By Ken Reed
During a time when there is more and more evidence that blows to the head can lead to both short and long-term brain injuries and debilitating neurological disorders (including chronic traumatic encephalopathy, CTE), Colorado Avalanche defenseman Jack Johnson is publicly advocating for fighting in youth hockey leagues.
Colorado Springs Gazette writer Kyle Fredrickson wrote about Johnson’s beliefs recently.
“Johnson views a lack of fight experience for up-and-coming talent as a potential health risk,” wrote Fredrickson. “He took boxing classes in high school to hone his fighting craft.”
Johnson argues that if kids don’t know how to duke it out on the ice, they could be in danger when they reach the NHL. Of course, less than 1% of youth hockey players ever get a sniff of the NHL. So, advocating for fighting in youth hockey on those grounds is pure silliness.
“There’s the risk that you could really get hurt when you come to the NHL and have your first fight,” says Johnson. “If you’ve never done it before, then you could get really hurt,” Johnson says. “You’re just delaying the inevitable.”
There’s a simple response to that line of thinking: Ban fighting in the NHL and all levels of hockey, just like it is in every other major team sport, including college, European and Olympic hockey. And no, a five-minute major penalty isn’t enough of a penalty, or disincentive, to stop fighting in the NHL. Ejection from the game and a one-game suspension (maybe a multiple game suspension depending on the specifics of the situation) without pay would go a long way toward ending the NHL’s barbaric practice.
Johnson doesn’t see the NHL ever outlawing fighting, despite the fact that the NHL’s tolerance of fighting is the exception rather than the rule in hockey leagues around the world.
“We all signed up for this,” says Johnson. “It’s part of the game and I do think it keeps it honest.”
Well, Jack, it’s part of the game now but it doesn’t need to continue to being part of the game. The NHL could simply outlaw the practice and join the rest of the global hockey community.
Given Johnson’s surprising remarks, it’s clear that the NHL needs to do a lot better job educating its players about all the research studies revealing the serious dangers of brain trauma in sports.
— Ken Reed, Sports Policy Director, League of Fans
Sports Forum Podcast
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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. We discuss the state of college athletics today.
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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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