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Learn from (what you teach) your children

I feel like I’ve been painfully (for me) silent about fighting lately. My thoughts on the matter are pretty straightforward: it serves no legitimate purpose to allow people to fight under any circumstances. Even fighting in self defense isn’t “permitted” because it is by definition a response to a wrong act, and if the wrong were not to occur, there would be nothing to defend against. Fighting in hockey is even less defensible than a street brawl. Many fights are staged, or scheduled, or expected, whatever you want to call them, and fought by designated fighters who may or may not have other skills to offer their team. Hockey fights almost never qualify as self-defense, and rather than being in defense of another, they are acts of revenge. Whether you waste the health of a skilled player on a fight, or you waste a space n the lineup on a fighter who can’t do much else, it is still a waste of people and perfectly good hockey.

An article I re-read recently brought up a point I have pondered before: if you don’t want your children to do something, are you sure you should be doing it yourself? Bobby Orr argued that there is a place for fighting in hockey, but began his argument by saying that it should not be allowed for children. I’m not saying you should let your children do anything you are allowed to do, but shouldn’t you still ask yourself why you don’t want your children to do it? And might that same standard not apply to you?

Children can hurt each other in fights. So can adults. Children lack a full understanding of consequences of their actions, an understanding that might keep them from doing wrong things. Children need to be taught that violence is not the answer to conflict or unpleasant emotional states, so that they can grown up to be civilized members of society. Shouldn’t adults abide by the same rule? How can we expect our children to understand that adults are allowed to hit each other, showing the basest lack of self-restraint there is, but they, children, are expected to be better? It doesn’t make sense to children, and truthfully it makes no sense to adults either. It’s just an excuse. Adults can do what they want, and to express this freedom we do really stupid things.

Adults do many things that are unhealthy. That doesn’t make those things (drinking, smoking, eating bad food, being fat, sleeping around, crime, etc) any less bad. These days it seems like I hear more young people speaking about why you shouldn’t drink, sneering contemptuously at smokers (without realizing they could do better than sneer… but hey, they’re trying to find their way), and standing up to bullies. In many ways I think these new adults are more forward-thinking than my generation was at their age. Even hockey fights are fading in frequency and popularity. Maybe we are improving, or maybe we just talk about improving every now and then and that slakes our thirst to actually be better.

I took a trip though other Globe and Mail stories on the subject, and found the following:

Does it really belong in the game?

The question, sadly, was whether entertaining the fans should be allowed – whether by a creative “spin-o-rama” in the shootout, or by an inspire-the-kids trick goal on a breakaway.

Meanwhile, a much larger question, the one hockey will most-assuredly have to answer one day, the question that was being asked from the sand beaches of Bali to the medial examination rooms of the Mayo Clinic, was once again being ignored, dismissed and even ridiculed.

Does fighting belong in hockey? -Roy MacGregor

Of the George Parros injury sustained during a fight in Montreal, James Mirtle wrote:

Two of those bouts were between Parros and Orr, two behemoths of men who are veterans of the designated puncher role, the “toughest job in hockey” that occasionally carries such devastating occupational hazards.

They are also, in many ways, so unnecessary in the game, big men playing bit parts, skating in limited minutes to enforce hockey’s curious “code” and ostensibly protect their teammates by punching one another.

In fact, the danger they present to each other far, far exceeds the tangible value they bring to the sport.

Later in the same article, he points out that hockey fights are disappearing anyway, so the “need” for designated fighters is even more absurd:

It’s dangerous. And despite protestations to the contrary, it’s become a relatively small sideshow that has been marginalized to the point there is on average less than one fight every two NHL games.

Steve Yzerman would be very happy to hurry the demise of fighting along:

“I believe a player should get a game misconduct for fighting,” Yzerman said. “We penalize and suspend players for making contact with the head while checking in an effort to reduce head injuries yet we still allow fighting.

“We’re stuck in the middle and need to decide what kind of sport do we want to be. Either anything goes and we accept the consequences or take the next step and eliminate fighting.”

That’s a lot of talk. Even if we don’t see much action, perhaps common sense and what our children know (because we teach it to them) will finally sink in. I don’t have to imagine what hockey would be like without fighting. I have seen plenty of fight-free games and they are beautiful.

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