The NHL – business over people?

Ice hockey is without a doubt one of the most violent sports that pretend to be non violent. I mean, you would expect a boxing match to be brutal, as well as wrestling event, but not a game where players are skating. Nevertheless, fighting in ice hockey has reached such a high level of popularity and frequency that it is considered by many a sort of tradition. Plenty have criticized the brutality of ice hockey fighting, emphasizing its futility and even the US National Hockey League has prohibited several fighting techniques, but it seems to be a long and sinuous road from words to action, as numerous fights still occur in the NHL.

The issue seems to be that this type of violent behavior, the fights on ice, are a powerful appeal for the audience, as many people and even declared fans only attend games to enjoy a good fight or several of them. So the question rises: Does the NHL take all the necessary measures to ensure a “clean” game or do they silently promote ice hockey fighting by not imposing stronger penalties for players who engage in such actions. As a matter of fact, while most of the European hockey leagues eliminate players from the game for fighting, going as far as suspending them from several up coming matches, the NHL does not completely dismiss players for this. Is this a clear sign of toleration, or what?

 

Not only is such kind of violence indulged by letting players further in the game, but hockey teams actually have designated players, called enforcers, whose role is to engage in fights and intimidate their opponents. The life of an NHL enforcer is under tremendous pressure and danger in all games, but officials seem to remain untouched by the appalling injuries and harms players face. In the summer of 2011, no less than three NHL enforcers died and many of them still struggle with the pressures and challenges that life on the ice entails. The biggest surprise is that the debate over ice hockey fighting is still in the ropes, which means there still are people who defend this kind of violence. These are the ones on whose backs the NHL makes good business.

In the case of NHL enforcers, we are not talking about minor injuries and aches, which are usual in this sport and deemed as chronic or overuse injuries and appear in time, but about serious traumas and acute injuries that occur as a result of much too violent fighting. Statistically speaking, the number of injuries caused by critical and sudden trauma far exceeds the number of overuse injuries. Forced collisions with the ice and walls, as well as very hard body checks and flying pucks, are a constant hazard for head injuries, which is redundant to mention how dangerous they can be. Again, this is not about the regular cuts and lacerations to the head area, but heavy blows to the scalp, skull or brain that lead to skull fracture, hematoma and serious concussions. In the long run, the players risk developing severe depression, Parkinson’s disease and even dementia, not to mention behavioral problems, amnesia and permanent disability.

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