Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Apologies for that last post, and the reason I love Keith Acton.

OK- First things first.

Sorry about that last post.

I mean crap- you want to lose an hour of your life you'll never get back?

Ask a blogger to write about himself.

I hate to say it, but the fact is, if you write a blog, you're kind of into yourself. I mean, not as into yourself as say- a congressman or soap opera actress, but still- there's a problem there, and let's be honest, at least the politician and the diva get a little sun now and then.

Either way, there is nothing more ponderous on a blog than talking about blogs and bloggers, so I've decided to instead tell you all the story about why Keith Acton is one of my favorite NHL players of all time.

You can click his name there for his complete stats, and as a Bruins fan, I gotta love that opening quote:

"When I was growing up, I hated Montreal. Always."

I want that hand-embroidered on a motherfucking throw pillow, and displayed prominently in my home.

Of course, the reason I love Keith Acton has nothing to do with his career, which as I look at it again, has some interesting moments. He played for 6 NHL clubs, won a Stanley Cup, was considered one of the best faceoff men in the game, and was sent to the Winnipeg Jets from Philly one summer, only to be sent back again 5 days later. I don't know how it happened, but I do know that it's pretty fucking sweet.

After retiring, he moved into coaching, and has served as an assistant coach with the Flyers, Rangers and currently, the Maple Leafs, a position he got in the year 2000 and is still in today.

But all of that aside, it was one night in the early 1990's as a Philadelphia Flyer that had me and my little brother collecting Keith Acton cards for the rest of our lives. The Flyers were playing the Penguins, who we hated back then for two reasons. The first was that with the offensive fireworks of Lemieux and Jagr, they were becoming the powerhouse that effectively stymied the Bruins' chances to come out of the east, but even moreso, they had Ulf Samuelsson on their team, who had delivered the low hit that led to the end of the career of Cam Neely. To have that bastard skate around with the Stanley Cup while Neely was continually doing rehab after rehab after rehab had the hockey fans of Boston in an absolute fury. I have a vivid memory of a banner hanging from the Gallery of the old Garden bearing the huge letters "KILL ULF." On one chance meeting between the Bruins and Penguins in Boston at the time, the rancor and hatred ran so deep that Samuelsson was a healthy scratch, prompting the great Bruins colorman Derek Sanderson to comment that Ulf had "come down with a touch of the Swedish Flu."

Now, I've said this before, and I don't want to make this an indictment of the new NHL, but I will say that hockey, above almost any other sport, is best enjoyed with a villain or two, and in my eyes, the NHL could use another villain like Ulf.

Christ, I hated that bastard.

In fact, I still do, and wrote about it here .

At any rate, back in those days, if the Penguins were playing, it was an event, and when it was against the Flyers, you knew there were gonna be fireworks, so when the punches started flying, we popped in a tape. I forget who else was involved or how it started, but my memories start after the first fight had ended, and all the players on the ice had grabbed ahold of an opponent's sweater and "locked him up." This was a pretty common technique in the NHL back then, and served as a way to act like you were fighting and kind of save face, but in reality was a way of self-policing the situation so it wouldn't get completely out of hand. So when it did get completely out of hand, it was kind of a surprise. It took the replay for us to see that locking up Ulf Samuelsson on that night was a player named Keith Acton.

I don't know who the cameraman was who captured this moment, but it couldn't have been done more perfectly. The shot showed Acton and Samuelsson locked up with each other, both kind of absentmindedly watching the linesmen and ref break up one of the other fights, when all of a sudden, out of nowhere, Acton started staring directly over Ulf's other shoulder and up into the stands. He was looking 180 degrees away from the action, and almost straight up, with a perplexed look on his face that seemed to say "What in God's name is THAT?"

As he stared, he relaxed his hands from Ulf's jersey a bit, as though to convey the idea that whatever was going on up there was a sight so bafflingly unique that it commanded every iota of his attention. Acton's eyes widened and his jaw dropped open with awe, as he stared up and behind this giant of a man, who had at least 5 inches and forty pounds on him. Perhaps feeling the grip on his jersey relax, or maybe simply noticing the extent of Acton's interest, Ulf turned his head all the way around and followed Acton's gaze, relaxing his own grip, and craning his head back towards whatever it was that had so aroused Action's interest. Ulf blinked his eyes, stared for a second, and seeing nothing out of the ordinary, turned his head back around, directly into the path of the fast moving right fist of Acton, who had started drawing his hand back the minute Ulf took the bait. Acton's fist smashed into Samuelsson's face with the force of a flying anvil, and Ulf who had no idea what had happened, went down like a sack of wet laundry.

It was a motherfucking gorgeous thing to see.

It was one of the best sucker punches I have ever seen in the history of the NHL, and stands in my memory as a living example of not only the little guy winning over the big guy, but brains over brawn and the chickens coming home to roost, all in the span of 4 seconds.

Henceforth, Keith Acton became a hero to my brother and I, and on days where it was rainy, or we were sad- all that needed to be said to fill the moment with cheer was the phrase "Wanna watch the Keith Acton tape?"

And we did, perhaps watching that tape over a hundred times, and after our Dad mistakenly taped over it, we relived it by acting out the event at pond and street hockey games for years afterwards.

So here's to you Keith Acton.

Keep swinging, buddy- and good luck with Hal Gill in Toronto.

We know you aren't afraid of the big fellas.


Brushback said...

Hey, I didn't think your "5 things" post was that miserable.

Who knocked it down-- Oldies Quiltingblog? Fuck 'em!

Ritch said...

No- nobody knocked it down- I just think a hockey blog oughta be about hockey, that's all.

Thanks for the support tho-

Brushback said...

I thought you were referring to Orland Kurtenblog calling it a "semi-coherent, clearly hungover post", and I figured I'd make a joke out of it. No biggie.