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January 10, 2009

Banning Hockey Fighting in Canada

CANADA/ENTERTAINMENT - Isn't it time we banned hockey fights in Canada?

The kind of behaviour we allow in hockey fighting isn't allowed anywhere else. If a person suddenly picked a fight in for example the lineup at Tim Hortons, they'd be charged with assault.

The recent hockey fight that led to Whitby Dunlops player Don Sanderson's hospitalization and death wasn't anything out of the ordinary in hockey terms: no more than a few exchanged punches, a lost helmet, and a fall to the ice. It wouldn't even get more than a 4.0 rating on www.hockeyfights.com or YouTube.

What that tells you is there is a lot of fans out there that love watching hockey fights and they don't care if their love interest ends up killing the odd player here and there. In Canada's national pastime hockey fighting is not a side dish. It is one of the main attractions.

Crowds go to hockey games hoping to see a battle royale and TV announcers even give blow-by-blow descriptions.

Devout hockey fans say they're more interested in the skill and talent in the hockey players, but many turn a blind eye to the fighting. They deplore it but aren't sure whether it should be banned or not.

What is needed however is a complete ban on hockey fighting. Suspend the player(s) who engage in fighting for a year and charge them with assault. Maybe then Canadians can better appreciate the "skill and talent" the fans claim to be their primary enjoyment.

Legendary Maple Leafs owner Conn Smythe agrees, who once said that "if you can't beat them in the alley, you can't beat them on the ice."

Banning players for a year may seem extreme, but it doesn't stop there. There should also be a financial penalty for fighting. Deduct a chunk of their yearly pay and pay half of it back to the owners of the team. After all, if a player gets banned the team just lost a large sum of money and shouldn't have to pay a trouble-making brawler.

Whenever calls for a fighting ban resurface, this dirty underbelly appears. Fans defend brawls as an essential part of the game, and dismiss ban-promoters as "sissies", "women", "Europeans", "weaklings" and "immigrants"... and that such people aren't true hockey fans.

Bullshit.

This backwards support for brawling coincides with the state of denial. Brawling is a bloodsport and has no place in hockey. It is banned in junior games and the like, so why do we allow it for games for teenagers and adults?

Because we don't want our teenage boys and men to be considered sissies? More bullshit.

The Sanderson death has reignited calls to ban fighting in pro hockey but the NHL has responded that it has no plans to do so.

I ask you however, where are the police?

Under normal circumstances, say the Tim Hortons lineup again, if a person had punched and pushed Sanderson and he had fallen and died, the charges would have been manslaughter.

With witnesses. End of story. Open and shut case.

So the trick then is not to take it to the NHL. These issues should be placed before police and let them charge players with assault and manslaughter.

Maybe then the NHL will rethink their strategy of allowing fights to continue with little or no penalties for brawlers.

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