Diane's Playoff Diary, 4/28/00:
A Tale of Two Hockey Players


To paraphrase Dickens, one was the best of guys, one was the worst of guys…

Seeing as the Stars are about to faceoff against the San Jose Sharks in Round 2, you can probably guess who I’m going to compare in this journal entry. Carbonneau and Marchment, talk about opposite ends of the spectrum.

This little exercise in contrast isn’t just for my own amusement; this is a serious matter, one with ramifications that go beyond the game of hockey.

Said Guy recently of his next opponent: "San Jose has a bunch of young kids trying to prove something. I have nothing against wanting to play tough. There is a difference between playing tough and playing to hurt people."

Bryan Marchment and those who look to him as a mentor know the difference as well as Carbo. They also know if you don’t have enough talent, playing tough may not be enough to win, and if it takes hurting people to win, they will do it. Tell these types "It’s not whether you win or lose, it’s how you play the game," and they will laugh at you. Marchment has admitted if he weren’t the kind of player he is, he wouldn’t be in the NHL. So if he cared about "how you play the game," he wouldn’t be playing it.

Carbonneau, of course, made the NHL by his talent. So, here’s a question: If Guy’s skill level were comparable to Marchment, what sort of NHL player would he be today?

Answer: He wouldn’t be an NHL player. This isn’t to say he wouldn’t be just as heroic a person, we just wouldn’t have had the opportunity to find out. Because Guy Carbonneau would never sacrifice his principles in order to succeed.

What bothers me most about the Marchment Phenomenon is not that Bryan exists, but that there are teams willing to hire him and fans willing to cheer for him. Our society doesn’t approve of dirty players in politics or business, we as individuals don’t like them as friends or co-workers. Why then is it all right in hockey, which personally I would like to hold to a higher standard than business or politics? Has winning in sports become so important that we simply don’t care how it gets done?

Says Guy, "The playoffs now is different. In the past…if you lose, you lose. Teams played, played tough, did everything they had to do to win, but I don’t think they went out and tried to injure people. Now, it happens in the game every day, every series."

If the Sharks advance by winning cleanly, more power to them. If it takes Marchment-style tactics, how much is that victory worth, and at what cost does it come? We all pay the price, we all suffer, not just Nieuwendyk or Modano or whoever is the next victim of Marchment’s knee. We suffer because the sport we love has been sold out for personal success. We suffer because our fellow fans have learned to cheer for acts which, if they occurred on the street, would appall us. We suffer because the Stanley Cup can be won not necessarily by talent and teamwork but by violence and working outside the rules.

I’ll admit that when I first learned the Stars would face the Sharks next, I wished (aloud even) that in Game 1 some Star would inflict upon Marchment a nice season-ending injury, so my favorite player and favorite team could avoid the ills he will doubtless inflict. The fact that I wished this also makes me sad, and ashamed. I was not the kind of hockey fan I should be. The other tragedy of Marchment’s game is that it can bring everyone down to this dismal level.

I’m sorry I made that wish, and I take it back. That, too, would be too high a price to pay for winning. If I were thinking more like Guy Carbonneau, I would recognize that two battles will be fought in Round 2 between the Stars and the Sharks. One battle is for the right to go on to the Conference Finals. The other is for the right to be proud of the way you fought.

If Carbonneau—who understands both winning and honor—has his way, the Stars will win both.