Published: September 21, 2011
Derek Boogaard's death (alcohol and painkillers), followed by Rick Rypien's (suicide) reignited an ongoing hockey debate.
Some argued that life as an NHL enforcer was a factor in both deaths. Others considered it presumptuous to draw conclusions from a pair of individual tragedies.
Now we have another dead hockey fighter, the third this summer: Wade Belak, lost to an apparent suicide.
Not many folks are talking "individual tragedy" anymore.
It's still too early to draw conclusions.
But it's clear that when it comes to dealing with the human toll of the game, the NHL remains in the dark ages. As do most fans.
(This summer's discouraging news regarding Marc Savard and Sidney Crosby is another reminder that player safety isn't one of hockey's strong points.)
Presumably, we're past the days when NHL execs would puff up their chests and dismiss all criticism by insisting it's a "man's game."
But whether they can offer a more intelligent or coherent response remains to be seen.
It's not as if we can expect a ban on fighting anytime soon.
As with the endless debate over hits to the head, hockey's love-hate relationship with fighting indicates that nobody can agree on exactly what kind of game it should be.
What could the NHL have done to help guys like Boogaard, Rypien, and Belak? That's a tough question.
For now we'll leave the last word to another fighter, as quoted in yesterday's National Post:
Former enforcer Georges Laraque spoke to TSN radio Wednesday, and he said, "I hated fighting. I did it because it was my job. I hated promoting violence. I hated it, I hated it, I hated it."
Update: The NHL and NHLPA have issued a statement promising to examine "whether concrete steps can be taken to enhance player welfare and minimize the likelihood of such events taking place."
Photo: Wade Belak (right) takes on Anaheim's George Parros last season (Jeff Gross/Getty Images).Hockey Mourns. But Will It Change? originally appeared on About.com Hockey on Thursday, September 1st, 2011 at 11:35:01.Permalink | Comment | Email this
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