Friday, July 13, 2012

What Cam Janssen's Comments Really Meant

The hockey world was abuzz yesterday due to the comments of one Cam Janssen. The enforcer for the New Jersey Devils was on an Internet radio show talking about the playoffs and losing the Stanley Cup to the Los Angeles Kings. In the midst of the interview, Cam responding to questions made some comments that upset a lot of people in the hockey world.
"(The Los Angeles Kings) are. They're the fat broads that you regret bangin', and I've been there and done that."
 "But you wanna be scary. You wanna put the fear of fuckin' God in people's eyes, and not just, 'Oh, I'm gonna beat you up' --no, 'I'm gonna catch you with your fuckin' head down and hurt you because you're not gonna know I'm comin', because I know how to hit'...But if you have the puck and you know how to hit and you can hurt guys with hits like I know how to do, that's what puts the fear of God into people."
When people are chirping at him from the bench: "Okay, I'm going to hurt someone on this fucking team"
On gay people in the game: "Oh, if he's suckin' cock, he's gettin' his ass kicked."
Here's a link that'll allow you watch the entirety of the interview, and I'd strongly encourage you to do so to get the complete picture. So many people are willing to read the quotes and not get the complete picture. Don't be that guy or gal. Also be aware, if you weren't already, there's a ton of vulgarity.

The first thing I want to say about this interview is that there is actually a ton of great stuff. Despite some of the potentially asinine things Cam Janssen says that'll piss you off - every time he does, pause the video, reload yourself and go back - he actually says a lot of really great stuff about the NHL and hockey. He hoists a ton of praise for all most of the teams in the playoffs - one marked exception being the Phoenix Coyotes. He talks openly and honestly about the role of the enforcer, his work out regiment and what it takes to keep his edge, and the lockout among other topics.

There are some genuinely upsetting about what Janssen said. In this day and age there is a huge cultural battle over homosexuality, and even homosexuality in sports. I'm not going to preach my political views on it, but I will say that whether you are for or against it, I think we should agree it is hard to watch children, teens and adults being beaten, killed or committing suicide because of the pressures of being gay. So one does have to question the wisdom of of a professional hockey player who is a known enforcer to come out and rather strongly imply that gay players on the other team are going to get their assess kicked.

And remember when Sean Avery commented on how Dion Phanuef was dating his "sloppy seconds"? Going on about how losing to the Los Angeles Kings, a team you just heaped a ton of praise for, is the equivalent of banging a fat broad and regretting it is stupid. A small grain of defense for Janssen - he didn't make the connection, the hosts of the radio show did and he went along with the joke and agreed to its premise. But still, to not sort of brush the comment off and to partake in a joke that simultaneously nullifies the praise you had for the Kings and insults and objectifies women in a sexist and pig-headed way is just stupid. Avery was suspended for his comments and Janssen should be punished based on this comment alone.

Finally, after having watched the NFL go after players and coaches for a bounty system, and knowing the NFL and the NHL are rightly trying to address the issue of head hits, head injuries and specifically concussions, listening to Janssen talk is disturbing. Let's compare what Janssen said to things other players have honestly said about head hits. Which is a great watch on its own.

Jason Spezza of Ottawa makes the comment about guys who "play like there's no puck on the ice". And I think that's what makes Janssen's comments so vicious and incendiary. Granted, he talks about hitting guys who have the puck, but to come right out and say "...I'm going to catch you with your head down and hurt you..." because "...I know how to hit..." is terrifying. It speaks exactly to what Spezza is trying to get at - players who are more interested in hitting and hurting other players than they are to play the total game of hockey. 

Is that any better or worse than anything Gregg Williams said? I don't think so. But I will say that if Janssen and other players like him want to just hit and hurt people, they should probably find a different activity. While hockey affords you the ability to hit people and fight, so does boxing, kickboxing, martial arts, MMA and professional wrestling. Shit, join the roller derby if all you want to do is knock people over. 

But is this the only thing that disturbs us about it? I submit not. Hit the break for more.

People have suggested the following in regards to Bountygate and it comes up in discussions about the violence of sports, especially football and hockey: is our discomfort with the comments made by Janssen due to (in total or in part) our discomfort with the violence of the sports we love? Have we created a happy cocoon where we're okay with the horrible, terrifying violence so long as nobody (players, coaches, etc) forces us to acknowledge the horrible, terrifying violence and the players' inclination towards it?

To put it another way: Are we mad at Janssen because he's making us deal with our shit?

Look at the Red Wings signing of Jordin Tootoo. I'm against it because I don't like what he represents because I think he crosses the line of a physical, hard hitting, gritty player into the world of cheap shot artist. Other people disagree. The Red Wings have employed other players that have fallen somewhere along that spectrum: Probert, Kocur, McCarty, Maltby, Chelios, Konstantinov, Kronwall and probably others I'm missing. If we looked at those players through the eyes of non-Red Wings fans, would they stop being gruff but lovable hockey players with a rough and tumble attitude and become dirty, cheap shot artists?

If we look at the NHL through the lens of a non-hockey fan, is the bulk of the players association made up of dirty, cheap shot artists and us fans have deluded ourselves because we're a bunch of vicious, blood seeking sociopaths? 

Since the lockout and the last couple of years in particular, the NHL has made a very public showing of trying to crack down on hits to the head and cheap shots in general. Brendan Shanahan as the head disciplinarian started off the season handing out heavy handed suspensions to players who violated the leagues new rules. The players, as evidenced by the video above, are aware of the league's endeavors and they have their own opinions on it. 

Was Janssen's sin that he flew in the face of everything the league is trying to do? Is he an extremely far outlier? Is the rest of the NHL going to have to kill Piggy and take his glasses? Or is the problem that much like Fox News' Chris Wallace, Cam Janssen gave away the game? Did he just let the public know that while the NHL and the NHLPA (and really by extension the NFL) are making a very public showing of trying to clean up the game and eliminate hits to the head, they are complacent in a bigger scheme?

That we want that level violence while wanting to appear to not want it, and the leagues want to give us that level of violence while appearing to trying to clean up the game.

Update: A bit after I originally posted this, Cam released a statement of apology

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