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I’ll be your huckleberry – I’m going to come right out and say what all of you people are secretly admitting to yourselves but refuse to say publicly: head shots are terrific. They are to hockey as fifteen-car pileups are to NASCAR and helmet to helmet spine rattlers are to football.

A head shot can be a thing of beauty. It can educate and inspire. It can rally a team, reverse momentum, it can do as much damage – perhaps more – than a pair of goals in thirty seconds.

Yes, yes, I know the head shot is dangerous. Sure, it can leave a guy with brain damage or minus a few incisors. Yes, it can incapacitate a dude and end his career. And even if it doesn’t mess up a guy physically, it can screw up a guy’s career mentally.

Well, you know what? Tough cheese.

The first words out of a coach’s mouth when you take your first hockey lesson as a kid are these: Never drop your head.

This is hockey 101. Also hockey 101: You keep helmet on, your mouthguard in, you avoid skating headfirst into the wall if at all possible, try to avoid placing your neck on other people’s skate blades, you never take the ice while pointing a loaded handgun at yourself, you never dip yourself in gasoline and then smoke cigarettes while on a shift, you steer clear of water bottles containing tainted sushi juice, never confuse your stick with a bare wire plugged into a live power source, never pet strange dogs, don’t run with scissors and you DON’T DROP YOUR HEAD.

If you don’t let your head drop, you’ll never receive a career ending head shot. You may take a clip here or there. You may see the odd elbow coming that you can’t do much to avoid. But you’ll never be on the end of a Brent Seabrook special. You may see it coming and jump, or drop, or raise an arm, or spear your attacker in the belly, but you’ll never take it unannounced to the temple.

For mine, changing rules to punish people who do what you’re supposed to do if someone places themselves in harm’s way is silly. In soccer, if someone stands before me with legs splayed wide open while the ball is at my feet, I’m going to belt it full on right into my opponent’s junk. Why? Because he’s an idiot and I can.

If I’m boxing for a world title and my opponent drops his hands and leans his chin forward while closing his eyes, I’m going to belt it so hard he’ll never get up. Why? Because he’s an idiot and I can.

If I’m playing basketball and a 5’2″ guy wanders under the basket and I’m 6’4″ and charging to the rim, I’m going to bowl right through Mookie and send him into the third row of accountants and lawyers at courtside with everything I have. Why? Because “you’re doing it wrong.”

If I’m rounding third base and heading into home and the opposition catcher decides to block home plate as the throw comes in, I’m going to go airborne and dive at his face with my shoulder and every pound of weight I can send propel. I’m going to smoosh a mask imprint on his nose and attempt to send it brainward. Because the rules say I can and because such things are the stuff of professional sporting greatness, like using an opponent’s back as a ladder in Australian Rules football or bending an opponent’s elbow the wrong way because he’s too stupid to tap out.

Let’s be clear – it sucks when a guy takes a shot he didn’t see coming and has to be stretchered off. Nobody likes to see that. But we all like, secretly or otherwise, to see what leads up to it.

There’s a reason hockey fights, NASCAR wrecks, nutshots, crazy knockouts, airborne quarterback sacks and home plate collisions always make the highlight reels: We watch. And we watch because we like it.

Like rollercoasters, scary movies, Stephen King novels and rugby rucks, we want to experience near death experiences without actually being in a place that could cause near death. Wall-crunching hits, hipchecks that leave players doing front flips and crashing onto the ice back first, gnarly fights that go two minutes and teeth embedded in shoulderpads are indelible aspects of hockey that elevate the sport to greatness because they show the players involved mean it. If they didn’t exist, we’d be left with Swedish hockey. And really, why would anyone watch that?

Sure, you purists out there can talk about protecting players’ livelihoods all you like, but the game you fell in love with as a child featured no helmets, not even for goalies – and that’s considered a golden age of the sport. Where was your love for your fellow man when the Bruins were climbing over the glass to bash spectators senseless? Did you boycott Slapshot? Have you refused to ever watch a Rock ‘Em Sock ‘Em video?

The hell you have. You love it, you little minx. That’s because sport only matters when there’s something at risk. Throw a ball for distance and nobody cares, but throw a pointed metal spear for distance and suddenly people will watch. Give two guys pillows and let them beat each other with them and nobody will buy a ticket. But wrap their fists in gluey bandages that are dipped in broken glass and you’ve got yourself a party!

And to prove that any sport improves with the addition of crazy violence, I give you the greatest sport of all time: Extreme Arm-Wrestling.


Am I right or am I right?

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