Sunday 16 December 2012

The Code by Ross Bernstein (Part 1)

A few months ago I picked up a copy of Ross Bernstein’s book, The Code: The Unwritten Rules of Fighting and Retaliation in the NHL.  My view would not be much different than those you can find on any book review site; that it’s a repetitive book with lots of first person quotes on why fighters drop the gloves.  But in my opinion the 10 reasons he provided in chapter 3, about what prompts dropping the gloves, are pretty weak.

Monday 15 October 2012

A Milestone - 10,000 Page Views

Sometime on Sunday, October 14, 2012, It’s Not Part of the Game registered 10,000 page views.  I’ll admit that I wasn’t monitoring my traffic, hitting refresh over and over to get the exact time when that memorable visitor hit my site, but it’s still an important statistic in the history of this blog.   I can’t take any credit for significant changes but a lot more people have better information on fighting in hockey, and why it doesn’t belong in the sport.

Saturday 6 October 2012

Goon – Great Hockey Movie

The movie industry is known for taking a character and, through embellishment, exaggeration and distortion, turning it into a caricature.  Goon is no different.   But in doing so it ends up as an enjoyable movie when there’s nothing better to do.  And I thought it got a lot of things right in terms of depicting the enforcer and how the role impacts hockey.

Monday 1 October 2012

Hockey Players Fight Because They Can.

For the last 8 months I’ve attempted to disprove the popular myths about why fighting remains in hockey.  Using accepted academic studies, research from other hockey websites, NHL statistics and observations from professional journalists, I think I have presented a compelling alternative view of this issue.  But I’ve recently come to believe that the reason it remains in the game is very simple.

Saturday 22 September 2012

Junior Hockey Shows Leadership

This week the OHL made a major rules announcement designed to put an end to one-dimensional fighters.  But they weren’t the only junior league implementing progressive measures that will reduce fighting in the game.  The USHL, CJHL and WHL all had press releases recently with a similar direction, if perhaps different approaches.

Sunday 2 September 2012

Enforcers “Protect” Their Teammates

Here it is, the biggest myth that NHL general managers, coaches, players and fans trot out at every opportunity.  Enforcers are an important part of the hockey roster because they “protect” the stars from cheap shots.  You simply have to forget the fact that stars have been the target of spearing, slashing and punished by legal and illegal hits for the past 40 years while enforcers have been a regular part of NHL rosters.  But the game is safer with these guys in the line-up.

Saturday 11 August 2012

Jay Baruchel And I Don't Agree

On August 5th Jay Baruchel issued a simple tweet, “GOON 2. #staytuned”.  It prompted me to go back and find an interview that was published by Wired back in June.  In it he was unabashedly in favour of the enforcer and suggested that the decline of the role was responsible for the increase in injuries in the NHL.  I think the interview deserves further scrutiny and some alternative perspective on his comments.

Wednesday 25 July 2012

Who Makes a Better Referee?

NHL players, coaches and team executives who firmly support fighting in the game will tell you the enforcer role is needed to police the game.  The game is too fast and the on-ice officials can’t catch all the cheap shots so the players need to take matters into their own fists.  So who is better at controlling the game, the NHL referee or the team enforcer?

Saturday 7 July 2012

Carkner’s Response To Brian Boyle

My last post, A Superficial Look At UFAFs, was retweeted a couple of times and prompted a response citing an incident from this year’s playoffs.   Matt Carkner went after Brian Boyle in retaliation and the tweeter, based on my understanding, was using it as an example of why fighting is a necessary part of the game.  So let’s dive into this example and analyze it from my point of view.

Friday 6 July 2012

A Superficial Look At UFAFs

With some recent big name UFA signings out of the way, I thought it would be a good idea to take a superficial look at UFAFs – those would be unrestricted free agent fighters.   Several teams added toughness for various reasons but some didn’t bother to look for new players who could add any scoring or those who would keep the team off the penalty kill.  Although they considered size and reputation, they may not have thought much about what negative impact the UFAF will have.

Friday 29 June 2012

What’s In A Name?

The designated tough guy on any hockey team has been referred to as: an enforcer, a policeman, a fighter, a goon, and probably some other not-so-polite terms called out from team benches.  Let’s explore the term “enforcer” to see if the name is still valid in today’s hockey, and if role still has the same meaning.

Monday 18 June 2012

More Facts on the Role of Enforcers

Hockey is unique in that some teams use up a roster spot for a player whose primary role is to break the rules – to go out on the ice and engage in a fight.  Enforcers are not as numerous today but they are also not an endangered species just yet.  But if you study the statistics you have to wonder why teams continue to invest in the role.

Tuesday 5 June 2012

What We Can Learn From The Boogaard Story

No one can say with certainty that the death of Derek Boogaard is proof that all enforcers, both in Junior or the NHL, are at serious risk.  I would also offer the opinion that linking his death to the suicides of Wade Belak and Rick Rypien would be a mistake.  But reading his well-documented story about his path to the NHL can teach us quite a bit about the culture of fighting in hockey, and its impact on the sport.

Sunday 27 May 2012

Getting Into The Player’s Head

In two recent polls, one by Hockey Night In Canada and the other Sports Illustrated, NHL players anonymously gave their overwhelming support for fighting.  Both asked if fighting should be banned and “No” was answer by the majority; 98% and 99.5% for the respective polls.  Why does an NHL player believe with such conviction that dropping the gloves is an essential element to the game?

Saturday 12 May 2012

Fighters Hurt Their Teams

In an earlier post, Additional Statistics on the Impact of Fighting, I presented some stats that show teams that fight more often are less successful in the standings and in the playoffs.  That same report also showed that teams with more fighting majors also incurred a higher number of non-fighting penalty minutes.  I thought that I would take a quick snapshot of the top penalty leaders and see if there was a correlation to their propensity to drop the gloves.

Saturday 5 May 2012

The Magical Time Before The Instigator Rule

During HNIC’s Coach’s Corner on April 21st, Don Cherry, who has not coached in over 30 years, called for the removal of the instigator rule (Rule 46.11).  He was making the point that players should be policing the game, adding, “You can’t have a mad dog sitting on the bench.”   Even though he stated, “I know you can’t go back,” it was clear that he wanted a return to the good old days.

Wednesday 25 April 2012

How Did We Get Here

To understand an issue you sometimes have to study contributing factors, however seemingly unrelated, to make sure that any conclusions are based on facts and reasonable assumptions.   If you believe that most people form opinions as a result of their early development and experiences then we need to look at the recent history of fighting and the role of the enforcer.  This will help us understand why NHL players and league officials all believe that fighting should remain in the game.

Saturday 21 April 2012

Nader Calls For Bettman's Resignation

Ralph Nader posted another open letter on the League of Fans website, this time calling for Gary Bettman to resign.  Citing a "disturbing increase in head-hunting thuggery in this year’s NHL playoffs", Nader states that there has not been adequate leadership in the league to deal with the issue.

Wednesday 18 April 2012

Take Back Our Game

If you are a hockey fan you can’t open up a newspaper or sports website without being subjected to the numerous acts of violence in the first round of this year’s playoffs.   I’ve seen too many online comments and tweets from fans who say they are turning off the TV, and being turned off the sport.  Instead of giving up, we need to take back our game.

Sunday 15 April 2012

NHL Playoffs – Showcasing Violence

The NHL playoffs began with fan anticipation, media hype and some exciting and entertaining hockey.   And then Shane Weber slammed Henrik Zetterberg’s head into the glass.  That incident served as a test of the NHL’s resolve in eliminating head shots from the game.  The judgement they delivered either became a catalyst for the violence that followed, or just another failed opportunity to show they were serious about player safety and respect.

Wednesday 11 April 2012

A reflection on a lost brother’s role as a hockey enforcer

On April 7th I posted my thoughts (They Knew What They Were Getting Into) on Sheldon Kenny's article on his brother Lyndon.  His story should be read by all hockey fans so that they understand there is an emotional and physical toll on individuals who fight in hockey.  This story is very similar to those told by other enforcers but did not get as much attention in the media because it involved a junior player.  Therefore to help spread awareness of Lyndon and his struggle with concussions, here is Sheldon's original article reprinted with his permission.

Saturday 7 April 2012

They Knew What They Were Getting Into

On March 22nd another story was posted about an enforcer who committed suicide.  It didn’t get as much exposure as those about Derek Boogaard, Rick Rypien or Wade Belak because it involved a junior player who didn’t make the big leagues.  I wonder how many more potential stories like this are out there - teenagers who chased their dream of playing in the NHL through the role of a fighter.

Sunday 1 April 2012

NHL Responds to Rangers - Devils Brawl

On March 19th the New York Rangers and New Jersey Devils started a brawl at the 3 second mark of their game, causing considerable outrage in the press.  It took almost two weeks for the NHL to address this incident, no doubt after considerable internal discussion to ensure that the official response was reasonable and reflected positively on the league.  Concerns for player safety, how the game is marketed to the fans and how to protect the sanctity of the game all needed to be considered.

Saturday 24 March 2012

What the NHL Can Learn From The Good Wife

The latest episode of The Good Wife, titled “Gloves Come Off”, added a bit more tarnish to the image of the NHL.  The law drama tackled the issue of a hockey league being sued because of its indifference to concussions in general and specifically one player whose career ended due to a fight.  As I watched I wondered how far the script was from reality.

Monday 19 March 2012

Observations On A Single Game

On February 27th I posted the article Additional Statistics on the Impact of Fighting.  It contained stats that showed when fighting was reduced, non-fighting PIMs were also reduced.  It also showed that teams who fought the most were also assessed more non-fighting PIMs.  A clear trend based on the past 12 seasons of NHL play.  And then a game comes along that adds considerable weight to my argument that enforcers contribute to the violence and cheap shots, not control it.

Sunday 18 March 2012

Revenge and Retribution

On March 15th I watched the return of Crosby when the Penguins took on the Rangers.  It was an entertaining game and Sid played well after a long recovery.  But a hit at approximately 9 minutes into the 3rd period confused me.  It was a cheap shot actually, when Engelland led with his forearm and hit Fedotenko in the head.   An obvious cheap shot with no penalty called.

Tuesday 13 March 2012

The Code Goes Global…

“The Code" has proven so successful in policing the game of hockey that it really should be adopted by society at large to solve many issues that plague us in everyday life.    If ordinary individuals accepted The Code as part of their lifestyle we could look forward to news reports such as these.

Tuesday 6 March 2012

An Open Letter to the NHLPA

The pro-fighting hockey crowd continues to throw out the comment that, “98% of NHL players approve of fighting”.   Even ignoring the fact that this interpretation is not exactly accurate, it was still disappointing to me that the NHLPA would have that level  of support for something that is against the rules.  So I thought that I would send them a letter asking them to take some steps to better express their views.

Thursday 1 March 2012

Different League, Same Culture

This week it was widely reported that the junior hockey leagues in Canada are moving steadily to eliminate fighting from their organizations.   Lots of media outlets picked up the story and the majority of the articles were positive about the change.  However, just a few days later, some of the real culture was starting to leak out from under the top level of league management as junior coaches and players added their voices to the discussion.

Monday 27 February 2012

Additional Statistics on the Impact of Fighting

Back in January I posted an article – More Facts and Less Emotion – that presented available facts on how fighting and fighters impacted the game of hockey.   I think that it is important to take emotion out of the argument and stop using perception as a valid reason to resist change.  With that in mind I have done some additional analysis that hopefully convinces NHL execs, coaches and fans to step back and focus on what is happening  versus what could happen.

Thursday 16 February 2012

In Their Own Words

The past year has been a tough one for the NHL enforcer.  Three highly publicized deaths and countless articles written about bringing about an end to fighting, and their future employment in the NHL.  It’s pretty obvious that I am in the anti-fighting camp but I won’t pretend to understand what these fighters go through.  So let’s hear from them regarding the job, and the impact on their lives.

Tuesday 14 February 2012

Because It's The Right Thing To Do

As par of my ongoing research I came across this article that was published 3 years ago in the Sault Star.  It was simple, straight forward and focused on common sense to make the point that fighting should be eliminated from hockey.  Because it's the right thing to do.

Saturday 11 February 2012

An Open Letter to Gary Bettman

Last week an organization known as League of Fans sent an open letter to Gary Bettman calling for a ban on fighting in hockey.  League of Fans is a sports reform project founded by Ralph Nader to encourage social & civic responsibility in sports industry & culture.   You can visit their website here.  After a conversation with Ken Reed, Sports Policy Director for League of Fans, I agreed to repost the letter on my site and hopefully give them some additional visibility.  

Thursday 9 February 2012

What Are We Fighting For Again?

Lots of media coverage this week in response to Ralph Nader’s open letter to Gary Bettman (available here).   The comment section attached to any of the online articles on this story was full of fans defending fighting because “it makes players accountable”.  So let’s take 11 recent hockey fights at random and look at them in detail to see if we can understand the crucial role of the enforcer.

Sunday 5 February 2012

NHL's Rule 46

NHL’s Rule 46 deals with fisticuffs and when you read through the almost 2,500 words in detail you can clearly see that it is written to tolerate fighting and doesn’t deal harshly enough with the combatants.   There is too much flexibility in defining what constitutes a fight, and how players should be dealt with.   Let’s see if we can help the NHL figure out how to give the referees more clarity, and maybe cut down on the size of their rule book.

Monday 30 January 2012

Junior Leagues Moving in the Right Direction

Over the past couple of weeks there has been some very good news coming out of the junior hockey leagues in the U.S. and in Canada.  USA Hockey is looking to ban fighting from its junior ranks and is hoping that Canadian junior hockey does the same.

Thursday 26 January 2012

More Facts and Less Emotion

Check out any comment section of an online article or a team discussion forum where the topic is the elimination of fighting from hockey and invariably the pro-fighting fans display an emotional response.   The standard arguments get trotted out; players need to be held accountable, the cheap shot artists will take over, injuries will increase and players need to fight to relieve the stress of competition.    And feel free to offer a differing opinion, as long as you enjoy being told you know nothing about the game and should go watch ice dancing or badminton. 

Saturday 21 January 2012

Two fights and Opposite Impressions

This week there were two fights in the NHL that general managers and coaches pointed to as good examples of the importance of fighting in the game.    The message was that these bouts demonstrated that players needed to enforce the game and bring about accountability.   My viewpoint is that they got it all wrong.

Monday 16 January 2012

If You’re Not Part of the Solution…

I didn’t wake up one morning and decide to start a protest movement that would bring about the end of fighting in the NHL.  It took years of frustration of watching senseless violence and one well written article in the NY Times.

Friday 13 January 2012

A Momentum Shift?

It has been a very good week for anyone who wants to see an end to fighting in the NHL.  As noted in my previous blog, last Thursday Brian Burke galvanized opinion on the role of the enforcer, with most media outlets disagreeing with Burke’s opinions and stating that it’s time for the league to ban fighting.  The same day, by complete coincidence, Jim Devellano the Red Wings’ senior vice president, said on a podcast, “I would eliminate it immediately. I can do without it. I don’t need it.”

Wednesday 11 January 2012

Thank You Brian Burke

I’m sure that it wasn’t intentional, but Brian Burke’s recent outburst may be a positive thing for those who want to see fighting taken out of the NHL.   He expressed his disappointment in the demise of the enforcer in the league when he announced the demotion of Colton Orr.   It was widely covered by the press and galvanized a lot of people who responded with a significant amount of comments that it’s time to take the goons out of the game.

Monday 9 January 2012

Making the NHL Sit Up and Take Notice

I believe that the majority of NHL fans want to see fights in hockey eliminated.  I have no proof, no studies that I can cite, or documented surveys that I can publish.   My opening statement might seem foolish using anecdotal evidence – when I’m at the Air Canada Centre and a fight breaks out, I’m one of the few that remains seated, waiting for the interruption to be moved off the ice by the referees.   But when I see various media stories on fighting and then move to the reader’s comments I am encouraged by the number of people who also want to see the NHL put an end to fisticuffs.

Wednesday 4 January 2012

Fighting Makes Players Accountable For Their Actions

This is one of the most popular reasons for fighting and it’s ironic because it’s clearly not working.  Players who foul other players get penalties and still get jumped by the designated goon when they are released from the penalty box.   Players deliver good solid hockey hits and still the other team’s fighter steps on the ice for their few minutes of playing time and decide to make that guy “accountable”.   The problem with allowing players to police the game is that they are the ones who are making up the infractions.   They aren’t using any rule book, it’s just based on what they think is right or wrong.  

Sunday 1 January 2012

Put An End To Fighting In Hockey

It’s part of the game….

I have been a hockey fan for as long as I can remember, close to a half-century of playing and watching one of the most exciting sports on the planet.   There was never a time during the past 50 years that I thought fighting belonged in hockey.  The phrase, “It’s part of the game” has to be the most short sighted view of those who enjoy watching two people beat themselves up, and of those league officials who cannot bring themselves to bring it to an end.   It’s not part of the game.