In light of the decision by the CJHL to institute the one-fight rule in Junior A hockey, we thought we would revisit a column the Times first ran on Jan. 3, 2012 by Tyler Olsen.
Concussions happen in hockey for a variety of reasons and can take a range of forms: severe or mild, recurring or isolated. But a couple things are certain: concussions are caused by blows to the head and multiple concussions can result in long-term brain damage.
Hockey, like most sports, carries with it a risk of concussions; but it's usually an acceptable risk. Physical activity is typically good for a person's physical and mental health. As a gym-hater, I'd probably weigh 300 pounds were it not for hockey or soccer. The inherent risk of concussions is thus acceptable to me.
Another undisputable fact: second-for-second, fighting-with its stress on repeatedly punching one's opponent in the (preferably helmetless) head-carries a much greater risk for concussions.
I used to like watching fights.
But as the consequences of hockey-related concussions have come to light, public entertainment no longer seems like a justifiable reason for allowing fighting in hockey.
And there is also little reason to believe the only other semi-plausible excuse-that fighting allows players to police themselves. The NHL playoffs feature few fights and some of that league's biggest cheap-shot artists never fight. It's like a criminal code that the worst offenders can simply opt out of.
But fighting remains entertaining for many, and professional and junior leagues continue to allow and sometimes even promote it.
Worst of all, for many young, underskilled hockey players, the fame and fortune of the NHL obscures the long-term damage that can result when a player tries to fight his way to the big leagues.
That's the most worrying part of fighting: that it provides an incentive for teenagers (a demographic known for its risk-taking ways) to jeopardize their future health in the name of fame and the public's love.
You can't really blame kids for not knowing better. But you can blame the adults who continue to facilitate such activities with the full-knowledge of the ramifications.
The BCHL deserves praise for its (relative) lack of complicity.
The number of fights in BCHL hockey games has been morethan halved since the Chiefs left Chilliwack in 2006. This year, the Chiefs do not employ a tough guy who seeks to impress scouts by fighting. Chilliwack players have accumulated just 13 fighting majors so far this season. The regular and pre-planned brain-bashing has been, if not eliminated, at least curtailed.
But the Western Hockey League that hockey fans watched last year deserves massive condemnation. The number of fights in that league hasn't changed in a decade, despite all the warning signs that something must be done-and despite other highlevel junior leagues' action. Last year's Chilliwack Bruins fought 90 times, with Tim Traber and Curt Gogol fighting 11 and 13 times respectively. Neither will ever be a skilled National Hockey League player. But both clearly seek to impress scouts with their fists.
For Gogol, it worked, earning the 20-year-old a spot on the San Jose Sharks's farm team, for whom he has already fought 12 times this year. Traber meanwhile, has scored once and fought nine more times this season. The Western Hockey League has allowed Traber to drop the gloves 29 times since 2009. And finally, in January, he will turn 19 and be legally allowed to drink in a bar.
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