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- Faces in the CrowdJune 11, 2001
Just to ride the ponies.
The hooliganism that Boston Bruin General Manager Harry Sinden condemns in his critique of the NHL, starting on page 20, continued unabated last week. In Detroit the Red Wings were mugged so shamelessly by the once-proud Toronto Maple Leafs that NHL President John Ziegler was forced to admit, "It wasn't a game anyone could be proud of." Two days later the St. Louis Blues' Steve Durbano swung a stick at the New York Rangers' Nick Fotiu, touching off a brawl that ended with Fotiu trying to get at Durbano in the visitors' locker room at Madison Square Garden.
Like several other NHL players, Durbano is in the league more for his fighting ability than for any discernible hockey skills; in six on-and-off seasons as an NHL spot player, Durbano has scored just 12 goals but has averaged more than five minutes a game in penalties. For trying to bean Fotiu with a hockey stick, Durbano drew a mere five-game suspension from Ziegler. By contrast, NBA Commissioner Larry O'Brien suspended Kermit Washington for 29 games last season for throwing a punch. The score was 3-3 when Durbano brandished his stick, after which the riled-up Rangers went on to win 7-3. Emile Francis, the Blues' president and general manager, was later asked if he condoned the fact that his player had swung a stick at an opponent. Francis' unfortunate reply seems to sum up the prevailing attitude in the NHL toward violence: "Not when the score is 3-3."
MACE NO, BRUT YES
Britain's predominantly male soccer crowds have been behaving a bit more decorously lately, thanks partly to a crackdown on rowdyism by police and the courts. In Northumbria two men were arrested for chanting obscenely during a game between Newcastle United and Oldham and were fined �250 (about $500) each. In Birmingham two men attending a game were fined �500 each, one for spitting at a policeman, the other for spitting at rival fans. Team officials have been getting tough, too. For example, the Nottingham Forest club has begun printing full details of soccer-related convictions, including names and addresses, in the official program.
The most startling action was taken after police saw a fan toss an object into a crowd in Birmingham. It turned out to be only a peanut, but Magistrate Clyde Riley fined 18-year-old Ricky Wilson �400. "It doesn't matter what the missile was," Riley said. "It doesn't have to be something heavy to cause injury or start a fight."
But antisocial tendencies may not be all that easy to root out. Another likely reason for the improvement in crowd behavior is that this has been an unusually cold and snowy winter in England, causing postponement of some games and holding down attendance—and, no doubt, emotions—at others. If Dr. Tom Clark, an anesthesiologist at Guy's Hospital in London, is to be believed, rowdyism may flare up anew with the return of better weather and bigger crowds. Noting that male odors in animals can attract females and repel other males, Clark suggests that fighting at soccer games is often caused by something that police probably can't do much about—namely, "too much male smell acting subconsciously on the male crowds."