Black Mark

Considering things, it seems a bit odd that I rarely blog about hockey matters, but the time has come to go public with a certain sentiment.

I was just watching OTR on TSN – a program that I do not generally enjoy, or watch for that matter. However, I was flipping channels when I noticed a somber mood in the shows intro. Michael Sanderson, father of recently deceased Don Sanderson, was being interviewed. I have been around the game for a long time, and known many people who have been around the game even longer, and involved even deeper, but this man’s words about where we should go with fighting were the first I’ve heard to echo my own thoughts exactly.

Fighting no longer belongs in hockey. Mr. Sanderson outright said that it cannot be banned, and that there will never be a way to completely eliminate it. However, for the good of the game, and the decency to recognize where our culture and values need to go, we should make the consequences match the disgrace that is the choice to fight. Even when a player feels he has to, and I’ll sadly agree that there are situations where a player does feel this need – real or not it is felt – it is still a disgrace. I do not feel there is much argument that needs to be made that it is a black mark on the game. Some of the key characteristics of hockey are speed, safe physical play, scoring, tactics, intensity, determination, intelligence. Fighting actually detracts from these. Fighting is a one-on-one confrontation taking away from a team game requiring cooperation in order to compete. For those who say it is a part of the game, and “necessary”, there are three easily observable points:

-the consistently best teams in modern hockey rarely fight (Detroit, San Jose).
-fighting practically disappears come play-off time, and play-offs are commonly referred to as the best hockey.
-the World Junior Hockey Tournament is one of the most watched sporting events in all of hockey crazed Canada. In this tournament fighting results in expulsion and is rarely, if ever, seen.

Expulsions, fines, extra penalities to be served by other players, more rules around equipment – these are all measures that just seem like common sense. There are many quick responses to these suggested changes including: increased stick-work would result, entertainment value drops, self-policing is necessary, and others. Quite frankly I am tired of these arguments. They seem to me to be nothing more than weak offerings to avoid making the difficult, and probably unpopular decision, of instituting and enforcing  heavy penalties for fighting. Just because something is difficult, or unpopular, is not reasons enough to avoid it, especially when sense leads one to see that it is the only right thing to do. Just because it might have been socially acceptable at a different time, does not make it right at this point in time. When we try to grasp to outdated social norms that are simply wrong, just because they are comfortable, we appear foolish and prejudice. Doing what is right means thinking about where we are at right now.

Fighting’s time in hockey is passed. Unfortunatley it was too late for Don Sanderson.

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