There is a phrase you hear a lot in hockey circles that some casual fans might find difficult to understand. Sometimes when discussing another team you hear some version of, 'that's a good "honest" hockey team'. Two of our own, Andy Brickley and Bob Beers, use this term quite often and sometimes home fans find it frustrating, because they use this term when referring to teams like the Philadelphia Flyers, who we hate, or the Detroit Red Wings, who are so frustratingly good. What are they talking about when they use the term 'honest'? Well the easiest way to define what they mean is to show you the team that is the complete antithesis of 'honest'. That team would be the Montreal Canadiens.
The casual fan might think they are a nice stand-up team that just wants to play the game with speed and skill. In fact what they are is everything that is bad about the NHL. I despise the Flyers, with players like Daniel Carcillo, Chris Pronger and Scott Hartnell, but the fact is they play the game the right, 'honest' way. They don't mind delivering a bone crunching hit, and they play on the edge, but they also understand that when you do that someone's going to have to stand up and take the consequences. They don't run and hide. Unlike the Canadiens, the Flyers tough guys stand up and take care of business instead of turtling and forcing skill guys to have to stand there and take a beating. What the Canadiens did last night (and always do) was a disgrace. If PK Subban is going to take cheap shots at guys he HAS to answer the bell and he won't.
When an honest player on an honest team has to fight he does it the right way. What I really like about guys like Lucic and Thornton and even the despised Daniel Carcillo is that when they have to throw down they understand why they're there, what they have to do, and they take care of business. They invite a guy of fairly equal fighting prowess to go. They then drop the gloves and allow their opponent to do the same. They square up with the guy and don't try to get the jump on him when he's not ready, and then it's on. They also know when the fight's over. They don't ever hit a guy when he's vulnerable because they respect that the other guy stepped up and know how hard it is to do.
Then you get teams like the Canadiens and the Dallas Stars who have no idea about respect and honor. They will always take the cheap shot and never step up and fight the way they should. And even when they do you get a guy like Steve Ott, who will always try to get the jump on a guy and will throw a punch when he knows the fight's over and the other guy is vulnerable like Gregory Campbell was the other night.
Finally, a good honest team doesn't take dives. This is one of the most despicable acts in all of hockey. It will gain a player a bad reputation so fast and he will never get rid of it. We all remember Mike Ribeiro used to do this constantly in Montreal. Ribeiro had such a bad reputaton that even his own teammates didn't like him and he was traded to Dallas. The funny part is this is still one of the main tactics the Canadiens like to use to get power plays. That is fine but they have to expect the beatings they are going to take and the disrespect they have to endure throughout the league. Mark Recchi was asked a couple of years ago about the Canadiens habit of taking dives and what he said was telling, "We didn't play like that when I was there." Usually when a player is asked a question like that he won't take the bait. Implicit in Recchi's answer was that he completely agreed with the premise of the question.
I say all this because it makes me very proud to be a fan of a good, hard, 'honest' team. They are the only team that has stepped up and taken responsibility when one of their own hit a player with head shot (whether you agree with the way Ference did it or not). They don't take dives and I don't ever remember seeing a Bruin fight another player and not do it the 'right' way . This was best illustrated two years ago when Milan Lucic fought Mike Komisarek in the playoffs. Komisarek wanted a little payback because Lucic cleaned his clock earlier in the series. Lucic had probably had enough at that point and didn't have to fight him, but he did anyway. When they gave each other the nod, Lucic quickly dropped his gloves and had a clean shot to turn out Komisarek's lights if he wanted to. Instead he actually waited another second while Komi was able to get his gloves off and defend himself. It didn't really matter because Lucic turned out his lights anyway with one punch. As Komi was falling Lucic clearly had a chance to drill him again and probably hurt him.. He didn't do it. Why? Because it is against thet code that good 'honest' players and teams play by. The Montreal Canadiens would now nothing about this which is why most other teams in the league probably really enjoyed the beating the Bruins gave them last night.