The subject of fighting in hockey has been all over of late, especially with the tragic deaths of enforcers Derek Boogaard, Rick Rypien, and former Panther Wade Belak; who was laid to rest yesterday. Frank and Scott have put their two cents in on the subject within the past couple days.
- My take on the subject? Fighting is an established tradition that needs to stay. The game is physical, players need to have the ability to stand up for a teammate. If you don’t allow players to fight, and I’m not sure how you would do that except by enforcing suspensions to players who ignore the rule, the players will just take out their anger by increasing dangerous play during the game. I think blindsided hits on the ice are much worse than face to face confrontations.
Momentum is an essential part of the game of hockey. The game flows, it can change dramatically from various factors; a goal, a penalty, or even a fight. What do you do with five minutes left in the third down by a goal and you need to tie the game. This is competition, players get paid to do their job; this isn’t a pick up game. You need to try and win the game. Every player should give 100% when they are on the ice, or you shouldn’t want them on the team you cheer for.
After Booth was hit by Mike Richards, who stepped up to defend him? Nathan Horton goes right at Richards immediately following the play. Not much happened to Richards until Booth ended up fighting him to complete a “Gordie Howe Hat Trick” the following season.
That is exactly what I meant about tradition. “Mr. Hockey” has a feat named after him in which the player scores a goal, an assist, and gets into a fight. Is the league going to suspend players for completing one of those in the future? I sure hope not.
So what should be done to make the game safer? The only thing I’ve heard being tossed around that I think should be changed is an improvement to protective equipment. Better helmets that can withstand the kind of hits the modern game generates. Pads that protect but don’t inflict injury to either party. I am no equipment expert, but I think the league would benefit from working with equipment companies to research alternatives and set acceptable standards agreed upon with the NHLPA. Maybe this is a start.
The League has been effective in their enforcement of Rule 48 (illegal check to the head) since the Booth incident was ignored. The glaring example being the suspension of Aaron Rome during the Stanley Cup Finals. If the league examines equipment and works with trainers to improve the game I’ll be content.
Nobody wants to see players hurt. The intent is not to injure but to send a message. It is unfortunate that we lost these players in these last few months. The life of a professional hockey player is not an easy one, expectations are high, stress is high, there is no doubt that the roles and pressure put on Boogaard, Rypien, and Belak contributed in some way to their condition.
Depression is a real mental disturbance that zaps energy, destroys confidence, and paralyzes the sufferer into thinking there is no reason to live. Depression has no cure, it can only be balanced by medication , and those who have it usually battle it throughout the course of their lives. If you feel depressed don’t hesitate to seek proper medical care, the deaths of these great men may have been prevented if they sought help for their condition. For non-emergency information on depression and bipolar disorder please visit the DBSA.
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