The business of violence in the NHL – Time to Stop the Madness?

With the Olympics behind us and the NHL back in full swing, I was reflecting on how exciting it was to watch the 2014 Sochi Olympics hockey.

Of course as a Canadian, I loved it because I was proud of Team Canada’s men’s and woman’s team and their two gold medals.

 crosby-goal

But it was more that that. It was great hockey. I believe that one of the reasons was the focus on sport and the lack of violence. It was exciting, intense, fast… and clean.

Hockey Night in Canada was what I grew up on.  As a kid, it was the days of bench clearing brawls and I loved the fighting. But now as an adult and as a parent, I see things in a different light. Now, I also think of the impact this has on my kids who watch and play hockey.

Lets face it, violence is officially considered to be part of the game in NHL hockey. I’m not sure if you can find it in any of the NHL’s official rule books, but the facts are clear:

  • Teams hire players with limited hockey talent but who are good fighters
  • Players are allowed to fight for a period of time before being stopped even though there are 2 referees standing right beside them
  • And NHL14 for XBOX and Playstation include fighting as part of their hockey video games for kids

It amazes me that when a fight breaks out during an NHL game, many fans are up on their feet with smiles and expressions of enjoyment on their faces.

In a Globe & Mail article this year, neurosurgeon Dr. Michael Cusimano states that this “type of response to violence in hockey tells our children that fighting in sports is not just okay, but good. It sends kids a very powerful message that violence in the way to get what you want.” Cusimano goes on to note that “there are 60,000 to 70,000 hockey-related concussions in Canada altogether every year.

Why did violence become part of hockey? Is this sport? This type of behavior is not tolerated in any other sport, amateur or professional and it is clearly is not tolerated in society. Can you imagine two people spontaneously breaking out fighting on the street with two policemen standing beside them allowing them to fight while onlookers cheer them on? This type of fighting does not happen in the NFL, the NBA, the MLB or at Wimbledon. Yet in hockey, it seems that the league and the teams are not only willing to accept violence but they embrace it.

Why? Well I am guessing it’s good business. Let’s give the crowd what they want. But why is it other major professional sports leagues seem to be able to make substantial profits without violence yet the NHL seems to feel it is needed to make money.

Brooks Orpik

What will it take to reverse this trend? How many injuries or deaths have to happen in the NHL? How many injuries or deaths in minor league hockey?

In his Hockey News article last year, Ken Campbell talks about the NHL’s “culture of violence” and accused that “the NHL is a complete coward when it comes to standing up to these miscreants, we have to have fighting”.

I could get used to watching the caliber of hockey that I saw in the 2014 Sochi Olympics. I dream of the day when those that have the power to make this occur in the NHL come to their senses.

Sadly, this day is unlikely to occur until the cost of violence puts a significant dent in the league’s and the team’s profits. According to a National Post article in January by Joseph Brean, violence is already costing the NHL over $200-million a year. Is this still not enough? Will it take the fans refusing to buy tickets to games or watch on TV unless hockey becomes a sport again and not “Gladiator Night in Canada”?

Watch this, I mean really, watch it. Is this hockey?

As Vancouver and Calgary are set to face off against each other again tonight can we expect a repeat to their January 18th game?

So let’s hear it for the IOC and the spectacular hockey at the Sochi Olympics. Let’s call  on Gary Bettman and the NHL  to up their game and strive for the same level of excellence. It’s time to “Stop the Madness” and to eliminate violence in the NHL.

After all, it’s all about sport….Isn’t it?

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