Spitting upon a fellow human, especially in the face, is the ultimate act of disrespect. Universally recognized as a symbol of anger, hatred and contempt, it is regarded across cultures as trashy and immature. The vile, messy act is not only a fantastic way to transmit tuberculosis, it has also has been rumoured to have been committed by three separate NHLers in the last two weeks.
Bad loogies occur in threes.
On Sunday, the NHL was splattered with its third spitting incident (or spitting non-incident) of 2012, a year which is still a baby, and babies, as any parent’s right shoulder knows, are champion spitters. Following a Max Pacioretty’s second goal of the Montreal Canadiens 4-1 victory over the league-leading New York Rangers, NBC Sports Network cameras caught defenceman P.K. Subban spitting in the general direction of the Rangers’ Michael Del Zotto. Although diehard fans of the Rangers and/or YouTube jumped all over the “incident,” adding to Subban’s list of controversies and misunderstandings this season, both the spitter and the spittee were unaware that the incident even occurred.
Two weeks prior, Columbus Blue Jackets agitator Derek Dorsett accused Washington Capitals rapper/hockey player Alex Ovechkin of spitting in his face while the two forwards scuffled in the second period. But when angry men are mug-to-mug, strapped with saliva-trapping mouth guards and yelling at each other, there’s bound to be some errant spray. Any cocktail party attendee knows there’s a definitive line between being accidentally sprayed by a close talker and being purposely horked upon by a jerkface.
“That’s probably one of the most disrespectful things someone can do, especially a guy who is the best player in the league. It’s classless. He’s supposed to be a role model for the game. It’s unbelievable,” Dorsett told the Columbus Dispatch after the Jackets’ 4-2 loss. “That’s why I was yelling at the ref so much and yelling at him in the penalty box.”
To the surprise of absolutely no one, Ovechkin vehemently denied the dirty deed: “No, no, no. I don’t know. Show me the moment. I want to see it. No.”
Sean Avery was also found guilty of expectorating, by a jury on the Twitterverse – a realm, we must warm you, known to spit in the face of actual facts from time to time. After being sent down to the American Hockey League by the New York Rangers, the disgruntled NHLer was rumoured to have spat upon his AHL Connecticut Whale coach, resulting in Avery being a healthy minor-league scratch and adding another sticky page to Avery’s lurid lore.
The Rangers came to Avery’s defence, saying the man doesn’t spit. And Avery himself proclaimed his innocence in 140 characters or fewer”
“Try not to BELIEVE everything u read. Gentlemen don’t spit … Amazing how if I do speak it gets me in trouble…more amazing how not speaking gets me in more trouble!” Avery tweeted.
In summation: three alleged spittle sprays, three strong denials.
Ring a bell?
Admitting to being a spitter in a game of steel shoulders, hard slappers and bruised knuckles is akin to being a biter. Or a hair puller. Or a scratcher.
It is simply not a gentleman’s way of settling a dispute.
Things have changed. In the European Middle Ages spitting was an everyday occurrence among all societal levels; it was considered rude to suck back saliva and avoid spraying it onto the ground. By the early 1700s, spitting was seen as something to be done in private, and by 1859 spitting on the floor or street was deemed offensive. Launching one into a spittoon, however, was fine.
As medieval as critics of North America’s toughest major team sport might believe the NHL to be, spitting in hockey should always be directed directly at the ice or the penalty box floor, and preferably be Gatorade-coloured.
During last spring’s Stanley Cup Final, the Vancouver Canucks’ Alex Burrows was accused of biting the Boston Bruins Patrice Bergeron. Though Burrows left Game 1 with a bandage on his finger, Burrows denied chomping down on his opponent and the NHL could not find conclusive evidence that Burrows intentionally bit Bergeron. Still, Bruins coach Claude Julien called the move classless.
In 2009, Jarkko Ruutu of the Ottawa Senators was suspended two games for biting Buffalo Sabres enforcer Andrew Peters, drawing blood from Peters’ right thumb. Despite the replay evidence and the $37,707 in lost salary, Ruutu denied the chomp.
You can be a goon, a puck hog, or a diver. But heaven help you if you’re a biter or a spitter.
Consider spitting in hockey to be like crying in baseball: it does not exist. (But not like spitting in baseball. Remember Roberto Alomar?) Like biting, there is no place for spittle in on-ice battle. It is the most And if it does happen, you’ll never hear anyone swallow their pride and fess up to it.
Which would you appreciate less?