Today was going to be about saluting the OHL for a couple of the rule changes they were going to put into effect for the 2011-2012 hockey season. Then it was going to be a soapbox entry about how the hockey needed to change now after the news of Wade Belak's passing.
But before this place joins the chorus wanting to see badly needed changes to hockey then I too must confess my own sins. See I am one of the dinosaurs who needs to "see the light" and realize just how damaging fighting is to the game and life itself.
I know all too well how fighting is the supposed "best way" for men to solve their personal problems. It was how I was raised by my father which I freely admit is my lame excuse to justify my actions.
Dad's solution to my coming home crying after being bullied was to tell me to take my baseball bat to school the next morning. His message was loud and clear that the only way to stop being the victim was to stand up for myself.
I had watched dear old dad break a guy's jaw with one punch and nobody dared mess with my father. If it worked for dad then it had to work for me right?
I will not sit here and lie that I did not enjoy seeing someone else being scared as I did. And the seal of approval from dad when he talked to the boy's dean was the icing on the cake.
Funny thing how things change when you go from prey to predator; people want to be your friend, girls like you more and even better people stopped picking on you. When it came to hockey, it was the only way for a slow fat short kid with no talent to get playing time even though I lost more fights than I won.
All that mattered was I was the tough guy who people did not mess with but everyone wanted to be friends with. Yea I was so cool with the black eyes or the messed up face.
Fighting is painful and you are not allowed to show pain or else that the "tough guy"image image does not work. So you take things for the pain which on the street tend to be the wrong things to take.
I can tell you how I know all too well what Derek Boogaard went though because I have my own demons thanks to addiction. Oh yea how cool it is to punish your body because you think you have to fight the world.
So when I read about Derek Boogaard, Rick Rypien and now Wade Belak while you folks are having trouble understanding why, there I am going that could have been me. What might bother you is that I use those guys dying from their diseases to remind me what I could wind up as.
I also know first hand why going for help is the hardest thing for a guy to do because they are afraid of being labeled whether it is "druggie" or "psycho case." I can tell you that it is a lot easier to find denial than it is to ask for help.
Even sadder is that even after getting clean and sober that it was cooler to show off the scars as badges of honor rather than admit how stupid I was. All because I thought fighting was the way to solve problems.
It does not work and honestly we do need to have this discussion about fighting just as badly as we do head shots. It should not have taken 3 guys dying like they did but it has and we have a responibility to the kids to do whatever we can to protect them from winding up like Boogaard and Co.
And even if the cost is acknowledging my own hypocrisy of using fight videos as part of telling the prospect's story then so be it. There will no longer be any more fight videos used to describe how a prospect played.
But we do need to address fighting especially at the junior level as friend Gregg Drinnan wrote the other day:
"Sooner, rather than later, junior hockey operators are going to realize that the evidence showing the destructiveness that can be caused by blows to the head continues to mount, and that they are going to have to act to get pugilism out of the game."
"In hockey, the powers-that-be are working to get checks to the head out of the game but, at the same time, if you are playing major junior or above in North America, you are allowed to punch an opponent in the head during a fight."
Neate Sager over at Buzzing the Net offered up the best argument against fighting after he published an article which started with a call to end fighting from Dr. Robert Cantu AKA the Sports Concussion Expert
That being said, one wonders how much longer fighting can exist in the Canadian Hockey League when the medical evidence and wider public awareness of a disease such as CTE each continue to mount. An outside factor such as the class-action suit former quarterback Jim McMahon and some of his contemporaries have brought against the NFL could also force various leagues' hand. There is a chicken-and-egg element to it, wondering if it would take the NHL to act first before its longest-standing feeder system takes decisive action. But saying the NHL permits fighting is not enough of a reason to justify having it in the CHL."
How do you get a kid to stop fighting when the main hockey highlights shown on ESPN are the fights? It is a mindset programmed into the NHL game that has to change not only among players but the fans and media too.
It is not a change that is going to happen overnight but it has to start sooner than later or the number of players dying is going to increase. We are less than 9 days from the start of Traverse City and we should be getting excited about the upcoming season not having to make sense of yet another player dying.
It was interesting today as before the word of Belak's passing took over was that the OHL introduced some rule changes that one has to say is a start towards fixing the game. The first is the decision that all OHL players will wear soft cap shoulder and elbow pads for the 2011-12 season.
The old style shoulder and elbow pads were made of hard plastic which protected the player but became a weapon since it did not protect the player getting hit by one. The goal of course is to reduce head injuries but we want to see harsh standards when it comes to suspensions.
In our book the quickest way to get players to stop going for the head is to suspend his coach along with the player. When you start costing a coach 10 game's pay you will see a zero tolerance for head shots from the coaches.
The OHL also is going to put an end to goalie fights as an automatic game misconduct and minimum two game suspension will be handed out to
any goalie who leaves their crease and gets into a fight. It is a start and hopefully we will see less fighting this season.
One last thing that needs to be said is make sure you tell those who mean the most to you that they do. Blink and they are gone before you get that chance so do not take for granted the hug you could have given or the hand you chould have shaken only takes a second but it can last a lifetime.
2 days ago