Although it’s easy to forget about it, hockey has comprised a tiny piece of the American fabric for many years, although specifically how many we’re not sure. Despite that it isn’t very fun to watch, and like soccer, is mostly played by mulleted European dudes (in which category we include Canadians) with last names badly in need of an extra vowel or two, no one argues that hockey isn’t a tough sport. The fights, sharpened blades and indiscriminate sticking ensures that if not an eye or a few teeth, someone’s at least going to lose a couple pints of blood. And so it’s been for years: hockey is dangerous, and the people love it.
But an insidious new trend threatens to blight the wholesome free-for-all violence of hockey–unkind words. Now, not only must players contend with the physical dangers of their sport, but also be on guard for rising threats to their very delicate feelings. Sadly, as of this writing, no protective equipment exists to adequately shield a player’s self-esteem. This became apparent to hockey fans last week when Florida Panthers forward Krys Barch blithely skated over another player’s sense of self-worth.
While most players would be content with an illegal check or a stick to the crotch, Barch blatantly disregarded the safety of all present when he–apparently–uttered an unidentified racial slur. Although the details remain murky, Barch allegedly hurled the epithet at Montreal’s P. K. Subban, whose parents hail from Jamaica, at the end of the first period en route to the Panthers’ 3-2 victory over Montreal. Subban himself did not hear the unidentified slur (or possibly, insinuated slur, which is just as bad), but an unnamed official did, and removed Barch from the game immediately. Subban is said to be making a speedy recovery after the vicious attack.
The NHL has yet to determine Barch’s fate, although the Panthers have kept the hockey hate-monger off the ice since the horrifying racial incident. The time away from hockey should give Barch some much-needed time to think about his behavior and the hate that lies behind it. A stick to the face hurts, but a careless stick to the soul can leave a wound too deep to heal.