December 15, 2008

Latest Fighting Injury another Warning for NHL: It was a hockey fight that started the way thousands of others have over the years, but it ended with a 21-year-old fighting for his life in a Hamilton hospital. Because of a hockey fight, the parents of Don Sanderson of the Whitby Dunlops are sitting by their son's bed wondering when, or if, their son is ever going to wake up. After one surgery and some 60 hours after his fight with Corey Fulton of the Brantford Blast last Friday night, Sanderson was still in a coma. "It was nothing....just a tussle,"..."Under normal circumstances, the 2 guys would have just skated away."

posted by tommytrump to hockey at 10:30 PM - 8 comments

Very sad tale:( Not much else to add. I just think of the idiots out there who say how barbaric and dangerous MMA is, and yet it seems Hockey is far bloodier. I can certainly, off the top of my head, think of far more hockey players who've suffered serious injury than MMA fighters.

I realise this isn't really relevant, but I'm tired, I've had a long day, and after the great story the other day about hockey, it's depressing to read this, and I have a major Japanese MMA viewing session in my future and it got me thinking about Hockey and MMA.

We now return you to your regularly scheduled... Stuff.

posted by Drood at 01:33 AM on December 16, 2008

Not sure I really follow the logic or point of this piece, at least as it pertains to the NHL angle. Because some kid tragically was injured (potentially fatally) in a fight in a semi-pro league (and one that ejects players for fighting no less), the NHL should do what exactly? Suspend players for fighting? Fine them in a way that will truly hurt their pocketbooks? All I see here is that this should serve as a wake-up call to the NHL, but without any suggestion of what the NHL should do and whether we can or should really drive NHL policy based on a freak occurrence in a league that bears little relation to the NHL.

I'm not sure what prescriptive/predictive value this incident has for the NHL. This type of injury is arguably more likely to happen in lesser leagues, with less skilled players. I appreciate that NHL players are stronger, faster, etc., but they are also better balanced and perhaps, accordingly, less likely to take a fall of the kind this player in the Ontario league did. I think it's probably more likely that an NHL player would die as a result of a hit or other action that takes place in the run of play than in a fight.

posted by holden at 09:44 AM on December 16, 2008

Invariably, serious injury A leads to some people thinking Sport B should finally deal with situation C. League B knows that a single incident doesn't warrant a change, but for PR reasons it leads them to introduce resolution D, which deals with situation C in its most severe cases but rarely gets implemented.

Analysts are usually split 50/50 with those who actually played being against resolution D and armchair analysts being for it.

Repeat until infinity. I hope the kid gets better.

posted by dfleming at 11:20 AM on December 16, 2008

Ice is a slippery, hard surface, and playing a fast-paced game on it which involves elements of violence can be very dangerous. (I've still got bits of bone floating around both elbows as a memento of my playing days.) This accident is tragic and sad, but it is not going to be the proverbial straw that broke the camel's back when it comes to fighting in hockey. It is a firmly entrenched part of the game, and most people who know hockey acknowledge at least some value from it. Even those who scream for fighting's abolition realize why the sport has clung to it for so long.

Almost every person who fights in a hockey game chooses to do so, just like a boxer or MMA fighter chooses to fight. It's a tough way to make a living, but they do it to remain relevant in the game they love. They understand that there are risks to being a team's "enforcer" and I'm sure most of them would recognize that there is always a chance to slip and hit your head on that hard surface. This young man, unfortunate as he was, most likely entered that fight with the knowledge that he could get hurt. He probably would never have dreamed that the injury would be so severe, but life is full of tragic one-in-a-million tragedies. I hope he recovers, and yes, I hope the knowledge of this incident deters a few fights in the future. I don't like to watch the fights in hockey, they bore me. But I hope it doesn't encourage the NHL to do anything rash like banning fighting altogether.

posted by tahoemoj at 12:45 PM on December 16, 2008

I don't think it's unreasonable to say player conduct at the top level of any sport influences player conduct in minor leagues or even amateur and youth matches, occasionally with disastrous results. Top athletes can give and take a lot more than anyone else -- they're like real-life Indiana Joneses -- and just as it would be foolish for most of us to try outrunning rolling boulders and dodging whistling blowgun darts, playing like the big boys can lead to catastrophe.

In the wake of a truly sad and unfortunate accident like this, a natural and human reaction is to try to prevent something like this from ever happening again. But accidents are unpreventable, particularly on the ice.

The only way to become a pro is to play like one. That puts less skilled players at more risk. At the same time, the NHL has rules against fighting that are enforced, and deters many a donnybrook that way.

It seems strange to me that I can think a death caused by a fight in a sport is accidental, but there's no intent to kill, even in bloodsports. Maybe fighting without murderous intent should be discouraged everywhere, as it may result in murder regardless of intent.

I felt so sure of myself when I started to comment, but now I don't know. Sad story.

posted by Hugh Janus at 01:06 PM on December 16, 2008

You can't get rid of fighting in sports, especially a sport as intense and physical as hockey. Emotions run high, tempers flair, fights's a logical progression. I honestly don't know why there aren't more fights during the playoffs, since the pressure is amped up a thousandfold. Get rid of the stickwork, the hooking, the holding, the real interference, lay out to referees what is a penalty and what isn't. Black and white...miniscule gray areas. Make them call penalties consistently, so that what is a penalty on Monday is a penalty on Friday, and what is a penalty in the 1st period is a penalty in overtime. Hold those refs to a standard, and get rid of the ones that don't measure up. We don't need new rules...enforce the ones in place.And for God's sake, get rid of the stanchion-less glass that is like a wall of death around the rinks. Standardize ice conditions, and come down on teams that can't meet those standards. Relocate them if you have to. I would guarantee a significant drop in injuries in the NHL, and as a trickle-down result, hockey as a whole.

Yes, this story is tragic. I feel bad for the kid, his family, his team, and the poor sap that caused the injury. I'll being pulling for him to make a full recovery. But major injuries are rare in a hockey fight. The kneejerk reaction is to ban fighting instantly, but you won't solve the "problem" any more than you can stop flooding by banning rain.

posted by MeatSaber at 04:40 PM on December 16, 2008

I played hockey when I was younger here in the States and I was originally born in Central Europe where our hockey is one of the best in the world, etc..., and yes, the violence is part of the game.

I have played other sports, especially soccer as well for many years.

I believe violence is inherent in our human genes...

But I also believe we have the intelligence to do away with violence and replace it with artistic athletic skill, which is just as entertaining as violence, and even more so.

My mission today as a coach and technical soccer trainer is to create a soccer team where all members will abstain from any sort of violence, but will be trained to master the soccer ball and the soccer game, and they will be just as entertaining to watch, even without the violence.

I hope the young hockey player in this story who is clinging to life will survive; he is just another victim of our violent prone society.

posted by phason at 01:49 AM on December 17, 2008

It is a tragic shame, but you will never be able to outlaw fighting. Also, given the world we live in, how many attorneys are lining outside his room?

posted by jjzucal at 04:47 PM on December 17, 2008

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