/Ban dangerous hockey violence

Ban dangerous hockey violence

From Shaman’s Rock

by Jim Poling Sr.

The fighting in hockey debate is raging again, intensified by a recent ugly Pacific Junior Hockey League brawl.

A player grabbed an opposing team’s goaltender in a guillotine choke, causing him to pass out and collapse onto the ice. The goalie’s team said he suffered a severe injury but was recovering at home.

The league has said it is investigating the incident.

Choking someone is a criminal offence and B.C.’s health minister has said “criminal actions need to be taken care of by criminal processes,” regardless of where they occur. Police have said they are not investigating the incident.

Meanwhile, hockey fights are increasing. Certainly in the NHL.

It’s difficult to confirm accurate figures for the number of NHL fights each season.

However, ProCon Encyclopedia Britannica reports that in the early 1960s there was a fight in 20 per cent of all NHL games.

That percentage grew to 100 in the 1980s but started to fall dramatically in the 1990s after the league instituted a major penalty for instigating a fight. Various sources say the current percentage is 17 to 20, but I believe it’s much higher.

There have been 97 fights in 368 games during the first quarter of the current NHL season. My math shows that’s roughly 27 per cent.

If the current fighting rate continues, this season will end having seen 345 fights, an increase of 11 over last year.

Fighting remains in the junior leagues despite efforts to eliminate it. Hockeyfights.com reports that in the first quarter of this season the Western Hockey League had 119 fights and the Ontario Hockey League 75.

The Quebec Major Junior Hockey League had only eight fights during the first quarter after introducing game suspensions for fighting.

When polled, many fans favour banning fighting in hockey. They believe it takes away from the skills and speed of the game, glorifies violence and causes serious injuries. It shows lack of discipline and self-control.

Many others, however, say fighting makes the game safer by holding players accountable. They say fighting is a deterrent to hurting star players because aggressors know there will be payback.

A main argument favouring hockey fighting is that it adds entertainment value and brings more fans to the rinks. In other words, fighting brings in more money.

Another argument supporting fighting is that allowing players to fight lessens the likelihood of more dangerous play. Fighting lets players let go of frustrations that otherwise might make them dish out dirty hits, severe boarding, slashing or other dangerous retaliations.

No matter how you feel about fighting in hockey one thing is clear: there is still too much dangerous violence in the game. That Pacific League chokehold incident is an example. So is the incident at the end of last Saturday’s Toronto Maple Leafs’-Ottawa Senators game.

Toronto had pulled its goalie when Senators’ Ridly Greig got a breakaway and took a hard slapshot into the empty net. Some players and fans saw the slapshot as unnecessary and a show of disrespect.

Leafs’ Morgan Rielly apparently did. He chased Greig then cross-checked him across the head, starting a game-ending fight.

A cross-check to the head can cause serious injury and Rielly faces a possible lengthy playing suspension. Hopefully he will get one. That type of dangerous violence should never be tolerated.

Especially disturbing is the Leafs’ reaction to the incident. Leafs’ coach Sheldon Keefe and some players supported Rielly.

“I thought (Rielly’s reaction) was appropriate,” Leafs’ coach Sheldon Keefe told reporters. “He’s reacting to a play. Their player has the right to react in that moment, and our players have the right to react. That’s the emotion of the game.”

Sorry, Sheldon, no player has “the right” to lay that kind of dangerous violence on another. Shots to the head are never appropriate. Not for any reason.

That type of thinking is going to ruin our national game. We need to get rid of it, and the people who continue to advocate it.

It’s bad enough that Keefe is leading the Leafs through another season of misery. Now he’s promoting violence that risks the health, safety and careers of players.