Hockey writing that doesn't suck
Back in the 1990s, The Village Voice used to have a small section at the back devoted to sports. There wasn’t much there, but it was routinely smart and very funny.
Like most of you, I’ve been stuck reading the same uninspired tripe that passes for sports journalism from our local media. Rarely insightful, our local hockey scribes offer little more than tired clichés, fortune-telling scribbles, personal vendettas and frequently inaccurate and lazy game recaps.
My search for material about hockey that was funny, original and intelligent came to an end last year when I stumbled upon a quartet of local (one is actually from Montreal) hockey blogs: Sens Chirp, Five for Smiting, The 6th Sens and Four Habs Fans.
While Sens Chirp tends to focus more on news and rumours, the other three routinely feature biting, beat-tinged funny-as-hell commentaries that would make Hunter Thompson shit with pride. As Tim from The 6th Sens puts it, "[We're] like a comical wolverine; we attack anyone at a moment’s notice and pride ourselves on saying things no one else is willing to say about hockey, the media and the Ottawa Senators."
Four Habs Fans is one of the funniest, filthiest and sharpest blogs around. Among their many highlights (including daily stripper pics!) are the blog entries written in broken English by the Habs’ Slovakian goalie, Jaroslav Halák:
"Look at me! Look at me! No goal behind my ass becase I heve talant. My teemates play like sheet. Stupide mistakes all the game and if I not there they loose the game like a defecting Cuban pitcher looses he family."
Five for Smiting had this to say about an old Sens tormenter, Gary Roberts:
"…I detest him with the white hot intensity of a billion suns. Some would say that my hatred stems from the Senators’ chronic inability to find a player just like him: fearless, tough as nails, the ultimate CLUTCH. And some would be right… a little. But most of me just wants to pound a stake through his black, black heart."
This is writing that is hilarious, silly, sharp, honest and personal. It would make Hubert Selby Jr. smile and Nick Tosches snicker. These bloggers are hockey mad, but not to the point of seeing the game as something precious and monumentally important to our existence. They know hockey is just a silly game at heart. How can a game that features a group of grown men or women beating the shit out of each other to get hold of a small piece of rubber be taken seriously?
The success of these blogs also shows that you don’t need special access to write incisive commentary; in fact you’re better off without it. "The usefulness of that access," says Paul of Five for Smiting, "went down the crapper the day the NHL started sending rookies to ‘media training’ seminars. You want to fix mainstream media in hockey? It’s easy. Find a couple of sports editors who are willing to say ‘Fuck it. I don’t care if we ever score another interview with the GM. Tell our subscribers what’s wrong with this team and who’s responsible.’ The day publishers grow balls enough to hire guys willing to do that is the day the blogosphere turns back into a bunch of scarcely acknowledged crazy people howling at the moon, including me."
In the words of the great orator Dany Heatley, "There are options."