By Ken Reed
The NHL playoffs are underway. Which generally means there are fewer thugs roaming the ice because teams care more about playing skilled hockey players who can help them win playoff games than they do about putting goons on the ice to dish out the warped vigilante justice that the NHL’s been long known for.
The operative word here is generally.
The Colorado Avalanche and the Minnesota Wild were engaged in the middle of an intense playoff battle on Monday night. The 0-0 game, was featuring great skating, skilled work with the puck, and several amazing saves by teams’ goalies. Then notorious cheap shot artist Matt Cooke skated onto the ice with a clear intent to maim. Cooke skated directly for Avs defenseman Tyson Barrie. Barrie saw Cooke coming and tried to elude him. But Cooke wanted no part of that. Instead of skating by Barrie, he intentionally stuck out his knee toward him. The resulting knee-on-knee collision injured Barrie, possibly knocking him out for the rest of the Stanley Cup playoffs. Cooke? The NHL gave him a seven-game suspension, the sixth of his inglorious career.
“What he’s done to guys’ careers speaks for itself,” said the Avs’ Erik Johnson. “It’s disgusting, what he’s done in the past. He might have cleaned up his game lately, but to lead with a knee like that against a guy like Tyson, or whoever, it was sickening to see.”
Sickening indeed. And it’s why the NHL remains a niche sport. It’s unfortunate because the NHL has the potential to grow. The league’s playoffs might be the best of any pro sports league when it comes to pure sports excitement and intensity. But the NHL is going nowhere unless it cleans up the ugliness in its sport.
“Suspension? Not even the seven-game suspension of Cooke can knock sense into a league hopelessly stuck in the Neanderthal era,” wrote columnist Mark Kiszla.
There’s simply no place in a real sport for guys like Cooke who laugh at the notion of sportsmanship and fair play. The fact the Wild gave him a $7.5 million contract speaks to the depth of the NHL’s problem.
The NHL just doesn’t get it. And until they do, they’ll remain on the fringe of the sports world.
Kiszla nailed it when he concluded, “What the NHL needs to grow is a brain.”
— Ken Reed, Sports Policy Director, League of Fans
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Episode #26 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: How Can We Fix Youth Sports? – John O’Sullivan is Founder and CEO of Changing the Game Project and author of “Changing the Game: The Parents Guide to Raising Happy, High Performing Athletes and Giving Youth Sports Back to Our Kids.” We discuss overzealous adults in youth sports, the dangers of sport specialization, youth sports entrepreneurs and the profit-at-all-costs mindset, and the growing socio-economic gap in youth sports.
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Episode #25 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: Physical Education Should Be a Critical Component of K-12 School Design – Michael Horn is co-founder of the Clayton Christensen Institute for Disruptive Innovation.
Episode #24 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: Mental Health and Athletes: Ending the Stigma – Nathan Braaten and Taylor Ricci are the founders of Dam Worth It, a non-profit created to end the stigma around mental health at colleges and universities through sport, storytelling, and community creation.
Episode #23 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: Olympian Benita Fitzgerald Mosley Talks Title IX, Youth Sports and the Olympics.
Episode #22 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: Rethinking Sports Fandom with Author Craig Calcaterra – We discuss Calcaterra’s new book “Rethinking Fandom: How to Beat the Sports-Industrial Complex at Its Own Game” and explore new ways to be a fan.
Episode #21 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: Chatting About a Broken Game With Baseball Writer Pedro Moura – Moura is a national baseball writer for Fox Sports. We discuss how and why the game of baseball is broken, what factors caused it, and offer a few thoughts on how to “fix” a great game.
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.
- League of Fans Sports Policy Director Ken Reed quoted in Washington Post column titled "What happened to P.E.? It’s losing ground in our push for academic improvement," by Jay Mathews
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.
Sports & Torts – Ken Reed, Sports Policy Director, League of Fans – at the American Museum of Tort Law
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