By Ken Reed
When it comes to goonery, the NHL has come a long ways from the ’60’s and 70’s, when being a goon who was good at cheap shots and fighting was a full-time job.
Today, there are a lot fewer true goons and the NHL polices fighting and cheap shots much better than they did decades ago. But the league can go a lot further in cleaning up the game, especially given what we know about the dangers of brain trauma, concussions and chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE).
NHL hockey is definitely a physical game, as it is in college and the Olympics. The difference is the NCAA and Olympics don’t tolerate goonery. The NHL in many respects remains in the Stone Age in believing that without fighting they would lose fans. I think the reality is just the opposite. Ban the nonsense, penalize it severely and the NHL would become a more popular mainstream sport.
As Mark Lazerus recently wrote in The Athletic:
“Give the [NHL] Department of Player Safety some teeth and a new, clearer mission. Ban head shots, no exceptions. Suspend players for dirty hits regardless of intent, regardless of whether it causes an injury. If players know there will be consequences for their actions on the ice, the dangerous plays will disappear and the borderline plays will eventually fade away.”
It doesn’t get any more intense than the NHL playoffs and, for the most part, the playoffs show that guys can control their fighting and cheap shot instincts if it is best for the team. With more severe penalties for goonery the sport would become even cleaner, especially during the regular season.
The skill level of NHL players is at an all-time high. The game is fast, physical and exciting. Hockey athletes make amazing plays. The team-first mentality in the NHL is commendable, as is the sportsmanship shown in the handshake lines after tough battles. The Stanley Cup is the greatest trophy in sports, and the traditions around it (e.g., each player getting his name on the trophy; each player getting to take it to their hometowns, or wherever, for a day) are very cool.
The NHL still trails the NBA significantly in overall popularity, but if they would put a greater emphasis on player safety and cleaning up the sport that gap would definitely close, and the result would be a better game for all hockey stakeholders, including the players.
— Ken Reed, Sports Policy Director, League of Fans
Sports Forum Podcast
Episode #29 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: The Honorable Tom McMillen Visits League of Fans’ Sports Forum – McMillen is a former All-American basketball player, Olympian, Rhodes Scholar and U.S. Congressman, and has a long involvement with the President’s Council on Physical Fitness and Sport (now called the President’s Council on Fitness, Sports and Nutrition). We discuss the state of college athletics today, given the pressures of NIL, the transfer portal, sports gambling and huge media contracts. McMillen then provides great perspective on the poor state of physical fitness our young people are experiencing today.
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Episode #28 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: A Chat With Mano Watsa, a Leading Basketball and Life Educator – Watsa is President of PGC Basketball, the largest education basketball camp in the world. We discuss problems in youth sports today.
Episode #27 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: Kids’ Sports: How We Can Take Back the Game and Restore Quality Family Time In the Process – Linda Flanagan is author of “Take Back the Game: How Money and Mania Are Ruining Kids’ Sports and Why It Matters.” We discuss how commercialized and professionalized youth sports are hurting kids and their families.
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.”
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.
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.
- Reed Appears on Ralph Nader Radio Hour League of Fans’ sports policy director, Ken Reed, Ralph Nader and the New York Times’ Tyler Kepner discussed a variety of sports issues on Nader’s radio show as well as Reed’s updated book, How We Can Save Sports: A Game Plan. Reed's book was released in paperback in February, and has a new introduction and several updated sections.
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.
Vanderbilt Sport & Society - On The Ball with Andrew Maraniss with guest Ken Reed, Sports Policy Director for League of Fans and author of How We Can Save Sports: A Game Plan
Sports & Torts – Ken Reed, Sports Policy Director, League of Fans – at the American Museum of Tort Law
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