Devotees to the Stop may be aware that I immigrated to California in early 2002; what you may not know is that I spent those first 14 months in Bakersfield.
I’ll give you a minute to locate it on a map.
Anyway, while there I was introduced to a number of phenomena, among them patchy fog, valley fever and Buck Owens (yes, Hee Haw Buck Owens).
I also took the opportunity to drink in some of the local sports flavor.
One of my favorite memories takes me back to an evening in early ’03, when the Bakersfield Condors took on the San Diego Gulls in a key Pacific Division match-up of the ECHL, a mid-level pro ice hockey league.
(Interesting side note: San Diego actually had its franchise revoked after the 2006 season.)
So there I was, adult beverage in hand, nestled into my seat for a night of good clean athletic competition between interstate rivals.
And it lasted about 20 minutes.
Before long there were already three minor scuffles and a big-time fracas — I’m talking gloves off, equipment scattered, haymakers thrown, major penalties assessed … And we still had two periods left to play.
But of course, the crowd loved it. I don’t even think they knew who to root for, or who was winning, or what day it was anymore. All that mattered was someone was getting pummeled. And it only cost $7!
Which brings me to our latest topic: fighting in pro hockey.
A 10-day stretch of mayhem in the NHL culminated in a Feb. 11 game between the New York Islanders and Pittsburgh Penguins that featured 346 penalty minutes and resulted in multiple suspensions on both sides. Criticism of both the carnage and the league’s response rained down from all sources, including Penguins owner and legend Mario Lemieux: “If the events relating to [that] night reflect the state of the league,” he said, “I need to re-think whether I want to be a part of it.”
So what’s the verdict? Is the recent spate of cheap shots, sucker punches and skull-rattling too much, or is it no more cause for concern than, say, a slight touch of the valley fever?
As always, I invite your feedback.