Dakota Rapids RW Trevor Green stirred up some controversy this week by arguing that hockey should become a less violent sport. “The Europeans are way ahead of us on this,” said Green in an interview after Dakota’s game against the Michigan Gray Wolves. “To me, the real beauty of hockey is in great puck-handling, beautiful passes, speed and momentum. It’s like ballet on ice, really. Instead, here we have smaller ice and we glorify big hits and fights. It’s less athletic, frankly.”
Green’s comments were criticized on two fronts. First, many perceived the comments as a shot at the Gray Wolves, who are famous for their physical style. Predictably, Michigan’s players took offense.
“To me, that sounds like loser whining,” said Gray Wolves RW Gordon Lunsford. “I’m sure [the Rapids] get frustrated because they can’t beat us. But the game is the game, and the rules are the rules. If you don’t want to bang bodies, fine. But don’t go crying about it when you lose.”
Michigan D Bjorn Tollefson added, “I’m European, and I love big hits. If [Green] doesn’t, he should go to the European league.”
Other players suggested that Green wanted the game to focus less on hitting because of his short stature (he stands only 5’8”). Meanwhile, others focused on the ballet reference in his remarks, and made the sadly expected jokes about Green’s masculinity. When the Rapids faced Michigan against later in the week, the fans at Cadillac Place serenaded Green with chants of “Tinkerbell,” and several fans held up signs depicting Green in a pink tutu or making bad jokes about his sexuality.
These taunts and posters drew the ire of Rapids coach Harold Engellund. The coach was nicknamed “Harry the Hit Man” during his playing days for his hard-hitting style, but he stood up for his player.
“Hey, look, I love a good fight as much as the next guy,” Engellund said. “I believe in good heavy hockey, and I’d like to see more of it out of our guys, to tell you the truth. But Trevor feels differently, and he’s entitled to his opinion. Great passing and puck-handling are fun to watch, too, in a different way. We’ve got more of that now than when I came up, and that’s a good thing. It’s better than when you had enforcers who could barely skate just looking to start fights. The game is more skilled now.”
Engellund particularly decried the sexist taunts directed at Green. “All those fans calling Trevor a fairy and a sissy, that’s gotta stop. That kind of talk has no place in today’s game. There are a lot of women hockey fans, and gay fans too. How do think they feel when you’ve got idiots in the stands screaming at a guy and calling him Tinkerbell? The next time I hear any of that stuff, whoever says it is getting a punch in the mouth from me.”