dropping the gloves in hockey

Every once in a while there will be a hot topic in hockey that I will throw my two cents in on, and while I had heard about this story before, I was sent this link by Professor Matson http://www.nytimes.com/2009/01/20/sports/hockey/20hockey.html. It is the story of a 21 year old, Don Sanderson, playing amateur hockey in Ontario.  He died after being in a coma for three weeks as a result of a fight between he and another player in which his head hit the ice.  This has sparked great debate among all levels of hockey and throughout the media as to whether or not fighting should be permitted.  I have to chuckle to myself sometimes when I hear students around campus or other fans of college hockey comment on the “fights” during the game on the weekend.  In college hockey you are not allowed to fight and pushing and shoving with your gloves and a full face mask on does not constitute a fight.  I recently attended a New Jersey Devils game in New Jersey versus their arch-rival, the Rangers with my girlfriend.  In the opening minutes two of the players squared off, throwing their gloves to the side and circling each other preparing to duke it out, to the horror of my girlfriend who had never seen such a thing.  Not one person in that rink was sitting down, nor were they for the other three fights that occurred during the game.  Fighting in hockey is something that is part of the game.  Every team has their “fighter” who goes out when applicable to fight for many different reasons, to get his team some momentum, to energize the crowd, or to protect one of his teammates that might have been picked on.  It is the code of the game, and everyone adheres to it with no objections.  There is no love lost between the two combatants, they are merely doing the job that they are paid to do.  Unfortunately, at the end Don Sanderson’s fight he ended up hitting his head on the ice which resulted in his death.  This event should be used to look at possible ways of preventing it in the future, maybe stopping a fight if a players helmet comes off.  But to abolish fighting completely would be a drastic over reaction to something that has been part of the game since it was born.

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4 Responses to “dropping the gloves in hockey”

  1. So do you think college hockey is lacking a bit since fighting is banned? Has it hurt the game or is it just a different game at the college level? I’m also curious about whether or not they ban fighting at the high school level? Or does it vary state by state, etc.

  2. inthecreasewiththiess Says:

    I don’t think that the NCAA would ever allow fighting in hockey in order to keep it’s image clean. I would favor the move as fighting puts some fear into players and would limit some dirty play because they know that their actions will have to be answered to. I think in the college game you get some of that extra curricular stick work, scrums in front of the net etc. because of that and it could eliminate it with the introduction of fighting. Being from Canada we do not play high school hockey so I’m just assuming that fighting is probably not allowed in high schools here in the U.S. In all the junior leagues in Canada, and the ones in the U.S. that I know of fighting is allowed. The ages span from 16-20 in those leagues.

  3. Spoken like a true Canadian! I think fighting in hockey is one of the most misunderstood parts of the sport, its not supposed to be violent, its honoring the code. The code is so important in hockey, and there are lots of rules that no one really knows when they got there start, yet are integral parts of the game none the less.

    Its protecting your goalie, its protecting your teammates, its protecting your honor. Fighting is to send a message, not to maul someone.

    Incredibly misunderstood…

  4. Brendan O'Dowd Says:

    This is definitely a topic that has come up a lot lately, and for good reason. An interesting point is that I have never heard a single hockey player say they were against fighting. Some may not enjoy that it has a role in the game, but they respect it and understand that they have to answer for their actions. I see a lot of the same things that you do Brad at the college level, and I think that the NCAA would never allow it, but fighting should be allowed in all non-high school or non-youth leagues.

    I also keep hearing about the helmet situation – if a player’s helmet ever comes off during or is taken off when the two players square up, every effort should be made to stop the fight immediately. However, in the first case, this does pose some risk of harm to linesmen or referees and I’m not sure how to handle that. Also, no players with visors should be allowed to go.

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