February 2003
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Violence In Hockey
By Tanya Thomas, Grade 12, Holy Heart Of Mary High School, St. John's, NL

Don Cherry would be proud of today's generation. It seems to be every Canadian's dream to play hockey for Team Canada and wear the Maple Leaf on their jerseys. But what do we have to do to get to that level? Is hockey based on potential players also needing to depend on their fighting abilities?

Today, it seems that more and more often fighting is more important than skating, checking more important than scoring. Bloody noses more common than goals. How did hockey ever get to this level? Are we all so blood thirsty that we have come down to this level of unfair play?

NHL stars are seen as idols for minor hockey players all over Canada and the United States. Should children really look up to a person who would do anything for a win? Someone who is willing to paralyze someone else to get the Stanley Cup?

Today, a child's favorite hockey player is usually the biggest player on the team and the player who starts the most fights.

I've often been at a St. John's Leafs game and heard children say "Look Dad, there's my favorite player. He's a great fighter."

Children at this age see fighting as an asset to the game. Often times coaches encourage nine and ten year old children to hurt the best player on the other teams so they have a better chance to win.

These same children see hockey superstars earning millions of dollars a year, for being an instigator. Why wouldn't the children want to fight? They could be the future superstars getting paid millions to beat the life out of someone. They could lose a few teeth, but hey! what's the cost of a few caps compared to living on easy street.

What these children don't realize is that every year, professional hockey players are being forced into early retirement because they have hockey related injuries.

Last year, Donald Brashear was knocked out when Marty McSorley used his stick as a bat and hit Brashear over the head with it.

Brashear was unable to play for the remainder of the season. McSorley was given a short suspension. Should these kinds of actions be tolerated? Many spectators believe that it's all a part of the game. After all the reason that hockey players wear all of that equipment is because they know the sport is violent. Spectators pour into hockey rinks to see a few punches thrown and a bit of blood shed.

It's part of the game. The players deserve a few broken limbs to earn all of those millions.

The sad part is these injuries aren't only happening at the professional level. Last April, during an Ontario Hockey League (OHL) playoff game Boulerice did the same thing. He used his stick as a bat and hit his opponent cross the side of the head. Thankfully, in his case something was done about it. Boulerice was charged with assault to do great bodily harm less than murder.

He was suspended for a year. Boulerice's attorney, Jim Howarth, declared that because Boulerice was playing hockey when the incident occurred criminal charges ought not to apply. Many other hockey fans had the same belief. After all, would we arrest wrestlers for wrestling! The fact is, the law does recognize some behaviour on the ice as being illegal. If the behaviour is different than what is considered a normal part of the game, charges can be laid.

Intolerable levels of violence are happening at minor levels of hockey as well. In a Maritime Junior A Hockey League game, a player continuously beat another player after he was unconscious. Even referees are not safe from the violence. Referee Brian Carragher was beaten by several players on the Universite de Moncton Blue Eagles's hockey team. This demonstrates that players no longer have a respect for authority. If these players don't have consideration for the referees, how could we expect them to have consideration for each other. Hockey is feeding players with the thirst for blood.

What minor hockey players have to realize is that they don't need to fight to get ahead in hockey.

Wayne Gretzky was a player who had class. He didn't start fights and he wouldn't take part in a fight. Gretzky made it to the Hockey Hall of Fame without throwing a punch. However, can every player get to Gretzky's level without throwing a punch? Unfortunately not all players will be like Gretzky. Fighting is now considered a kind of entertainment for all hockey fans.

In my opinion videos such as Don Cherry's Rock'em Sock'em have provided an easy way for young players to learn to drop the gloves and really hurt the opponent. The pathetic part is these videos really draw an audience with the blood. Today it's not good enough to be a player.

Younger hockey players are learning that they have to be a fighter as well. Although we all know that this violence is dangerous, violence related injuries are becoming more frequent and players like Boulerice and Brachear are becoming more popular.

Somewhere along the line, someone threw a punch. This tradition has carried along. Sadly, it looks like it's going to continue.


I've taken the liberty of emailing this article to CKCO news as my son posed the question this weekend to us...."Where did the hockey players get their "get out of criminal prosecution" cards from....your article is awesome...nice work! We emailed CKCO sports director with our views on hockey in the news and a link to your article.....I'll post you his comments.......
Chris, Age 42, Sauble Beach



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