For those of you who bemoan the lack of “old time hockey” in today’s NHL as a code word for the crackdown on fighting (and I’m looking at you, Don Cherry), please read the following story: the HAMILTON SPECTATOR reports that Don Sanderson, a 21-year-old defenseman for the Whitby Dunlops of the Ontario Hockey Association has died from injuries suffered in an on-ice fight three weeks ago.
Sanderson, a rookie and student at York University, was fighting with Corey Fulton of the Brantford Blast during a game on Dec. 12 when his helmet came off. At the end of the fight, the two went tumbling, with Sanderson hitting his head on the hard ice below. He was unconscious for 30 seconds, briefly came to, and then lapsed into a coma from which he never recovered.
So now the CANWEST NEWS SERVICE is reporting that the police and the coroner’s office are investigating the circumstances surrounding Sanderson’s death. And the death has renewed calls for bannning fights from hockey (the OHA had a fairly strict rule that involved an automatic game misconduct for any player involved in a fight, which clearly wasn’t strict enough.)
However, a lot of people associated with hockey, such as OHA league president Mike Liang, can’t fully grasp the notion of hockey without fighting, as he told the NATIONAL POST:
“Depending on the severity of your actions or the number of occurrences by the player, the suspensions escalate to the point where the president of the Ontario Hockey Association will just eliminate you from play,” Laing said. “Fighting is certainly not condoned, but it’s part of the game in Canada. It does happen and sometimes it’s unavoidable.
“It was just a freak accident. At the end of most fights people end up on the ice, and that’s what happened. In this case, he hit his head on the ice and that’s what has caused the problems.”
While this was a freak incident to some extent, the bottom line is that hockey fights involve two large men pounding each other, on a sheet of rock-hard ice. (Or if you are Sidney Crosby, one man sucker punching another man.) It’s frankly a little shocking that this doesn’t happen more often.
You can tell me all you want about it being an “emotional” game, and how if you remove fighting you’ll get more dangerous stickwork. Baloney. Make any fight a minimum 20-game suspension, and you’ll see this type of stuff will stop ASAP.