So Much Violence

Oct 2011

Just Can't Help Thinking

By Jim Gerwing

The other day I read a news story about a young man who was facing his 100th fight in an upcoming hockey game. That was before the game even began. His job was to start a fight during the game with someone on the other team. 

It got me thinking. Thinking is one of the things we old guys can still do without having to break a sweat. Physically, that is.

A few years ago when visiting Rome I was taking delight in the incredible engineering skills of the ancient Romans in building the Coliseum. At the time I did not reflect on the bloodshed that occurred in that arena for the sole pleasure of the fans watching the slaughter of humans and animals. 

The prospect facing the young hockey player, albeit much less final, made me wonder what could be going through the minds of gladiators facing death in the interests of entertainment. Somewhere in the mind of that hockey player surely must be the thought that there is a good possibility that he is about to shorten his own life and perhaps someone else's as well. So much has been written this summer about the trauma resulting from violence in hockey games that it is difficult to understand the intransigence of the hockey world in the face of all the evidence.

I guess it all comes down to money, to the money from the pockets of the fans, many of whom come just to see the hits, the fights, the blood on the ice. "It's part of the game," they tell us. That is a crock. "The fans want it." That is stupid. All right, some of the fans do want it. But I think, and I have absolutely no evidence to back me up in this, that for every fan who would stay away from the arena if they did remove the violence, there will be two or three others who would come (or come back) to see good clean hockey.

Just think of the lives that would be better for it, not just the athletes who engage in this wonderful sport, but also the mentality of the many who watch, whether at the arena or on TV. Great competition can be immensely entertaining without anyone forfeiting years of life or health of young hockey players in the financial interests of the owners and managers of this sport. 

And another thing. I somehow can't get this through my thick old head: why was Todd Bertuzzi singled out for prosecution (rightly so) for his vicious hit while other "enforcers" face neither criminal nor civil charges for actions that are criminal if done on the street and at least illegal when done at the hockey rink? 

Our laws do more to protect animals than hockey players from brainless and brain-damaging violence.