Now, I will be the first to admit that when a fight breaks out, or even players are ‘jawing’ back and forth with one another, I’m one of the first fans on my feet. I love a good scrap. One of my favorite moments from last season was the knockout that Ryan Reaves handed Los Angeles Kings forward, Kyle Clifford. You can watch that scrap right here.
Some of my favorite players growing up were enforcers. Tony Twist, Tie Domi, and Wade Belak. These guys could not only fight, but they were entertaining off the ice. These guys could also play hockey. Well, for the most part.
The recent death to Wade Belak hit pretty hard for me as he’s a guy I watched as much as I could when he was playing in Toronto. When he ended up in Nashville, I got to watch some pretty interesting tilts between him and Cam Janssen. Yet, all of that doesn’t mean anything if it’s putting these players life at risk.
Now I’m not going to site here and advocate for people for or against fighting. I have a mixed opinion about it in our sport. The fact that Derek Boogaard (mixture of pain medication and alcohol), Rick Rypien (suicide) and Wade Belak (suicide) have passed away in the last four months, and all of which were enforcers in the National Hockey League, it opens your eyes on it.
I see things this way, one time,occurrence. Two times, coincidence. Three times, trend.
Now, I’m not saying all of this leads to fighting in general, but lets be honest here. In most games these players played, the fought, they swung their fists and pummeled opponents, all the while being struck in the head with other peoples fists. Not an easy job to have.
Pain killers are almost a sure thing for these fighters to have. Constant abuse to their bodies by fighting can cause major damage to these players. Mixed with alcohol incorrectly and we have a Derek Boogaard situation. Boogaard had the wrong mixture of oxycodone and alcohol which resulted in the players death.
Another instance to look at is the depression that Rick Rypien went through which resulted in the suicide. Or whatever Wade Belak had been fighting which resulted in his suicide.
Fighting in hockey may not be the direct cause of it, but is that much abuse, mixed with pain medication, a potential cause for depression? Certainly something that needs to be looked into for the future.
Like I said, I’m not one who will argue taking fighting out nor will I defend the use of enforcers. So lets propose a new rule. One taken from the Swedish Elite League.
If you drop your gloves in a fight, you automatically get suspended. Make it a two game suspension, then four game, then continue to tack on time for each fight a player is involved in. This will technically allow fighting, and remove the need of enforcers in our sport. Players can still police themselves and come to the defense of another player, yet there is more consequences for their actions.
In a part of this, however, the NHL would also need to HEAVILY crack down on cheap shots in the game. A blow to the head, whether intentional or not results in an automatic game misconduct. Enforce the rules and tighten down on the discipline side of the game, we’ll see less fights while not removing them entirely.
There will be many who are for this idea, and many who are against it. There are always two views to fighting and there will always be a fine line between what’s right and whats wrong. We have to judge for ourselves what the answer is, but if it is going to save a few more lives, it’s an easy decision for me.
To Derek’s, Rick’s, and Wade’s families and friends, I pray you can have closure with your losses. To Derek, Rick and Wade, rest in peace boys. You’ll never be forgotten.
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