If you have been following us for any length of time, you have likely caught on that we here at Heavy Blog are an opinionated bunch. Yes, we obviously have many many feelings when it comes to all sorts of music-related topics, but unsurprisingly this also carries itself well over into the realms of other forms of art, media, culture, sports, and, yes, politics. Hence how we have wound up with this, The Void Screameth, where on the internet, nobody can hear you scream, but we can at least pound the keyboard until something legible comes out and hope that one or two other people read it!
The NHL’s Department of Player Safety Is Neither for Players Nor Safety
I know I’m only speaking to a handful of readers on this one, but this needs to be stated here as it has been on the Twitter accounts of every professional hockey writer. In the decade of its existence, the NHL’s Department of Player Safety has proven it is a force against progress. This week, the Washington Capitals’ winger Tom Wilson was involved in what should have been a normal play: after the opposing New York Rangers crashed the goal, the Caps would be justifiably upset and want to protect their goalie. I’ve watched enough hockey to know that this is commonplace. The urge to defend your boy between the pipes is something every skater feels and should feel. But because Tom Wilson was involved, it got really dirty very quickly. You can check the clip and its multiple angles here, but you should know that this ended Artemi Panarin’s season.
Obviously the first notion anyone should feel is, “Good God Almighty, Tom, you’re gonna kill somebody.” Tom Wilson might be the first guy to kill someone on the ice. Todd Bertuzzi almost did it to Steve Moore in 2004, and Wilson might admire what Bertuzzi did instead of being appalled like the rest of us. The NHL has been desperately trying to legislate this kind of behavior out of the game, but certain personalities around the league are still enabling it 17 years later. If you want to grow your game, like the NHL is trying so hard to do, you have to do something about the Tom Wilsons of the world.
But more to the point here, this is another example of the Department of Player Safety being a complete and utter joke that’s run by a former enforcer. Head of Player Safety George Parros made a career out of hanging out in the penalty box. In his 10 NHL seasons, Parros scored 18 goals, had 18 assists, AND SPENT 1092 MINUTES IN THE PENALTY BOX. In his final season, he averaged just shy of 4 penalty minutes a game. That’s absolutely outrageous and only shows that Parros doesn’t actually know how the game is played. In case you’re not familiar with the concept of the hockey enforcer, it can be summed up thusly: if you’re bad at puck handling, can’t shoot, can’t skate, but you’re big, congratulations! You could make an entire hockey career out of just punching people and having absolutely no talent or skill. While those days are becoming smaller and smaller in the rear view mirror, they clearly aren’t gone. It’s hard to say whether that’s Parros’s fault or not, but it’s not a good sign that Big Caveman Meathead is now adjudicating professional assault.
Let me also say this: I personally love a good clean hit. I love guys fighting for the puck and not being afraid of skating through an opponent to make a shot. Hell, I don’t even mind a good scrap when the occasion arises. But there is a distinct difference between playing hard and what Tom Wilson does on a nightly basis. Wilson isn’t playing hard nor is he being a pest and getting under everyone’s skin. Wilson is trying to put people in the hospital and end careers. His flexing in the penalty box and looking like he’s trying out for the WWE proves that.
The fact is that the NHL is losing ground in the American professional sports scene. You currently can’t find the games on most cable providers due to a shitty television contract (which I hope will change with the new ESPN and TNT/TBS deal for next season). Canadian youth hockey, where the NHL draws the majority of its talent, is in the middle of a massive sexual abuse scandal. The game of hockey is potentially even under threat due to climate change! Parents across the US aren’t letting their children play football due to head injuries and lack of safety, so who knows what this incident means for American youth hockey. But I can say that seeing the league refuse to actually punish Tom Wilson for his actions speaks volumes. The NHL is a league that is constantly shooting itself in the foot in very public ways. You want to grow the game? You can start by using some common damn sense. Protect the players or you’re going to find yourselves without any.
Can we please develop a range of proper responses to problematic bands?
You know how our story begins: you find this great new black metal band. The riffs rule, all coldness spreading itself across abrasive mountains (or something like that, you get it), the drums churn just right, and the vocals are the finishing touch. Even the album art rules! Happy, you decide to find their music and buy it but something stops you. Oh, right, black metal. Better do a search to see if I’m not giving my money to literal nazis. You hit up your favorite Facebook groups and ask, go to Metal Archives, just use Google, whatever; you have a routine. You know how to find this shit out. To be honest, it’s not that complicated; nazis tend to be pretty fucking stupid.
To your delight, there’s no overt nazi stuff. But wait, what’s this? These guys released an album a few years ago on a pretty suspect label. And they played some shows with a bunch of nazis or maybe they gave some sort of “radical centrist” statement, something with the words “apolitical” and “both sides” in it. OK, frustrating, but not that bad, right? I mean, maybe you’ll skip the merch for this release but you might still pick up the files or stream the album. Your money isn’t really going towards anything heinous. You’d rather that they weren’t oblivious, privileged assholes but hey, if you stopped listening to anyone who was, your options would be severely hampered. Right?
Well, sadly, no. Sadly, there seems to be a counter-reaction going inside the spaces that would like to see nazi metalheads fuck off: anything with even the slightest stench or slightly problematic connection is immediately thrown into the trash bin of history. Don’t get me wrong, I totally get it; that’s one of the most annoying things about nazis. They’re like a mushroom; where there’s one, there are more. So you get hyper-vigilant and anything that even comes close to being a nazi immediately gets discarded. But here’s the thing: that’s how nazis win.
This helps nazis in several ways: first, it’s such a goddamn effort. Going through every single album you find, even if it’s just black metal, is a tiring ordeal. The initial, cursory search isn’t that band but if you become obsessed with reading into even the smallest of clues because there might be a nazi there, we’re talking a much larger effort. Secondly, and this sort of ties into the first item, this hunt for the nazis (who should be hunted, in Minecraft) sucks the joy out of finding new music. A tired, joyless leftist is a good thing for the nazis. Lastly, it makes our part of the scene weaker. When we’re focused on excluding anyone, we will inadvertently throw out some potential allies or simply misunderstand some band’s perspective and intent. It makes the scene hard to enter and limits our variety, leaving us stifled and paralyzed because of the fear which nazis have successfully generated within us. They have us right where they want us, always on the lookout.
OK, so what’s my alternative? First off, look, fighting nazis (and any other right wing pest) is a specific matter which needs to be conducted according to the context of the scene. But instead of focusing on sifting through releases, we can do things that are more helpful like, surprise, organize. Show up to shows with antifa gear, make it clear that nazis aren’t welcome here. And if we can’t do that, like many of us can’t, I would like to suggest that we need to develop a more nuanced, multi-tiered approach to problematic artists. Nazis? Fuck them forever, no money, no publicity, nothing. Right wingers or conservatives? Stream their shit or even pirate it, talk to only people you trust about it. Centrists? Decide how far you want to go with that but I think buying their albums is fine, even if they are “apolitical”. Just be aware of the fact and bring it up often.
Bottom line, when we knee-jerk, we put ourselves in a position of weakness. Strength doesn’t look like constant vigilance. It looks like the ability to live our lives and carry on, listening to the music we love, as we love it, and knowing enough to keep our support to those artists we want to support. We need to make sure that we don’t overdo and end up stifling our own community because of it