Reprinted with permission from the Sault Star
I'm on the bandwagon. I want to see fighting banned in hockey. Why? Because it is the right thing to do. Period.
Need more reasons? Here are five against fighting.
1) It is wrong to punch people.
That's why in civil society you go to jail for punching people. That's why in kid's hockey it is not allowed. No one thinks it is a good idea to have kids punching other kids. There shouldn't be an age limit on self-control.
Allowing teenagers in the juniors to pound the snot out of each other counteracts everything we try to teach our kids about violence. It also teaches kids that if they aren't as good as others at something, they should learn to fight. No good parent wants to expose a child willfully to violence watching hockey fights, or have them on the giving or receiving end while playing.
Strangely enough, I'm OK with boxing and Ultimate Fighting Championships (UFC), because I respect the clarity about those sports. You know you will have your brains addled as a competitor. With even one concussion, research shows you can expect to be a slower-thinking, slower-moving senior.
2) Don't make the "dumb athlete" stereotype worse for NHL and junior hockey players.
By saying fighting is necessary to the game, you're implying two things: that pure hockey is boring, and that hockey players are dumber than baseball players, basketball players and football players. No one wants that latter honour, do they? Hockey is not the only game with rivalries and temper-filled moments, so why can't hockey players control their "manly" urges to fight like all the others do?
Here is what NBA.com says about fighting: "Violent acts of any nature on the court will not be tolerated. Players involved in altercations will be ejected, fined and/or suspended. Officials have been instructed to eject a player who throws a punch, whether or not it connects," even if "detected during a review of a videotape, that player will be penalized. There is absolutely no justification for fighting in an NBA game. The fact that you may feel provoked by another player is not an acceptable excuse."
I know hockey players are not dumb and that they, their coaches, and the referees would understand that language. After all, they are smart enough to keep the world juniors and NHL playoffs focused on good, clean hockey, so I have hope.
3) Rules should be followed, otherwise change the rules.
If it is illegal to fight in the game, why aren't "enforcers" waiting in unemployment lines? Perhaps this is a dysfunctional union issue where less skilled employees are being protected to the detriment of the entire organization? Send the fighters to the UFC.
If fighting is illegal, why are there NHL rules for it? Among others, you are expected to drop your stick and gloves and heed the referees' warning to end a fight. Yup, there are rules about how to break the rules, and if you break the rules about breaking the rules, the penalties are stiffer than for breaking the original rules. Sound moronic? It is! The penalties for failing to fight fairly are worse than the penalties of fighting (if enforced). Why not make players heed the referee's rules in the first place, with penalties that players and teams will want to avoid? Same logic applies if stick-work replaces fights.
4) Fighting takes away from the flow of the game.
I love Olympic hockey because it is dynamic. I like good passing, fast skating, and don't want to wait through commercial breaks or flying fists and broken noses. Like a cellphone that distracts an actor on Broadway, a fight in hockey stops something good, and the play doesn't continue afterwards at the same intensity.
5) Saying that fighting has always been part of hockey does not make it right.
If we were being completely true to our polite, Canadian roots, if someone even bumped into us on the ice we should be apologizing profusely instead of instigating mortal combat.
If fights are what owners think keeps the bums in seats, clearly they haven't looked at the attendance at playoff games and at the Olympics. If hockey is "boring" without the fights to the current crowd, market it as a family game. I'll happily go to games with my kids if they won't see fists flying when things don't go the players' way. The old excuse of "the fans demand fights" is lame. Don't pander to loud drunks in the crowd. Send them to UFC too.
We owe it to ourselves, and to Don Sanderson's family, to protect our athletes and prevent fighting-related concussions and worse. We must demand that they challenge common practice with common sense. Send a message to the leagues and the NHL commissioner that reviewing fighting rules of engagement, improving safety measures on helmets, and increasing penalties for removing helmets, are cowardly responses to a real problem.
If you agree, I've started a group on Facebook called "Ban Hockey Fights Now" and am starting a petition at www.banhockeyfights.com.
Let's start implementing automatic game ejection, and escalating game suspension rules for fighting in junior hockey immediately, paired with scaling fines for the teams.
Why are we being so stubborn over doing the right thing? The game of hockey is part of our national identity; not the fighting in hockey, otherwise no one would care about playoff hockey or the Olympic gold-medal game.
As Martin Luther King Jr. said, "The time is always right to do what is right."
Nadine Robinson is a lecturer at Algoma University.
The original article can be found here.