Hockey is booming—right now. It maintains an extremely high level of popularity in its old traditional bastions and at the same time wins new followers almost everywhere it goes, even in areas where natural ice is totally alien. It seems a shame, then, that even as it widens its appeal hockey may very well be sowing the seeds of its own decline by condoning the mob-scene brawls and super roughness (page 34) that clutter up the ice in too many games.
Agreed, hockey is a hard, aggressive, body-contact sport, and no one expects or wants that to change. But toughness and drive and occasional flareups are one thing; deliberate brutality and battle royals are quite another. Only a few days after Ted Green, the "bad boy" of the Boston Bruins, had his skull fractured in a stick fight in an exhibition game, the New York Rangers and the Toronto Maple Leafs interrupted their game with another of those tedious mass fights, with officials clawing ineffectually at the participants like the clown referees in professional wrestling.
If the men who run hockey feel that it is desirable to have their sport degenerate to the level of wrestling and Roller Derby, that's their business. But it isn't good business—not in the long run.
A small but cheerful part of football practice at the University of Kansas a year ago was devoted to perfecting the technique of spiking the ball (hurling it to the ground point down) after a touchdown. Pepper Rodgers, Kansas' ebullient coach, called it "the old spikeritis" and was delighted to see his players do it 53 times during the season. But this year a new NCAA rule specifically forbids such post-touchdown displays as spiking the ball, tossing it into the air, kicking it or arching it into the stands. The rule is intended to speed up the game (a player must "return the ball to an official immediately") as well as to save money by keeping footballs from being lofted into the stands.
Pepper Rodgers doesn't like the new rule. He goes along with the part that is against the practice of tossing the ball to the spectators, but as for stopping the old spikeritis, Rodgers says, "It's one more example of how adults react when kids find a way to have a little fun. They take it away from them."
TWO BITS AND $300
Red Rush, one of the Chicago White Sox broadcasters, has finished the season undefeated—and richer by approximately 500 cigars. Since 1959 Rush has been playing a game with athletes. He holds his hand out, palm up, puts a quarter on it and gives his opponent five chances to snatch the coin before he, Rush, can make a fist. Then the roles are reversed and Rush tries to grab the quarter from his rival's hand. Rush's usual bet is a $300 suit against a cigar that he can grab the quarter more times than his opponent can. In 10 years he has lost only once, to Elgin Baylor (Rush also broadcasts basketball games). "Luckily," he recalls, "that day we only bet a cigar against a sandwich."
The closest he came to losing this year was to Ken Harrelson. The Hawk twice snatched the quarter, but Rush rallied in the clutch, took three from Harrelson and that was that.
Boxers, says Rush, show the slowest reflexes. Baseball players are faster, but basketball players are fastest. His two most formidable opponents over the years have been Baylor and Jerry West, while the best of the ballplayers is Harrelson. But none is as fast as Rush.
"I have a pretty good thing going," he says cheerfully. "Unless, of course, I have to shell out for a $300 suit. But there really isn't any chance of that happening. No one alive can beat me."
Fishermen have known for some time that pop tops from beer and soft-drink cans have a fatal attraction for fish. Would-be conservationists who carefully keep empty cans in their boats until they can get ashore to a trash can blithefully toss the shiny twists of metal overboard. As they slowly sink in the water, fish strike at them and then slowly die from the internal damage they suffer.
Concerned fishermen asked the pop-top manufacturers to see if they could do something about the problem, and the can companies were properly horrified. But not just about the fish. It seems that large amounts of money have already been spent to redesign the tops because, it was reported, thousands of law-abiding American citizens have discovered that the pop tops can be used in place of dimes in parking meters and other coin-slot devices.
STAND ON YOUR OWN TWO FEET
Edina High School annually has one of the best high school football teams in Minnesota, but because of a teacher boycott of extracurricular duties during a salary dispute the Edina team had no coaches before its game with St. Cloud Tech. Determined to play the game as scheduled, the principal of the school said he would act as coach and the athletic director would be his assistant. Half a dozen alumni volunteered to serve as spotters and sideline aides.
However, neither the "coach" nor the "assistant coach" took an active role—they let the boys run the game themselves—and when the eager alumni sent in plays they were generally ignored. "We said we didn't want them," declared Co-captain Bruce Carlson. He and Co-captain Dennis Boyle ran things, and to the consternation of football traditionalists ran them rather well. Edina clobbered St. Cloud 22-7.
"People at school were saying we couldn't possibly win without coaches," Carlson said afterward. "For a while, we believed it ourselves."
Of course, when the boycott ended and the teachers resumed their extracurricular assignments, Edina went right on winning—five straight at last report—despite the handicap of coaches.
ROOM WITH A PHEW
The name sounds awfully suspicious, smacking of turnip salads and stuff like that, but all vigorous sportsmen will be cheered to hear about the Villa Vegetariana Health Resort in Cuernavaca, Mexico. The new policy, Owner David Stry announced last week, is to fine guests $50 if they are caught smoking on the premises. "Clean fresh air is becoming a rare commodity these days," Stry claims, "and our resort is making an all-out effort to give our guests pure air." And then, well, because such things as bookings must be considered, he added one way to beat the $50 rap: tobacco chewers and snuff-dippers are exempt, Stry said, "because they are only poisoning themselves and not others."
The first reports of pre-Olympic trouble have started coming out of Munich, which is par for the course (you can't have an Olympics without the prospect of imminent disaster). Original estimates of the cost to get ready for the 1972 Games have more than doubled. The elaborate tentlike roof that will cover a good part of the Olympic site has been the subject of controversy. The number of hotel rooms cannot possibly accommodate all of the anticipated two million visitors. Construction is said to be running three months behind schedule, and there were rumors that Munich faced bankruptcy.
Harassed Olympic officials grant that costs (particularly for the roof, of which they are very proud) have been much higher than anticipated, but they flatly deny the bankruptcy rumors. They also declare that the building schedule, far from being three months behind, is either exactly on time or, in most instances, ahead of schedule. And the hotel-room shortage is not a serious problem, they claim, since new suburban rapid-transit lines will allow visitors to make use of the vast hotel and rooming facilities that exist outside Munich.
The officials add, with a pride in German efficiency they had previously kept under wraps, that a comparison with three previous Olympic cities—Rome, Tokyo and Mexico City—shows that Munich is further advanced at this point than any of those were.
The 45-bed Memorial Hospital in North Conway, N.H., is plenty big enough to handle medical traffic in this small and relatively isolated community in the White Mountains—for eight months of the year. But during the other four—the skiing season—it's all but wiped out. Last winter, for example, Memorial handled more than 1,400 skiers with fractures, sprains and other difficulties and, like every other overcrowded hospital, found itself desperately short of nurses.
To ease that situation this winter, Memorial is trying to attract nurses to its staff. RNs who sign on full time will be given free weekday skiing privileges at nearby slopes. As Brenda Black, director of nursing, says, "We work hard here, but we play a lot, too."
Memorial's scheme may work, but it could backfire. We can't get rid of this vision of a nurse, just back from the slopes, making her rounds on crutches, one of her own ankles in a cast.
Things have quieted down a little at Spartan Stadium in East Lansing, Mich., where Michigan State plays its home games. Last year the student newspaper, State News, printed a page of pictures showing football fans drinking in the stadium parking lot before a game despite a university ordinance against possessing or consuming liquor on campus. The paper complained that the campus police enforced the liquor ban rigorously where students were involved but ignored alumni and others of the older set.
So, at Michigan State's first home game this year, the campus police moved in. It used to be that a spectator had to be obviously drunk before he was arrested. But this time 17 male fans, ranging in age from 25 to 60, were arrested simply for violating the no-booze ordinance—and more than $200 worth of liquor was confiscated.
So far there has been relatively little outspoken reaction to the new crackdown, and ticket sales don't seem to have been affected at all. And while flagrant displays of liquor will continue to bring police reaction, discreet drinking still flourishes. One campus policeman explained, "The guy who drinks from a vacuum jug and doesn't get loud doesn't have to worry."
Alfie Pike, veteran coach of the Phoenix Roadrunners of the Western Hockey League, figured that during his long career he had run into about every problem a coach could possibly face—until Ted Snell came along. Phoenix drafted Snell off the roster of the Hershey Bears of the American Hockey League in June 1968, and he played 54 games with the Roadrunners during the 1968-69 season. But he wasn't happy in Arizona, and finally he was sent back to Hershey on loan. Snell, happy again, helped the Bears win the AHL championship and even went so far as to get married. But he was still Phoenix property, and this summer he dutifully reported to the Roadrunners' training camp in Canada. There he decided that he simply did not want to play for Phoenix anymore.
"I'm tired of seeing the sun every day of the year," he told the startled Pike. "I want to stay in the East where I can see the snow."
Pike tried to talk the player into coming out West anyway, but Snell was adamant. "No snow, no go" was the gist of his argument, and Pike finally gave up and reluctantly sold him outright to Hershey.
THEY SAID IT
•Jerry Mays, defensive captain of the Kansas City Chiefs, on his preference in football shoes: "I'd much prefer to wear high tops rather than low cuts, but my son won't let me. He says they make me look old fashioned."
•Charles Scott, North Carolina basketball star, whose anticipated bonus would shrink if the NBA and ABA settle their differences: "A merger will make law school a lot more appealing."
•Ray Morrison, 84-year-old former football coach at SMU, Vanderbilt, Temple and Austin College, after recalling incidents in close games that his teams had won: "I like to rehash those games, but somehow I never replay games like the one in 1916 when I was coaching at SMU and Rice beat us 146-3."