Stop the violence

I really don’t follow NHL hockey. Locally, I try to keep up with the season the Muskies are having and, to a certain extent, the Borderland Thunder. Both teams are supposed to be learning centres for area players to hone and develop their skills.
Earlier this year, I watched the first 10 minutes of a Borderland Thunder game. And within five minutes of the start of that game, players from both teams managed to get their sticks up to neck level and deliver a clear two-handed cross-check designed to decapitate the other player.
Each received a two-minute minor penalty.
I felt disgusted. I was told it was just getting even from the previous night’s play. Personally, I felt that both players should have been ejected from the game.
My cousin has two young sons playing in the minor hockey league in Fort Frances. Both are quite capable young athletes. The older has now moved up to the PeeWee league, where hitting is allowed. There is quite a range of size in the league as young boys wait to go through that amazing 12-year-old growth spurt.
The play changes from skating, passing, and shooting to hitting and taking the player out of the game. We begin the process of transforming the beauty of hockey to the terror of hockey.
One has to wonder why fathers who play in the liniment league, where contact is removed, are so eager to see their sons and daughters beat up beginning at the PeeWee level.
All last week, Canadians have seen the instant replay of the graduating award for the attack by Todd Bertuzzi on Steve Moore. We keep talking about the role models hockey stars can be. But the role models seen and praised on “Hockey Night in Canada” encourage the youth of the game to imitate the violence of the NHL.
No hockey league seems to be immune from violent payback. Listening to “Noon Hour Program” on CBC last Thursday, there was a comment that fighting is in hockey to help cool the passions of the game. “That it is necessary.”
Yet in basketball, where the passions of men run just as high as hockey, seldom does a fight break out. Soccer, football, and baseball all seem to have been able to eliminate fighting from the game.
Why can’t it happen in hockey?
Canucks general manager Brian Burke said the incident was “shameful.” He wasn’t referring to the hit by Bertuzzi, but rather the fine imposed on the club by the NHL. Every team has its “hit men” to deliver hits and take better opposing players out of the game.
It appears there even seems to be some vigilante justice condoned by the players, management, and league that would never be tolerated on the streets of any community. It is time to rein in that attitude.
Maybe that is where the game has to change. If hockey wants to clean itself up, all it has to do is toss any player that gets into a fight with a two-game suspension and fine to each of the teams.
And if they persist in additional fighting, then extend the suspensions and the fines to the clubs.
It will get their attention. It also may make it possible for smaller players with more talent to make it to the “big show.” And it may encourage minor hockey leagues to spend more time on fundamentals rather than on hitting.

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