Punched Out - The Life and Death of a Hockey Enforcer

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Punched Out - The Life and Death of a Hockey Enforcer

Post by hockeyfan893 » Mon Dec 05, 2011 1:14 pm

***Note to Moderators: Please move this to the appropriate forum. I'm not sure where exactly this belongs, but I thought posting it first on the most popular forum might help it get some attention.***

On the New York Times homepage this morning was an incredible article chronicling the life and death of hockey enforcer Derek Boogaard, with commentary on the history and role of fighting in the National Hockey League. The publication consists of three parts, the third of which will be published (tomorrow) on December 6.

If interested, see the link below.

http://www.nytimes.com/2011/12/04/sport ... brawl.html

The article is very well-written; there was obviously a very nice effort put in to presenting a nice finished product. It was nice, too, to see it on NY Times home page.

I'd love to here some thoughts and commentary from a hockey community, so let's hear what you guys think. Some questions to consider: What is the role of fighting in hockey today? Should it be banned entirely from the sport, or is it merely a "part of the game." If the former, how would you enforce it? If the latter, at what level of hockey does fighting become "appropriate"?

Thanks for taking the time to check this out.

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Post by warriors41 » Mon Dec 05, 2011 6:20 pm

These are good questions. Most people who don't watch hockey are completely confused by actually allowing fighting to happen during a game. Personally, I like fighting at the professional level. I don't think it should be allowed in college or high school. There are reasons I like fighting in hockey compared to other sports.

1. In hockey, you have more opportunities to take dangerous cheap shots than in other sports. Take football for instance. Lets say someone is close to the out-of-bounds line or even a step out of play. Of you hit them you get a 15 yard penalty and the person who got hit is most likely fine because there is plenty of open space. In hockey, even giving an extra shove to someone close to the boards can have serious consequences and take them out of the game for a long period of time. You also have an instrument in your hand that can be used as a weapon. Let's face, some people intentionally use their stick to take a cheap slash at someone.

2. The other reason I don't see so much harm with fighting in hockey is that they play on ice. There are established protocols with a hockey fight. Once the two people go to the ground, it is usually over. The ice helps to make them fall faster and get it over with quicker compared to other playing surfaces where you can have a steady base and stay up for a long time.

3. Another reason that is not quite as good but still holds true: it serves as a useful tool to get your team and your crowd into the game. Even though this seems a little childish, most of the time the fighters once again follow unwritten rules. The two people fight are generally the two enforcers on the team. You wouldn't Chara go after a little guy, he's gonna take on the biggest guy from the opposing team. They keep it fair when this fighting purpose is being used.

What people who don't follow the sport don't realize, is that there are standard protocols. Their only view of fighting is the shot Bertuzzi took years ago. They also fail to consider some of the circumstances above. The fact is that fighting helps keep people accountable for their actions when they take cheap shots. They are used to get people excited about the game. When the players follow established rules like these, I have no problem with a good fight.

What I absolutely hate seeing in a hockey fight is a fight that is started for no reason. I remember watching a Penguins game a few years ago and Sidney Crosby received a big hit. It was 100% clean. The next time the person who hit him was on the ice, one of the Penguins fought him. That is ridiculous in my view. You shouldn't be punished for playing clean and hard. I don't care if he is the best in the world. He shouldn't be immune from getting hit. If it would have been dirty, that would be another story.

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Post by karl(east) » Mon Dec 05, 2011 7:31 pm

I've been engrossed by this series over the past two days. I'd be lying if I said I haven't cheered on the occasional fight, but in general I'm not a huge fan. If I wanted to watch people fight, I'd watch boxing or MMA or something like that. My appreciation for hockey has more to do with precision passing, well-run systems, and effective checking than brute force.

Still, fighting has its role, and warriors makes the case for it pretty well. In a physical sport like this there will probably always be something of an arms race to build a tougher, more intimidating team, and doing so successfully can actually reduce the risk of a fight in some cases. The NYT series points out some of the NHL's shortcomings, and I think it is necessary for the media to push them on things like this, but compared to the NFL hockey seems to be a step ahead. (I'm a big fan of Brendan Shanahan's work as chief disciplinarian so far.) I wouldn't complain if the NHL upped the penalty for fighting, but I recognize it's entrenched in the culture and probably isn't going anywhere, and I can live with that.

Knowing all of this didn't change my reaction to the images of Boogaard's brain--they are disturbing, especially in the sequence in the third video where they show it in rapid succession following the images of the brains of other dead NHL enforcers. But there are still a lot of other questions--how much of that is from fighting, and how much of it is from gameplay? And what role did substance abuse play?

I was most bothered by the account of the team doctors who do not seem to communicate with each other at all. It seems ridiculous that a player could get 8 different prescriptions from 8 different doctors without anyone bothering to check if one of the other doctors was prescribing anything. At that level you almost have to believe there is some complicity going on. Not only would Boogaard still be alive if he hadn't been popping all those pills, he might have been forced to abandon his enforcer role a few years earlier when his body began to take the toll. His career would have been shorter, but he also probably would have been a functioning human being at age 45.

I guess that's my ultimate takeaway from this--fighting didn't kill Derek Boogaard; the pills he took so that he could keep on fighting are what did him in.

To the credit of both the Wild and the Rangers, they did send him to rehab; the article raises some questions about the program, and again this is probably justified, but anyone who knows anyone who's had a substance abuse problem knows rehab can only go so far. Living alone far from home definitely does not help either, though of course his brothers were there the night Boogaard died. Still, drug use in professional sports is a serious issue that deserves more attention, and not just the blatantly obvious ones like anabolic steroids.

As far as lower levels go, I think the high school league does a good job handling the fights that do happen--it happens sometimes, yes, but the game misconduct is a good disincentive, and I've never seen a fight in a meaningful HS playoff game. It seems like junior hockey is the place where fighting is most likely to arise, as players recognize they need to do something else to keep their dream alive, and team higher-ups recognize that fighting fills seats. I don't know enough about junior hockey to know what, if anything, can be done to rein that in.

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Post by nikebauer05 » Tue Dec 06, 2011 2:25 pm

I watched this whole series a few times as well and it really reinforces what I have been thinking for a while now which is fighting should not be in hockey. I will admit that when Boogaard was on the team that I loved seeing him in fights. I don't know what it was but I just lost interest in fighting a few years ago. I started thinking of it as a meaningless thing to do and I'd rather see skilled hockey rather than big guys hitting and fighting.

In my opinion the best hockey to watch is in the playoffs and Olympics and I'm pretty sure the majority of people would agree with me on that. There is rarely any fighting in the Playoffs and none in the Olympics. In these games the players still get physical and get in scraps but there are no punches thrown. I find this to be the most entertaining to watch.

Obviously there is also no fighting in high school and college. Take for example the Gophers and Sioux rivalry. This series is always very physical and there are scraps and extracurriculars after whistles. But there is no dropping the gloves, yet it is still a very heated and entertaining game.

I remember seeing statistics showing hockey players are more susceptible to concussions than any other sport including football. So obviously all of these brain problems can be attributed to normal hockey play but I think there is no question that fighting causes even more problems. The thing that hit me most was when Derek Boogaard's friend/trainer told a story when Derek talked to a specialist about concussions later in his NHL career after a fight. He asked Derek if his vision had gone black after a fight a few times. Boogaard laughed and responded "Are you kidding me, hunderds, that happens every game" This was unbelievable to me that he had gone through that many concussions without any help and it makes me wonder how many other players have gone through that many concussions or are currently going through.

As I said earlier I don't see fighting leaving the NHL anytime soon but I think it will eventually with all the new research coming out about concussions and how they can affect a person's life in the later years.

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Post by Tigers33 » Thu Dec 08, 2011 1:14 pm

Fighting will be completely gone within 3-4 years. Guaranteed :)

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Post by Sats81 » Thu Feb 06, 2014 10:44 am

Tigers33 wrote:Fighting will be completely gone within 3-4 years. Guaranteed :)
Yeah, how's that guarantee doing for you?

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