Bishop ENG 1D1Wednesday January 17th 2018Fight or FlightBackgroundOn December twelfth, 2009 during the third period of a hockey game between the Brantford Blast and the Whitby Dunlops, twenty-one year old Don Sanderson lost his life due to a head injury from a hockey fight. Today, there is a lot of controversy over whether fighting should be allowed in the major hockey leagues like the Ontario Hockey League (OHL) and National Hockey League, (NHL) because of injuries sustained and their lasting effects on the players and their families. In the nineteenth century, when hockey was becoming a popular sport, fights started to occur more and more often and boomed in 1922 when the National Hockey League established a rule to formally regulate fights instead of just ejecting players that were involved in them.
This rule, also known as fifty-six, stated that the penalty for players who fought would be a five minute major penalty. This actually increased fights because instead of the players being kicked out of the game, their sentencing decreased significantly to only five minutes. In the 1970s, hockey teams started to draft enforcers who were tasked with the job of protecting their own teammates or physically assaulting the opposing teams’ players to gain an advantage over them, leading to regular fights.
Although rule fifty-six was established to try and discourage fighting, instead the opposite effect has occurred. In 2006, another attempt by the NHL was conducted to try to avoid the dangers of fighting so an extension to rule fifty-six was introduced and stated that, “the coach of a player who is deemed to be the instigator of an altercation… shall be fined $10,000… and will double for each subsequent incident” (NHL). Rules like these have dramatically helped reduce the number of hockey fights over the years in the major leagues. For example, “in the 2001-2002 NHL hockey season there were 803 fights and a 42% chance of having at least one fight per game, compared to the 2016-17 which had 372 fights and only a 25% percent chance of a fight during a game” (hockeyfights.com).
Banning fighting in hockey stems from realizing the danger of the serious injuries that the players could sustain. In the book, The Crazy Game, a biography by Clint Malarchuk about his life in major hockey leagues, Malarchuk specifically mentions a very serious fight between his team, the Quebec Nordiques, and the Montreal Canadiens, where his team mate, Jean Hamel, and another player got into an intense fight. The opposing team hit Hamel so hard that “the punch broke Hamel’s orbital bone, and the damage to his vision led to the end of his career” (Malarchuk 58). Malarchuk’s account of his friend Hamel’s career-ending injury definitely questions whether there are enough rules in major league hockey to control the physical arguments between players and prevent future alterations that lead to injuries like Hamel’s and reduce the chance of death from a hockey fight. Research Question In Clint’s biography, Clint talks many times about fights that he or his teammates have gotten into in major league hockey and some gruesome injuries that have resulted from them, “it was bloody” (Malarchuk 58). Examples like these make the reader ponder the question, should fighting be permitted in major league hockey at all? Many people insist that fighting in major league hockey should be banned and harsh penalties should be given to players that decide to engage in a fight. Those people support their belief with excellent examples such as, fighting is too dangerous and is not worth the risk of a career-ending injury, fighting may lead to traumatic brain injuries such as concussions that could lead to mental illness or death, fighting does not increase attendance to games or the clubs economic income, and finally fighting is a bad influence on people especially kids who play hockey or other sports. Data Analysis I personally believe that fighting in major league hockey should be banned entirely and major consequences should be given to players that decide to engage in a fight.
Today it is clear that trauma inflicted on the head such as a punch could cause a concussion. A person’s brain is like an egg yolk, they both float in an unfixed position surrounded by fluid in a hard surface. When aggressively shaken or hit hard by an impact they both receive damage but instead of breaking like the yolk the brain stays whole and bruises on the sides. The bruising is called a concussion and is “a traumatic brain injury that affects your brain function” (Mayoclinic).
According to CTVNews “hockey is linked to nearly half of brain injuries in Canada’s kid, teen athletes”(CTV) due to aggressive body contact. Therefore actual fighting with repeated hits to the head has been proven to lead to a concussion. New studies show that concussions are related to a brain condition called Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy (CTE) which is a “progressive degenerative disease of the brain found in people with a history of repetitive brain trauma” (researchCTEcentre).
CTE symptoms include, memory loss, confusion, impaired judgment, impulse control problems, aggression, depression, suicidality, parkinsonism, and eventually progressive dementia. Statistics show CTE is linked with as little as just one concussion and can develop anytime after a concussion occurs. In fact, nowadays CTE is considered so dangerous that Doctor Rajendra Kale wrote an article about it and called on all doctors to support a ban on all forms of intentional head trauma such as fighting and to endorse deterrent penalties for fighting in hockey. Cold, hard evidence of the debilitating effects of fights lies in the suicides of three NHL hockey enforcers (Derek Boogaard, Wade Belak, Rick Rypien) that suffered many head traumas linked to their jobs as enforcers because of the repeated fights, as many as sixty regular season fights in the case of Derek Boogaard, who was diagnosed with CTE.
This evidence alone should be enough to ban fighting in hockey but for some reason the major leagues turn a blind eye to the evidence and allow fighting to continue. One of the primary arguments of fans who would like to see fighting continue in hockey is if fighting was not a part of hockey less fans would attend games and the players, team and league would receive less money. On the contrary, over the last two decades the number of fights per hockey season have reduced while attendance has increased. In the 2001-2002 NHL season there was an average of about .65 fights per game with an average attendance of sixteen thousand fans watching each game live but in the 2015-2016 season there was an average of .
28 fights per game with an average attendance to live games of 18.5 thousand people. This evidence shows that even though fighting is down by almost 20% since the 2001-2002 NHL season the attendance has increased by around 2.3 thousand fans, about a 4 percent increase over the last 14 years and continues to grow by approximately .3% each year.
This argument is similar to 2008 when smoking was banned in most Canadian bars and restaurants, and it was predicted that less people would go to the restaurants and the businesses would lose money but instead the opposite occurred and more customers started going to restaurants and boosting the local economy. Hospital admissions for lung disease and heart attacks also went down. If the major hockey leagues such as the NHL would listen to the statistics and ban fighting, perhaps spectators who would not watch the game because they are opposed to fighting may start watching it and injuries such as concussions would decrease lowering the CTE diagnosis and preventing mental illness. This shows that the players, team and league will not lose money if fighting were banned.
In fact, they would actually generate more money if they banned fighting rather than allowing it. Fighting in hockey is not a profit maximizing strategy. Other studies might show different results but there has been an economic shift in the value of fighting. “Enforcers who win fights are paid a wage premium of $13 921 per fight compared to the wage premium of $10 930 per point scored, showing a $2,991 per fight incentive.
” (phpa). This wage bonus is negotiated with the professional hockey players association as part as the players contract. This shows that enforcers are paid more to fight than skilled players are to score points and every time a player fights the team loses almost 14 000 dollars that could have been used to score a goal with almost 3000 dollars left over. It seems the major hockey leagues sell physical play just as much as or more than skilled play such as scoring a point like an assist, and the league advertises fighting to try to offset the negative impact fighting has as a profit maximizing strategy. This is one of the few cases in which a league rule values the fans interest before players safety risking the short term and long term health of their players. Furthermore, fighting should be banned because it sets a bad example for teenagers who play hockey and sways them to think that fighting is okay even though it’s not. Hundreds of thousands of people including kids and teens watch major league hockey every day on television and will often witness intentional physical contact such as body checking, slashing and fights.
As well as witnessing players who are trying to intentionally hurt each other television viewers are also witnessing rowdy fans watching the game from the stands cheer and root for a certain player to win the altercation. For kids and young adults who participate in organized sports like hockey, witnessing the encouragement of fighting between players sets a bad example and sends a mixed message. With this message and without proper guidance kids will think it’s okay to hurt another player during sports and perhaps even outside of sports. This is especially dangerous because the human body is not fully developed until about twenty-five years of age. Therefore injuries like concussions to the brain may lead to medical conditions or CTE which could potentially ruin the affected person’s life if they are not able to heal properly or receive the proper care such as rehab that they may require. Conclusion Facts like these clearly illustrate why fighting should be banned in major league hockey and major consequences should be given to players that do decide to engage in a fight.
Moving forward hopefully there will be no need for rules like rule fifty six because hockey fighting will be banned entirely and the percentage of hockey fights per game will be zero. The fact is, hockey fighting is just too dangerous and it is not worth risking a professional hockey player’s career, health or life for altercations that could easily be solved by a referee. With any luck in the future, gruesome injuries like Jean Hamel’s and hockey related CTE diagnosis will decrease in major league hockey until eventually CTE will no longer be linked with hockey, and leagues will spend their teams’ budget on developing skill instead of physical aggression. With positive changes, parents will realize the optimistic message to young players about focusing on skill without aggression and carry this into adulthood. When fighting in hockey is finally banned, only then will twenty-one year old Don Sanderson’s death not be in vain. Works Cited”Concussion.” Mayo Clinic, Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research, 29 July 2017, www.
mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/concussion/symptoms-causes/syc-20355594. ESPN, ESPN Internet Ventures, www.espn.com/nhl/attendance.
“Frequently Asked Questions about CTE.” Frequently Asked Questions about CTE | CTE Center, www.bu.edu/cte/about/frequently-asked-questions/. Kale, Rajendra.
“Stop the violence and play hockey.” CMAJ, Canadian Medical Association Journal, 21 Feb. 2012, www.cmaj.ca/content/184/3/275.
“Kypreos, VandenBussche on concussions.” Sportsnet.ca, www.sportsnet.ca/hockey/nhl/kypreos-vandenbussche/. Malarchuk, Clint, and Dan Robson. The crazy game: how I survived in the crease and beyond. HarperCollins Publishers Ltd, 2015.
National hockey league official rules. 2015, www.nhl.com/nhl/en/v3/ext/rules/2015-2016-Interactive-rulebook.pdf.”NHL fight stats.” Hockeyfights.
com, 2018. “Null.” NHL.com, www.nhl.com/ice/page.htm?id=25010.
Ubelacker, Sheryl. “Hockey linked to nearly half of brain injuries in Canada’s kid, teen athletes.” CTVNews, 29 Mar. 2013, www.ctvnews.ca/health/health-headlines/hockey-linked-to-nearly-half-of-brain-injuries-in-canada-s-kid-teen-athletes-1.