A sweater I proudly wore in 1985, at the age of 9. 33 was my childhood hero. This was the image I've always kept of him. Until now.
These views are mine and mine alone. They are not necessarily shared by the other FHF.
Red Fisher wrote the article I had intended on posting yesterday, but as I have been fighting a busy week, he beat me to the punch. And I thank him for it, because with it he has obliged me to delve deeper into the issue of violence.
I won’t make any firm accusations here. My legal background entices me to know better. I will speak out, however, against a trace of rage that Patrick Roy has left behind him at various intervals of his life, not only as a hockey player, but as a man.
We often times offer our heroes the sort of blind eye that attaches a sense of entitlement to their swagger. We elevate them to a super status where anything goes, as their improbable feats, achieved in professional arenas, forgive their indiscretions. We are quick to forgive, and often times are reluctant to punish at all. And we do so for the wrong reasons; enamored by the amazement we once felt in marveling at their achievements, we choose to dismiss the darker side of the individual, as if we have decidedly rejected anything that could tarnish that pristine image of our favorite stars and the creation that was hatched out of our imaginations.
Yet, these athletes are no different from anyone of us. Where they display their genius within the confines of an adoring platform on the sports field, others, unknowns, show their amazing skill in the offices of little start-up companies, in non-profit charitable organizations, behind the counters of our restaurants. They are judged by our social measuring stick, with indiscriminate justice, applicable to all, never above the law, never protected by the impressions that throw a quilt over our superstars and blanket them from what our legislators had intended for our communities.
The genius demonstrated in sport should never silence our protest of the athlete’s transgressions. In Roy’s case, there have been far too many, with stories of violence and uncontrolled emotion that have inflicted harm more often than anyone should be held liable for. Because once is once too many. Roy’s list of shameful gestures is a long one; a man aggressed in a parking lot, another attacked in a bar, a coach abused in his office, a wife afraid in her home, an unsuspecting child drawn to criminal violence, misguided by Dad. Other acts that have not seen the public light of day must also be compiled in a somber list, somewhere in his mind.
This highly unsound behavior is not just at the wrong end of the moral spectrum, it is a series of criminal acts that have gone unpunished and that have yet to leave the faintest, yet rightful, blemish on his persona. The first one may come in the form of a denial of immortal recognition as plans to lift his number may be grounded forever. If anything has vilified Patrick in the eyes of Montrealers, it was his unceremonious exit off Forum ice, ejecting himself from the team’s historical womb. Of all the controversy he has surrounded himself around, that antic was probably the most harmless of gestures he can be held accountable for. Of all the sanctions he could have merited, the abortion of a number retirement ceremony amounts to one within the realm of insignificance, for an icon who has eluded both the ire of the public and the severity of the law.
Off-ice violence. A raging temper. We must reject them. We must all heighten our awareness towards aggression. If we do not denounce it and frame it in its proper context, in the receptacle of all things wrong, we will have abdicated our moral authority and our civic responsibility as dutiful citizens of this community.
I don’t have the facts. I don’t know what goes on in his home, nor in his head. I’m not certain what he meant or intended, in gesturing to his son from the bench. I can’t measure his level of responsibility over what the young Jonathan decided to do, which was to commit a crime and harass the crowd in a jubilant demonstration of pride over his abominable actions. But there is an amount of responsibility. I suspect the fiber that ails the Roy family has been passed on from father to son, because these patterns are not improvised by a teenager, suddenly, out of thin air. The apple gave the finger, with the tree, verbally abusing the officials, in tow.
It’s time to arrest an arrogance, once so splendidly channeled for example through a historic wink to a dejected Tomas Sandstrom, before more damage is inflicted. It’s time to take away the sense of entitlement Patrick has negotiated his life with, the entitlement we have all pumped him with, in our adulation of a man who simply stopped rubber objects from entering a small net for a living.
Of all the punishments he could be dealt, the permission to have his number worn by another is, as I’ve said, a minor one. But because I do think his actions warrant reprimand, I will stand amongst many who will no longer admire the 33 as they did before. That number will begin its descent from my imaginary rafters. And in the end, it will no longer appear next to my name. If 33 was my childhood hero, then let me say that I have grown up and have decided to take a relentlessly unforgiving stand against violence, be it emotional, mental or physical, at home, at work, anywhere. Time to bury the illusions I have had about the man who is, by no means, a Saint.
As of today, I will be correcting a small injustice that our little blog has committed in not acknowledging the person whose true grace and class we owe so much to as admirers of this fabled team. A man whose number is really worth going by: the incomparable number 4. Someone to be proud of.