Sunday, February 5, 2012

February 5

1934 - Former NHL defenseman Don Cherry born in Kingston, Ont. Cherry played just one game in the NHL in 1954-55 with Boston, then coached the Bruins 1974-1979.

1978 - Steve Durbano going nuts in a WHA game.

"If blood bothers you, stay home"
Allen Abel. The Globe and Mail. March 30, 1978.

Item: Philadelphia Flyers - the most penalized team in the National
Hockey League - attract an average of 1,000 more customers to out-of-town
games than do Montreal Canadiens, the league's best team.

Item: Pittsburgh Penguins - fourth in the sin-bin sweepstakes thanks
to Dave Schultz - will not make the Stanley Cup playoffs. But the
Penguins have drawn more fans on the road than the Sabres, Maple Leafs,
Kings, Red Wings, Rangers, Islanders or Flames, all of whom will be in
the playoffs.

Item: Birmingham Bulls - by far the most penalized team in the World
Hockey Association - pull in more fans on the road than at home. As the
WHA season entered its final two weeks, the Bulls and their Gang of Four
(Dave Hanson, Steve Durbano, Frank Beaton and Gilles Bilodeau) had
climbed from eighth in road attendance a year ago to fourth this season,
only 600 patrons per game behind the league's best road draw, Gordie
Howe's New England Whalers. Approximately 30,000 more people have paid to
attend Birmingham's visits to their cities this year than last.

Who are these misguided souls who rather would watch Moose Dupont and
the bellicose Schultz rough up the home team than see Guy Lafleur and
Bryan Trottier demonstrate their superb skills? Who are the 30,000 WHA
customers who stayed home last year, only to be lured to the arena this
winter by the smell of blood on the gloves of Birmingham's brawlers?
Perhaps they have been attracted by the game's own anti-violence
sermons. When Durbano went on a typical rampage recently and tried to
assassinate Bobby Hull even before he could be elected to Parliament, WHA
executive director Larry Gordon took to the soapbox and proclaimed that
Durbano would be suspended for life, if not longer, should he ever behave
so naughtily again.

To the naive family sitting at home in Houston or Indianapolis,
wondering where to deposit their so-called discretionary income, Gordon's
words rang a bell. He sounded just like one of those wildly dressed
wrestling managers who appear on television between matches.

"My guy is so strong, he'll rip Sammartino's head off and stuff his
body with popcorn! No ladies or children will be admitted! Stay at home
if you can't stand the sight of blood! Don't dare come to the Civic
Auditorium, Broadway and Fifth, just off the expressway, plenty of free
parking, doors open at 6:30!"

Durbano will return to action April 5 in Cincinnati. When the battling
Bulls played there in mid-February, the game drew 13,608. When a less
raucous side from the Soviet Union visited Cincinnati this season, the
crowd numbered 2,571. In contrast, the relatively peaceable Edmonton
Oilers lead the WHA in home attendance, attracting 10,092 patrons per
game. On the road, the Oilers are the worst draw in the league.

If the obvious conclusion - that brawling remains the game's No. 1
selling point among novice fans in the United States - sickens the
purist, it does not seem to nauseate those who stand to profit. Open the
Atlanta Flames' game program and you are hit with a full page of fight
photos. Read the article in the Phoenix Roadrunners' magazine entitled
Watch And Enjoy. This breezy paragraph catches the eye:

"Each player carries a potential weapon in his stick . . . often the
stick will hit another player, tempers will rise and a fight will result
. . . even if the players drop their gloves and fight, there is rarely an
injury . ."

So just sit back, watch and enjoy.

1987 - A bench-clearing brawl at the end of the game, Boston Bruins vs. Pittsburgh Penguins

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