Violence that results in serious injury should never be referred to an unfortunate accident, nor should any player who participates in a fight make any such excuse to dismiss another player’s hospitalization or career threatening injury. A fight serves no other purpose than to inflict pain and injury to anyone involved.
That being said, Nationally televised ‘Hockey’ is nothing more than Sports Entertainment and should never be considered the best example of what the actual sport is about or how it is played, but unfortunately it is the only one the majority of our youth is exposed to.
As an exercise for myself today I pulled out a standard ‘Workplace Accident Report’ and began filling it out using a Hockey Fight I witnessed last night, one that resulted in a player being removed via stretcher and sent to a local hospital. With over fifteen years in Operations, I have had the misfortune of filling out such paper work on a pretty regular basis, but never has one ever had such a disregard for Human Safety or a complete ignorance of Common Sense. I suggest you try to fill one out yourself.
To begin with, there is no reason players cannot continue to wear the full face shields they were raised with, playing without one is both ignorant and arrogant, and this recent injury would have been avoided with shield in place. Secondly if fighting was actually an accepted ‘part of the game’ it would need to take place during play and within the whistles. Stopping play for a fight makes it a sideshow, thus the creation of Sports & Entertainment.
Last night’s fight in question, was the second one of the game for each combatant, this would make one wonder if the ‘penalty’ for the first one was harsh enough to dissuade this behaviour or was it lenient enough to further encourage it for ratings?
As this event unfolded on the television in my own home, it was met with the usual chants of ‘Fight, Fight’ to encourage everyone to come running and see, but now as I reflect on it I become further confused as to what I could have perceived as a possible outcome. Two men squared off to punch each other in the head, yet we all sat there saddened by a horrific injury as a result. What would have been a positive outcome?
If a streaker was to jump the boards and run across the ice, television cameras would quickly pan away deeming it unsuitable for their viewers, yet not a problem with public displays of brutality. The main thing to remember is that fighting is not going to go away anytime soon, it is far to lucrative financially for the Leagues and their Board of Directors, however what can change is the average viewer’s perception of what is only one brand of Hockey.
Women’s Hockey for one has always been on the forefront of this challenge, as dictated by the rules. The continued use of face shields and zero tolerance for fighting has preserved the actual ‘Game’ of Hockey for all those young girls and women who play. This is extremely important to not only make the game safer but also more accessible to anyone who wishes to play.
When I tell people that my ten year old daughter plays hockey at a high level you can almost visualize what they are picturing in their head, and that is unfortunate. Yes the game is fast and aggressive, but it is more about the skill and beauty, teamwork and dedication. There are no line brawls, no fights, and stretchers are only required for what are actual ‘unfortunate accidents.’
The added violence and brutality has been only one evolution of the Game, but the true purity of the Sports intention is carried on by the courageous and dedicated girls and women whose registration continues to grow at an inspiring rate. There is always going to be a market for the bloodthirsty version, but for those who consider themselves Hockey Fans I can only urge you to look outside the TV and walk down to your local arena to see where a Game is actually being played instead of a Branded Product being promoted.
Televised Hockey can only give you what they think you should pay for; violence and mayhem are quick sells to masses, but to truly view the beauty of Hockey you can either change channels between whistles or switch brands, and there is a lot more to choose from.