There were two minutes and 10 seconds to play in the game when Lockhart found himself alone on the floor, with the Knights ahead 70-57. "I was scared to death," he said. "I have confidence in my ball handling, but I had four fouls myself and there was nobody to pass to. The coach told me to calm down, take my time."
Further complicating Lockhart's situation was that, when he put the ball in play after a Sea Lion score, it had to touch another player before he could retrieve it. Once he managed to bounce the ball off an opponent's leg and then grab it back. He also got a rebound after Cal-Santa Cruz missed a shot. When he got possession, he did a good job of dribbling to eat up the clock, and the Sea Lions were forced to foul him to get the ball. Lockhart made five of six free throws.
In their brief five-to-one matchup Cal-Santa Cruz beat Lockhart 10-5, but that wasn't enough to turn the game around. West Coast Christian won 75-67. "It seemed like an eternity before it was over," Lockhart said. "I just thanked the Lord."
THE BUSINESS OF BLOOD
NHL officials say some pretty amazing things on the subject of fighting during games. They'll tell you that fighting is tolerated by the league because it's an outlet for frustration, that nobody gets hurt and that, if fisticuffs weren't tolerated, the players would resort to swinging their sticks. Never mind that the typical NHL fight isn't a spontaneous occurrence born of frustration but, rather, a set piece intended to intimidate an opponent and waged by designated tough guys. Or that players do get hurt in hockey fights, as the Rangers' Ed Hospodar will tell you, if he has recovered sufficiently from the broken jaw he suffered upon being punched by the Islanders' Clark Gillies. Or that NHL games feature fighting plus stick swinging. Surely nobody expects the NHL higher-ups to admit the truth: to wit, that they cynically detract from hockey's inherent beauty and the skill of its players by condoning fighting to pander to the baser impulses of the ticket-buying public.
But few of the league's higher-ups have gone as far in defense of fighting as Paul Martha, chief operating officer of the Pittsburgh Civic Arena and the Penguins. In an interview with Dan Donovan of The Pittsburgh Press, Martha was so adamant in expressing the view that brawling is a harmless way for players to release "pent-up emotions" that he was moved to say, "I don't think fighting is necessarily violence." Moreover, even while insisting that NHL teams "don't sell violence," he conceded that the Penguins had been encouraged to exhibit the "aggressiveness" that puts them second in penalty minutes among NHL teams. And he outdid himself when he said, "It's not the players who cause fights, it's the fans." With that remarkable comment, Martha appeared to be absolving from responsibility for fighting not only the players but also, by extension, NHL executives and referees who make and enforce the rules. He elaborated: "The players give no more and no less than what the fan demands. If he didn't like what he saw, why would the spectator come out?" In other words, hockey fights occur not to release players' pent-up emotions but to satisfy the bloodlust of certain fans.
If nothing else, Martha sure let the cat out of the bag. If his argument is correct, doesn't that make the NHL owners purveyors of gore?
Not long after Martha made his revealing remarks, Paul Gardner of the Penguins got into a minor mix-up with a Winnipeg Jet in a game at Winnipeg. Jimmy Mann of the Jets went onto the ice soon after and hit Gardner with a blind-side punch that broke Gardner's jaw, sidelining him for an estimated 25 to 30 games. Mann's skills are evident: In 109 games played over two seasons with the Jets, he has scored six goals while amassing almost 400 minutes in penalties. Last Thursday the NHL suspended Mann for 10 games. "Ten games...what a joke," said one NHL general manager. "The best punishment would be to force Winnipeg to play Mann as a regular for 10 games. Losing him is no loss."
That same day in Pittsburgh a radio spot promoting last Saturday's Penguins-Jets game urged folks to come out and see Jimmy Mann. While the commercial obviously was prepared before Mann's suspension was announced, it nonetheless suggested that Pittsburgh hockey fans attend the game to see a fellow who had shattered the jaw of one of their players. What's the NHL trying to say? Come out and see the wild animals?
THE WAGES OF PEACE