For the Sake of the GamePosted: January 2, 2009
Note to all the Canadian Major Junior Hockey Associations, NHL Board of Governors and Player’s Association – please do not allow Don Sanderson’s death to be in vain.
Yes, the incident at the end of the hockey fight on December 12th that ended in Sanderson’s head striking the ice and putting him in a coma was an accident. It was the result of two consenting players engaging in a hockey tradition that was formally introduced as rule 56 in 1922. The rule permitted the assessment of a five-minute penalty for fisticuffs instead of automatic expulsion from the game.
Of course no one intended for this tragic event to happen, just as no one intended that Steve Moore’s neck would snap after the ‘code’ of retribution had been enforced by the Vancouver Canucks and Todd Bertuzzi on March 8, 2004, as it has by countless hockey teams in answer to past transgressions.
To those hockey fight ‘purists’ who think that stick infractions and ‘head-shots’ will only increase if fighting is banned from the sport – think again.
If hockey fighting is banned outright in the NHL and other North American hockey leagues, yes illegal stick use and head-shots may likely increase for a time, but if the NHL and major junior leagues crack down on them as consistently and effectively as they have with holding and hooking during the past couple of years – they too will go the way of the tube skate..
Fighting is not tolerated in any other professional team sport in the world and players who choose to fight are ejected.
People are more than willing to pay good money to see fight-free hockey that still includes superior skating and puck handling skills as well as hard, legal body-checking. The recent attendance record set at the World Junior Hockey Tournament in Ottawa attests to this fact.
For the sake of all North American hockey players and their families and before someone else dies tragically as the result of a primitive, outdated rule, someone with courage and authority please stand up and lead the charge to ban this antiquated, unnecessary and bloody ritual.
Photo Credit: Northern Lights Photography