By Ken Reed
Former Colorado Avalanche enforcer Scott Parker battles the effects of repeated head trauma on an almost daily basis: dizziness, memory loss, nausea, ringing in his ears, seizures, and light sensitivity. Yet, he supports fighting in the NHL.
“It won’t be hockey anymore (if fighting is banned), and more guys will get hurt,” Parker said of a possible ban.
Parker is a proponent of fighting despite his personal struggles and despite the deaths in recent years of former enforcers Wade Belak, Derek Boogaard and Rick Rypien, all of whom had telltale signs of brain damage.
Parker’s position is a reflection of how powerful the hegemonic influence of living in a caveman culture like the NHL can be.
NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman believes fighting is necessary to control the violence of a fast-paced, hard-hitting sport.
“You have a game that’s very physical, very fast, very emotional, very ‘edgity,’ and it’s played in a confined space,” Bettman said in a recent interview with the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation. “Every now and then there needs to be an outlet to keep the temperature from worse things happening (on the ice).”
Wow! The head of the sport in North America, and in effect the guardian of the game, is a proponent of fighting when the evidence is clear that blows to the head can lead to concussions and long-term brain damage.
Dr. James Kelly convinced Parker to retire and not risk further damage to his brain.
“Fighting should be discouraged at all costs,” Kelly said. “I’ve never made any headway with Scott in that regard. He’s a terrific guy, but we certainly disagree there.”
Yes, Parker definitely disagrees with his doctor.
“Hockey is a game of accountability,” says Parker. “Without the deterrent factor that guys like me could provide, you’d see guys breaking guys’ bones every game from slashing and hitting and not having to account for yourself.”
Paul Busch, who runs a website called “It’s Not Part of the Game” believes Parker’s arguments for fighting are hogwash.
“All the arguments supporting fighting are false,” says Busch, who’s done extensive research on the topic.
“They’re based on myths. For example, the policing argument. Throughout the 70’s and 80’s, enforcers were at their peak, that was their heyday, but the game wasn’t played any cleaner, it wasn’t any safer. If you look at all types of penalty minutes from that period, they were record highs. It was the most violent time period in history. So, the policing argument in favor of fighting doesn’t hold up. The stats show that quite clearly.”
Though Busch spends a lot of personal time working to get fighting out of hockey, he doesn’t have a lot of hope that things will change any time soon.
“Until the dinosaurs die out of the game and move on we won’t see much change,” concludes Busch.
Dr. Michael J. Stuart, is an orthopedic surgeon at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota and chief medical officer for USA Hockey.
“If we truly want to make every effort to reduce the risk of concussion in the sport of ice hockey, we should eliminate fighting,” says Stuart. “There’s no doubt about that.”
No doubt at all, despite the dinosaur thinking of NHL insiders like Parker and Bettman.
— Ken Reed, Sports Policy Director, League of Fans
Sports Forum Podcast
Episode #10 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: An Issues Discussion With Paul Dolan – Dolan is the Cleveland Indians Owner and CEO. He discusses the use of Native American names and logos by sports teams and the decisions to drop the Chief Wahoo logo and the upcoming change to the team name. Other baseball topics include health and safety, possible MLB rule changes and youth participation in the sport.
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Episode #9 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: Talking Sports Issues With Ralph Nader – Nader is a consumer advocate and was named one of the “100 Most Influential Americans of the 20th Century” by Time magazine. He is the founder of League of Fans.
Episode #8 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: How Can We Save College Sports From Overcommercialization and Professionalization? – The guest is Dr. David Ridpath, a sports business professor and past president of the Drake Group
Episode #7 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: Brain Trauma and CTE Risk in Sports With Dr. Ann McKee – Dr. McKee works in the field of neuropathology and has demonstrated that “mild” repetitive head trauma can provoke chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE), a devastating neurodegenerative disease.
Episode #6 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: The Need for Quality Physical Education in Our Schools is Greater Than Ever – The guest is Clayton Ellis, one of our nation’s leading advocates for getting our young people to be more physically active.
Episode #5 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: Youth Sports with Positive Coaching Alliance Founder Jim Thompson – Thompson started Positive Coaching Alliance (PCA) in 1998 to help create a movement to transform the culture of youth sports from “win-at-all-costs” to a positive, character-building experience.
Media"How We Can Save Sports" author Ken Reed appears on Fox & Friends to explain how there's "too much adult in youth sports."
Ken Reed appears on Mornings with Gail from KFKA Radio in Colorado to discuss bad parenting in youth athletics.
“Should College Athletes Be Paid?” Ken Reed on The Morning Show from Wisconsin Public Radio
Ken Reed appears on KGNU Community Radio in Colorado (at 02:30) to discuss equality in sports and Title IX.
Ken Reed appears on the Ralph Nader Radio Hour (at 38:35) to discuss his book The Sports Reformers: Working to Make the World of Sports a Better Place, and to talk about some current sports issues.
Sports & Torts – Ken Reed, Sports Policy Director, League of Fans – at the American Museum of Tort Law
League of Fans is a sports reform project founded by Ralph Nader to fight for the higher principles of justice, fair play, equal opportunity and civil rights in sports; and to encourage safety and civic responsibility in sports industry and culture.
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