The National Hockey League regular season games begin today. When it comes to hockey, arguably Canada’s favourite sport, the funny saying goes, “I went to see the fights and a hockey game broke out”.
Many ardently believe the deliberately hard checking and the fighting are a part of the game, but the concussions are costly. Jeremy Allingham is author of Major Misconduct: The Human Cost of Fighting in Hockey. The book looks at just three of the many former players whose lives have been torn apart by hockey fights.
For many fans however, at all levels from the juniors up to the NHL, the thrill of watching bare knuckle brawls on the ice is as much a draw to the game as the skill of playing the game. Some sports writers and commentators even try to justify the violence.
On the other side, people say if these fights occurred outside on the street, they’d be illegal, and there would be arrests and possibly even lawsuits.
The number of fights in the NHL is however decreasing slowly and efforts to further reduce the practice through stiffer rules, especially in the minor leagues are being instituted. However there is still a pervasive and lingering macho attitude prevalent that fighting is part of the game.
Allingham’s book shows that the lingering effects of that can be devastating in later life, not only to players but to the family and friends around them. He says although fight numbers are declining, there are still far too many of them at all levels of the game.