Dave Banks with Wired magazine posted an open letter to the NHL, commenting on the level of violence displayed in the most recent games, but also showcasing the deterioration of the sport over time. It’s a great letter; read it.
As expected, it gets a flurry on online comments of both supportive and opposing viewpoints. It’s a familiar discussion; one that hockey fans—truly dedicated and bandwagon jumpers—have been having for years. After all, as a Canadian, hockey is in our blood. No question, though; hockey brings out the Neanderthals in droves.
People still argue that fighting and violence is simply part of the sport; always has been. They claim that it’s a rough game and it’s what spectators want, so those who suggest otherwise should stay out of the discussion. The insinuation that because we oppose the violence we clearly have no experience with the game is a weak argument, and often outright wrong.
However, the most disturbing comments are the ones that belittle parents, suggesting we also turn off the evening news, bubble wrap our “precious little snowflakes”, and pretend that war doesn’t occur, all to protect our children from the evil horror stories of the real world. One person said hockey violence teaches children that life is unfair. This is as silly as it is insulting. These people are bullies.
There is a huge difference between true chaos and violence (to which we also limit our young children’s exposure) and the goon’d up manufactured violence that is taking over as sports entertainment. The following was my comment on the Wired post, and it serves well here, too:
Hockey is an exciting, physical sport. It moves at a fast pace, demanding individual skill and teamwork with quick changes from offense to defense and back again. Contact is part of the sport—an inevitable part of the game—and the players are trained how to use their whole body during plays.
But there is a huge difference between the skill of body-checking and the violence we are witnessing today. The all-out assault on players isn’t the sport; it’s a determined effort to debilitate the opponent to weaken their capacity. And it’s gone too far. Highly skilled players—players who showcase the best of hockey skills—are being sidelined with potentially life changing injuries at the expense of those who insist that blind aggression is “just part of the game”. The violence is not teaching kids that life can be unfair; it’s teaching them that life is dangerous, and raw violence—not skills—will be celebrated.
Yes. Parents want to protect children from evils of the world. We also want to make sure our kids are able to see the sport played well, played fairly and played hard by some of the best in the world. Hockey is a tough game, but it’s not an evil game. Violent retaliation isn’t part of the sport. Fighting isn’t part of the sport, no matter how many times you say it. (end)
Being involved with minor hockey as a young boy, and now as a dad, I am witness to more than my share of the sheer stupidity of parent (both moms & dads, friends & fans) who celebrate the violence with more enthusiasm than they do for a strong play. It’s to the point that those involved with teams are required to take special training to address the issue. The game is amazing, but the raw violence has gotten out of hand. Sport is not a war; the goal isn’t to wipe out the opponent. The point is to out-play the opponent today, and try to do it again tomorrow.
I know the business argument of professional sports clouds the issue. NHL hockey is sport as entertainment, and the revenues rule decisions. But the ‘stay-out-of-my-sport-if-you-don’t-like-it’ goon mentality is selfish and myopic, not to mention naive. Beyond an economic driver, sport serves a role in community and society. We owe it to our children to protect the skill and excellence of a game well played from the lowest common denominator of violence as a means-to-an-end in any situation, where only the winner walks away.
We owe this to our kids at every level of the game, from Timbits™ to All-Stars. We’re not only protecting the game, we just might be protecting their lives.