I enjoy columns. I like seeing what others think and their reasonings behind their beliefs. Saying, “Cheese is the best dairy product” is a nice statement, but what’s the reasoning behind it? I like going beyond and that’s probably why I enjoy columns.*
That’s one reason I loved that Kershner discussed writing columns and editorials. Writing these pieces successfully is the important thing. You have to be careful about how they’re approached.
I wrote a piece last month about enforcers in hockey and why I believe fights deserve a place in the game. Applying Kershner’s rules, I feel like I did a fairly decent job.
“Begin with a catchy lead that will get people to read your article. Do not turn away readers with an unpopular opinion in the first sentence.”
What did I start my piece with?
“I went to a fight the other night, and a hockey game broke out.”
The popular Rodney Dangerfield quote has been used by hockey fans and the general public for ages. The little humorous quip — in my opinion — pulled readers in by using the “what’s going on?” idea.
“Start out with areas of agreement. Begin with statements on which most people agree. Build from there with simple, logical steps.”
Rodney Dangerfield might have known what he was talking about. The rough and tumble sport of hockey has seen more than its fair share of hits, fights and broken bones. Bob Probert, Chris Nilan, Dave “The Hammer” Schultz, Tie Domi and hundreds of others have collected an NHL paycheck for the punches they throw. While those punches might cause some injuries, they prevent many more.
Those facts can’t be argued. Those players were some of the best enforcers the game has ever seen and they both caused and prevented injuries.
“Build toward the particular action you advocate so that the reader comes along with you.”
I then used quotes to prove a point.
“The intimidator, the punisher — in other words, the enforcer. A hero to his teammates and a villain to others, he provides protection and is responsible for most of the fights.” Arpon Basu’s synopsis of his book “NHL Enforcers: The Rough and Tough Guys of Hockey” sums up the role of an enforcer perfectly. These men literally fight for a job by defending their teammates night in and night out.
Many have made arguments against fighting in hockey. An entire website — banhockeyfights.com — exists in hope of their demise. They list among their reasonings lowering the number of concussions and “it is wrong to punch people.”
Wrong or right, hockey fights have proven more than a little necessary in the deterrent of dirty hits and the targeting of star players. No, it is not 100% effective. However, it does work.
“Never overstate your case. If you go too far, you will lose readers.”
I didn’t try to tell people that Eric Godard, Paul Bissonnette and Aaron Rome should be named to the All-Star Team for their efforts. Instead, I simply added to the case that they deserve to play in the NHL and they’re doing their job.
In his article “Many in N.H.L. View Fighting as Necessary”, Jeff Z. Klein of the New York Times interviewed former NHL enforcer Rob Ray. Ray, an enforcer with a 15-year career and 288 fights, said, “You need to have that fear: If I hit someone wrong, someone’s going to come after me,” he said. “Without it, you’d have far more head shots and hits from behind.”
A slap on the wrist from the league will only do so much. Former NHL chief disciplinarian Colin Campbell’s inconsistent suspensions seemed to send a message that the name on the back of the jersey was more important than the crime. However, a 6’4″, 240 pound hockey player enraged with a dirty hit delivered to his teammate would seem to elicit more fear for the offending party than a two-game rest without pay.
Don Cherry, a commentator for “Hockey Night in Canada” (HNIC) and former player and coach, has said more than enough on fighting in hockey.
“If you don’t have somebody to step in and take charge and keep those guys honest,” he said on HNIC, “those 16-year-olders will be open season.”
While Cherry was referring to junior hockey, it is the same in the NHL. If you don’t have somebody to step in and take charge and keep those guys honest, those 16-year-olders [read: stars] will be open season.”
“Don’t be wishy-washy. Once you have built on your case, state it firmly and clearly. Do not back away from it in the end.”
I certainly didn’t back away from my case. Instead, I gave examples of questionable hits that have caused injury in the last year and instances where enforcers either could have taken action or they did take action.
Boston’s Nathan Horton was hit in game three of the Stanley Cup Final in June by Vancouver’s Aaron Rome. Pittsburgh’s Eric Tangradi was hit and mocked on February 11 by New York Islander Trevor Gillies. Penguin Sidney Crosby was just cleared for practice contact on October 13 after hits by Washington’s David Steckel and Tampa Bay’s Victor Hedman in January.
All 30 teams in the league have someone who’s willing to drop the gloves to protect their teammates despite the cost.
Maybe we could all use that level of loyalty.
All in all, I thought I did pretty well following Kershner’s guidelines and I have a new appreciation — and enjoyment of — writing opinion pieces. I hope I have more of a chance to write more of them in the future.
*Except political columns. I try not to get too involved in politics as it is let alone having another opinion barked at me.