by Morley Evans
Canada's national sport is hockey.
I have been told this over and over since I was a child. I was never a fan. I could not play hockey. I wasn't big enough. My feet froze in the tightly laced ice skates. I had asthma which was activated by frosty air out on the skating rink across the street from our house.
"Hockey Night in Canada" with Foster Hewitt every Saturday night before "Don Messer's Jubilee" on CBC was deadly boring. Now that I am older, and have experienced what Canada has to offer, I am beginning to appreciate that hockey truly is Canada's national sport, like it or not.
Hockey is two games. Hockey is the game that the camera follows as it chases the puck up and down the ice. That is the game everyone talks about. That game is about the stars who make the plays and who make the goals and the saves. Hockey is also a game of thuggery and intimidation. That game is only noticed by most people when a fight breaks out. "Why are they fighting," some wonder? "Why don't they stop that?"
A fight is the result of an ongoing battle that is not noticed by the referees. They are too busy watching the puck and the players chasing the puck. Some of the fans, apparently, watch this second game. They are like the people who go to auto races hoping to see someone crash and, hopefully, die. Broadcasters like Don Cherry revel in body checking and fighting. They see it as part of the game. It is part of Canada's game.
Hockey mayhem is never punished. Even deliberate acts of assault causing grievous bodily harm are not punished. Examples abound. They have existed as long as hockey has been played. Major Junior player Patrice Cormier, who assaulted Mikael Tam last winter, will go scot-free after extending an apology.  Ho ho. Wink wink. Cormier's future in the NHL will not be jeopardized. Heaven forbid!
What hockey really is is well known. It is a goon game. Parents can figure it out when they send their children to play hockey. Parents can decide it is not wholesome fun and choose a different activity. Hockey is not unique. Most activities in Canada are governed by the same rules as hockey.
What exactly are those rules? That is The Big Question for everybody.
Canada is fraught with danger. Going to a doctor is one glaring example: it is a high risk activity. The real game is not the same as the advertised game. It is the opposite. When visiting a doctor, for example, the important person is the doctor, not you the patient. His interests come first, not yours. No one will tell you that, but it's true. You can beware, but even the wary are not safe in Canada.
Contrary to popular opinion, which is promoted by the people who run the show, Canada is not a very nice place. It is a hockey game. If you get blindsided and creamed, too bad for you. You probably won't even get an apology and no one who should care will care. That is how it really is in Canada. The rest is bullshit.
What are the rules? I would like someone to explain this to me, but I'm afraid no one ever will, or can.
Cormier guilty of assault
Former Quebec Major Junior Hockey League forward Patrice Cormier pleaded guilty yesterday to a charge of assault causing bodily harm and received an unconditional discharge.
The charge stemmed from a vicious elbow to the head Cormier delivered to Quebec Remparts defenceman Mikael Tam during a game last winter against the Rouyn-Noranda Huskies.
The discharge means Cormier will not have a criminal record and will allow him to travel to the United States to pursue his hockey career. His NHL rights belong to the Atlanta Thrashers.
"I'm a physical player," Cormier said yesterday, "but this is no excuse for what I did. I want to apologize again to Mikael Tam and his family."
The headshot left Tam, who suffered brain trauma and damage to his teeth, convulsing on the ice.
Cormier was suspended for the rest of the season and was charged in May.
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