Thursday, October 13, 2011

Can't Ban Fighting

If we are going to continue the debate over the issue of fighting in hockey, can we at least frame it properly?  Everyone should stop saying there is a movement to "ban" fighting in hockey".  There will always be fighting in hockey.  The only thing that will change is the penalty.

Right now fighting is not permitted in baseball, basketball, football, rugby, motor racing etc, etc.  Yet in all those sports there are fights.

In hockey there will always be fights, but instead of getting a 5 minute fighting major, a player would get an automatic game ejection or more.  Not a ban but rather just a different, more harsh penalty.  There is only one way to ban fighting in hockey.  If anyone ever gets in a fight,  they are banned from ever playing again at any level in any recognized league.  Now that is a ban!  That will also never happen.

I am all for getting the designated fighters out of the game.  The very few guys who serve no other purpose.  There is no need for a rule about that though.  It is happening by itself.  Very few teams can afford to use a roster spot for a player who has no skill other than fighting,

Hockey is a dangerous sport and everyone who plays at the pro level knows that or should know that.  If they don't want to accept the risks then don't cash the cheques and look for something else to do.

I do not believe that everyone who fights in the NHL is more or less prone to addiction or depression.  I don't believe the internal turmoil from having to do that job creates more or less addicts or mental health issues.  I asked a former NHLer if the guys he knew who had been fighters seemed like they might have had the kind of personality which might lead to addiction or mental health issues even if they hadn't been in the NHL and his answer was "yes, I suppose so". 

There are also far more cases of players past and present in the NHL with addiction and mental health issues who were not fighters.  Maybe just maybe, the percentage of NHL players prone to those 2 problems are exactly the same percentage as the rest of the general public.  That's right,  I am contending that NHL players are just as human as the rest of us and no more or less at risk than anyone else.  I know, its a novel idea.

There are far more cases of injury, death, drug and alcohol addiction and mental health issues in many other jobs but we don't seem to care about that because there are no trading cards for crab fishermen or farmers or oil drillers.

I am all for serious discussion about fighting in hockey and safety.  Every player should have to meet regularly with the team psychologist just like they have to see the team doctor and dentist on a regular basis.  But this idea that hockey can be made completely safe is completely delusional.

Hockey is the fastest non-motorized team sport in the world.  It is fuelled by 90% emotion.  Unless the penalty for fighting becomes a lifetime ban,  there will always be fights.  No one is holding a gun to any ones head.  If a player cant live with the risk,  try another line of work.

See you are the rink.

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