Gold: Hockey’s not-so hidden disrespect

May 11, 2019

What is it about hockey that causes some folks to lose their perspective on humanity? And, I’m not talking about the civility of the sport, that’s an old school vs new school, does fighting — and other assorted rough stuff — have a role in hockey debate.

Hockey, for reasons that are yet to be discovered, brings out the buffoonery in people in ways that no other sport does. We don’t demean anyone’s knowledge of baseball, or football, or basketball, or tennis, or golf, or ANY other sport based on where they live or what they sound like.

Hockey? Have at it.

“I can’t stand to listen to someone with a southern accent talk about hockey.” — Fred Toettcher from the Toucher and Rich morning show on Boston’s The Sports Hub.

This was the stated reason for cutting short a Wednesday interview with Chip Alexander, Hurricanes beat reporter for the News and Observer. It’s as though it was a criminal act. I can just see the scene on the next episode of CSI: Clayton.

Police officer: Son, you’re being charged with talking about the Stanley Cup Playoffs with a southern accent.

Suspect: But, aawficer....it was iiiiiicing. And, the refs missed the cawl!

Somehow, that’s accepted. I mean, it’s obviously juvenile and demeaning on its face. But, in hockey, it’s par for the course. And, it’s horrendous for the game. God forbid the sport grows thousands of new fans in non-traditional places. I mean, what would we ever do with them, sell them $275 dollar jerseys and club seats? Parking is going to be a headache!  We can’t have that, now, can we?

Friday morning, Toettcher said he didn’t hang up on Alexander because of a southern drawl, in spite of all evidence to the contrary. He claims that it was just because he felt that Chip was boring. Well, why not say that? How hard is it to say “man, that was making me fall asleep. We had to bail, sorry.”

Nope. It’s funnier to make a crack about a southern accent even if it’s degrading, lowest common denominator behavior. And, it’s hockey. Which apparently belongs only in northern cities, and exclusively reported on by people with harsh, hardscrabble speech patterns.

Are people with southern accents dumb? Because that’s the insinuation. Wait, Matlock was smart, right? He’s from the south. And, he wore seersucker. Or maybe, Matlock was smart in spite of having a southern accent and wearing seersucker.

Is hockey so terribly complex that anyone who works “y’all” into a sentence can’t figure out if the puck is blown up or stuffed?

Note: That last one is a trick question. It’s actually chiseled out of slate.

Now, the story has blown up. It’s gone viral across the internet and has become a national conversation, perfect fodder for callers to sports talk radio — not always the best examples of the human condition I would point out. Friday, came a great example of this on the statewide David Glenn Show, heard locally in Raleigh on 99.9 the Fan from noon to 3:00 pm.

Chuck in Charlotte (who pointed out that he is a Boston native, just in case you were scoring at home) got the ball rolling with this gem:

“You’ve got a decent town up here, but what a pathetic excuse for a hockey town. You guys think you know hockey but I’ve never really heard rednecks talk hockey before and I’m kinda weirded out by it.”

Well that certainly was a strong open, Charles. There really wasn’t any more substance to his call, for various reasons that aren’t necessary to explore, but there was no example given proving why southern people can’t talk about the sport, nor why this gentleman was weirded out by that phenomenon. My sense is that we could have been waiting for the next Flyers Stanley Cup before Charlie would have actually gotten to a cogent point.

Glenn pounced, and rightly so. I mean, this is what sports shows who use callers as programming elements do. The callers are props for the show, meant to spur further conversation or to be made fun of. Chuck was being a dufus. Worse, he was being a disrespectful dufus. And Glenn aggressively called him on his ignorance.

But, as can often be the case, sometimes the moment goes off the rails. What followed was Glenn more reinforcing the ugly stereotype about hockey’s northern possessive nature than anything else.

“I was raised in Philadelphia”, Glenn shouted in response. “I’ve been playing and watching hockey since I was four years old.” Then after saying that he’s probably “forgotten more hockey than you and your northern redneck friends will ever know”, a line I absolutely loved seeing as there are rednecks EVERYWHERE, not just below the Mason-Dixon Line, Glenn helped prove the overall southern slander.

“Don’t forget, I’m a Philly guy.”

Who cares where you’re from? I was once married into a family from Philadelphia and they were HUGE sports fans, but they didn’t know a blue line from bleu cheese dressing. Hockey is a damn sport. A great sport. And it doesn’t matter where you’re from or what you sound like, you can know, not know, care, not care, love, not love hockey and it’s okay.

I’ll wager that David, given the opportunity, would admit to getting caught up in the moment.

We don’t put geographic qualifiers on knowledge and understanding of any other sport. Just hockey. Maybe one day we’ll figure out the real reasons why. Maybe one day, the stupidity of this will stop. Until then, let’s see if the Raleigh-Durham Hurricanes can get theyselves another one a them gotdern Stanley Cups.

Then we can drawl about it all dang summer while we whittle and play the banjo.