Panthers’ David Booth sits down to talk serious fisticuffs with pair of 6-year-olds

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(The Toronto Star)

By CATHAL KELLY
Toronto Star Staff Writer

This week’s “Root Beer Summit” between a couple of grade-school hockey combatants and Florida Panthers’ forward David Booth produced a couple of breakthrough ideas.

First, David Booth should stop hosting summits.

Booth, a Detroit native who comes across as a good-natured doofus in the team video of the summit, was an apt choice to speak out on violence. Last year, he was nearly decapitated by Philadelphia Flyers’ bruiser Mike Richards, launching an important NHL debate on headshots, which led to serious rule changes.

Booth’s peace-loving bona fides were additionally bolstered by the fact that the meeting with 6-year-olds J.J. Mazza and Etnie Rosenbaum came during a break at a Christian-themed hockey camp in Coral Springs, Fla.

J.J. and Etnie became YouTube heroes after a home video of them dropping the gloves during a Florida house league game hit the web.

More than a million people have watched the video – which abruptly ends when a motherly voice barks at the pair from the stands.

On YouTube, it’s entitled Best hockey fight EVER, which appears to capture Booth’s feelings.

“It was kinda crazy. I was just dying laughing,” a pumped-up Booth says early in the Summit video, a reaction that may not be striking the properly sombre tone.

While the trio nurses their drinks, Booth attempts to engage the boys in a dialogue about their fight.

What started it?

J.J. begins to explain: “I had scored two goals already …. “

Booth interrupts: “Nice! Why not three?”

No Henry Kissinger, this guy.

Turns out, Etnie was doing what any good defender would do: trying to prevent his goalie from getting shown up by the hat trick.

Etnie took J.J. down as he came in for the hat trick.

Sort-of fisticuffs, initiated by J.J., followed.

“I got really mad,” J.J. says.

“… and we got in a fight,” finishes Etnie. Both kids laugh.

At this point, Booth slips into Raymond Burr mode, and begins a series of leading questions.

“Were you guys really mad at each other? Or no?” asks Booth.

Asked and answered, your honour, but we all know where this is headed.

“No,” both boys answer bashfully.

“Was that your first fight ever?” Booth asks.

“Yeah,” says Etnie.

“Pretty much,” says the instigator, J.J., which is a long way from “yes.”

Booth moves on. Rhetorical advantage (and eventual TKO) to J.J.

Now that we’ve decided that fighting is okay as long as you aren’t angry when you do it (which may be a pretty good definition of sociopathy), Booth can speak plainly on the matter.

“You’ll always remember your first goal, and your first fight on the same day, huh?” he says approvingly to Etnie.

With the ugly business of pugilism out of the way, Booth can move on to his real – and somewhat strange – obsession with positioning.

“So do you want to be a goal scorer when you make it to the NHL, or do you want to be a fighter?” Booth asks J.J.

“A goal scorer.”

Booth approves. Same question for Etnie.

“I want to be a goalie,” Etnie says.

“A goalie?!” Booth says, with what sounds like his first genuine emotion of the day.

“No. You don’t want to do that. You don’t want to be a goalie.”

“Yes, I do,” says Etnie.

“If there’s any piece of advice I’m ever going to give you, it’s you don’t want to be a goalie,” Booth says.

Copyright 2010 Toronto Star Newspapers Limited