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


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