Paul Bissonnette had five points and 117 penalty minutes in 41 games for Phoenix last season. (Photo by Norm Hall/NHLI via Getty Images)
I feel bad for Paul Bissonnette today. But I feel worse for the rest of us.
In case you weren’t aware, Bissonnette – by night, a gritty plugger for the Phoenix Coyotes and more recently, a hilarious chronicler of the hockey-and-non-hockey world – de-activated his wildly popular Twitter account Wednesday.
Nobody is certain whether the 25-year-old’s agent or the Yotes organization strong-armed Bissonnette into departing from Twitter, or whether he came to the conclusion himself. But that’s immaterial to the important point: once again, the hockey world has neutered itself in the name of “good taste” – and come away looking smaller, duller and poorer for it.
Some of Bissonnette’s 140-character-or-less messages definitely weren’t for the faint of heart. He even played into the Russians-as-Communists cliché that’s at least as old as Chris Chelios and twice as sour.
But let’s be honest with ourselves. Did the dude really say anything that awful? It isn’t like he accused whoever buys the Coyotes of taking Jerry Moyes’ sloppy seconds. It’s not like he demanded each and every member of the Hockey Hall of Fame induction committee be held upside down until their eyes bleed as punishment for the revolting omission of Pat Burns from this year’s group of honorees.
No, the fact of the matter is Bissonnette has a genuine sense of humor and was prepared to share it – and instead of us celebrating that openness, he’s been stared into silence instead.
Whether some of the humorless scolds out there like it or not, the Internet and social media in general has obliterated virtually every boundary of common etiquette and decorum. And its evolution/degeneration is just part of the generational circle of modern-day life.
In the same way the 1960s and ‘70s were about escaping the shackles of uptight, Anglo-Saxon, starched-collar 1950s morality, each new decade thereafter also has redefined notions of what is prim and proper and what is down and dirty. In the music video industry in the late ’80s, Madonna’s “Like A Prayer” was considered to be dangerous and unsuitable for public consumption; now it would hardly merit a second glance.
Maybe I’m the wrong guy to be writing about this. I don’t offend easy – and I’m much more likely to be the deliverer of the offending remark than its recipient.
I mean, I’ve asked a pregnant-looking (now-former) lady friend when she was due, only to have her drop a withering stink eye on me and coldly state that she gave birth six weeks prior. I nearly wet myself laughing each time I see somebody slip on a patch of ice (and pantomime kicking a field goal) and slam awkwardly into the ground. Some of my most cherished movies are child-torturing black comedies like Major Payne and Bad Santa.
But all I know is that, in an era where the NHL is supposed to be promoting players’ personalities, it makes no sense one of the few guys willing to allow his personality to be promoted to change course and quiet down.
Do we really want an NHL populated by 700 players emulating Joe Sakic (who treated the concept of interesting insight as toilets treat turds)? And what does it say about a sport that sees nothing wrong with Bissonnette risking his physical well-being by being pummeled on the ice, yet reacts to the truly marketable aspect of the guy as if it needed to be cut out of him like a cancer?
I think it says that people still need to lighten up. Players like Paul Bissonnette should be regarded as the pied piper of a new generation of fans, not as the carrier of a virus that demands a Silkwood-style shower.
Adam Proteau, co-author of the book The Top 60 Since 1967, is writer and columnist for The Hockey News and a regular contributor to THN.com. His blog appears regularly, his Ask Adam feature appears Fridays and his column, Screen Shots, appears Thursdays.
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