promises his daddy, on his prison deathbed, that he won’t get into fights and end up locked up like his old man. Tommy is therefore widely considered a first-class pussy.
His Mama named him Tommy, but folks just called him Yellow.
Something always told me, they were reading Tommy wrong.
Tommy was perfectly happy with his little pussy life, with his country-cute wife Becky, until the Gatlin boys–imagine a small-town version of Dale Hunter, Darius Kasparaitis, and Claude Lemieux–showed up one day.
One day while he was working, the Gatlin boys came calling
They took turns with Becky–and there was three of them.
Suddenly Tommy, who had been the midseason front-runner for the East Buttfuck County Lady Byng Trophy, went all Stu Grimson.
Twenty years of crawling was bottled up inside him
He wasn’t holding nothing back, he let ’em have it all
When Tommy left the barroom, not a Gatlin boy was standing
He said, “This one’s for Becky,” as he watched the last one fall.
Was Tommy ashamed that he had broken his promise to daddy? Embarrassed that his violent outburst would now make him a social outcast? Dismayed that his wholesome, non-violent reputation was forever ruined, and that he would lose any shot at mass-market appeal? Fuck no.
I promised you dad, not to do the things you done
I walked away from trouble when I could
Please don’t think I’m weak, I didn’t turn the other cheek
Papa, I sure hope you understand
Sometimes you gotta fight when you’re a man.
Gary Bettman’s wife isn’t named Becky (it’s Shelli; close enough). And I’m not suggesting that Dale, Darius and Claude actually pay her a visit while Yellow–excuse me, Gary–is hard at work trying to further decrease the NHL’s television exposure. But when some cheap-shot artist takes advantage of someone you love (even when it’s the way Marty McSorley loved Wayne Gretzky), that cheap shot artist needs to be pumbled.
That’s why he’s still the Coward of the County.