When it comes to sport, I am hardly an expert. When it comes to checking out athletic men and judging them according to quality of skill, manliness, face and beard (where applicable), I am pretty bloody good.
Manliness is important. It is for that reason that I must blatantly exclude golf, soccer and men’s synchronised diving from the list of sports you shouldn’t be embarrassed to play. But rather than name and shame the rest of the lame sports out there, I’ll just say this: Real men play Ice Hockey. A game of ice hockey isn’t over until each player is wearing at least a little bit of O-Neg on their jerseys and another player’s tooth on a leather cord around their neck like a trophy.
Now, I love AFL as much as the next Aussie/female who like to perv on fit men in shorts, but I still can’t deny the obvious superiority of Ice Hockey, which is basically 12 dudes in battle gear, armed with sticks, charging up the ice and wailing on each other. It’s the purest, most delightful display of absolute testosterone just short of actual combat.
First off, let’s talk about names. Everyone in in the AFL has got names like Steve and Gary, or affectionate nicknames like Chappy, Buddy, Pods and Swanny. Easy enough to remember, but if worse comes to worst, all anyone has to do is shout out “hey mate!” on the field and 21 other blokes turn around.
In Hockey, blokes with names like Smith and Jones are up against players whose surnames use all twenty-six letters of the alphabet twice over and a few letters they made up just for fun. Turns out Tjarnqvist and Balmochnykh aren’t lunchmeats- one played for Sweden and the other was a Mighty Duck.
Then there’s the real stuff. The stuff that separates the boys from the men and the men from the ice hockey players.
Verbal abuse and rough conduct.
Footballers get warning for a first offense, 15m pentalty for the second and then get sent off the field.
Hockey players get cheered on and then someone makes a film about it starring a young Rob Lowe.
Spear Tackling (Using one’s own body to throw an opponent to the ground).
In AFL this equates to an instant penalty for the other side and can lead to suspension for the guilty player.
In ice hockey, this is how two players say hello.
Footballers have to be strong, fast, agile and disciplined.
Hockey players have to be strong, fast, agile, disciplined and coordinated enough to do it all on skates.
The Blood Rule.
In AFL, as soon as a single drop of blood is visible, you’re done. You get to stick a jumper on and let someone massage your calves inappropriately while you watch the action from the sidelines.
In hockey, the blood rule is an incentive. If you don’t bleed just a little bit, you’re not trying hard enough.
No football team can survive an entire season without causalities; concussions, dislocated shoulders, fractured eye sockets and more bung knees than your average old folks’ home. Everyone gets strapped up, wrapped up and rested up, missing half a season as they watch from the locker rooms…(with the exception of Jason Snell whose career-ending snapped femur is still talked about thirteen years later).
But unlike the footballers who go home in bubble-wrap, the Ice Hockey boys just keep playing. In 1964, Bob Baun broke his ankle in the third period of the Stanley Cup final, was removed from the rink and then returned in the overtime and scored the game winning goal.
In 2008, Richard Zednik had his carotid artery sliced open by a skate and nearly bled to death rink-side, hauntingly reminiscent of Clint Malarchuk’s near death experience in 1989 after having his jugular vein slashed by a skate.
Then of course there’s Johnny Boychuk of the Boston Bruins who continued play with a broken nose, Mark How who suffered a femoral bleed in 1980, Bryan Berard who had seven eye surgeries and continued to play, despite being classified as blind and who could forget poor Nicklas Lidstrom from Detroit who ruptured a testicle during a game?
Then of course, there’s the Game Face.
So all I’m saying is that after a lengthy career on the field, most footballers retire with minimal scarring, all their teeth and both testicles intact. Hockey players retire with more fingers than teeth, probably brain damage and one functioning nostril. If that’s not manly, then I don’t know what is.
– by Blaire Gillies