By Dan Bernstein–

I should probably heed the trial lawyer’s rule, and not even ask a question about hockey without already knowing the answer.

Experience with previous, similar efforts tells me that the responses will be contradictory, bewildering and unsatisfying, and will likely result in accusations of femininity, weakness and/or homosexuality. Eventually, some in the discussion will be told to go back to whatever sport they like, and to stop asking things that require logical explanations.

But, against my better judgment, I ask anyway.

Isn’t it considered uncool to for professional athletes to jeer at an opposing player as he’s coming off the ice with an injury?

The Blackhawks have made a habit of doing so this season, which provided some nifty television last night in Boston. Bruins winger Shawn Thornton fell into the skate-blade of the Hawks’ Fernando Pisani, gashing his forehead over his right eye. As he skated off, blood streaming from his face, some comments from the seated Hawks caused him to stop to confront the unidentified hecklers. Thornton nearly shoved past referee Don Van Massenhoven, who then admonished the Chicago bench as Thornton left for 40 stitches.

“Those guys on their team chirp a lot,” Thornton said. “I don’t know if it is right when someone’s face is half across the other side of their face.”

I don’t know either. Perhaps it’s right when someone sustains a serious knee injury, as the Flames’ Brendan Morrison did when he was hit by Niklas Hjalmarsson on February 2nd. The Calgary Sun reported that as he limped off the ice that night, “a sampling of Hawks on the bench fired a few taunting volleys at his misfortune.”

“What was a little disappointing was coming off and guys from the Chicago bench being a little disrespectful. That was uncalled for,” Morrison said. “I don’t know if they understood what was going on, but some young guys on their team were standing up and yelling. I don’t think it’s very professional.”

Hockey, we know, is a rough-and-tumble game played mostly by foreigners, with arcane, off-the-books rules and an unspoken code of “manly” behavior. It’s hard to know where the line is drawn on this kind of thing, since so much depends on an individual’s reputation and history.

I’m sure there’s some aspect of this I just don’t get, that makes what appears to be plainly boorish behavior completely acceptable to some, within the context of the sport. But it would fly in the face of everything I know from football, for example, where the inherent dangers of the job instill a there-but-for-the-grace-of-god-go-I mentality among combatants, even as the competition rages.

Anybody could be next, and everybody knows it. They are all trying to kill each other (and actually succeeding in doing so, if slowly, as we’re now more aware), but the mocking of injuries is not kosher. It’s just not done in the NFL. A defensive end may celebrate a blindside sack, but he’ll also be the first guy with a supportive gesture as the QB is carted away.

The Blackhawks, apparently, do not share that mentality. Perhaps that’s just the way hockey is.

Just because I don’t understand it doesn’t mean I have to like it.

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