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Violencein Hockey Essay, Research Paper

Violence in Hockey

Conn Smythe, one of hockey s most respected figures, once said, If you can t beat em in the alley, you can t beat em on the ice. So, how can hockey be a clean and respectable sport if one of its former presidents tells us the only way to win is through back-alley violence? Obviously there are a few problems that have to be addressed concerning hockey in today s society. These problems are causing the downfall of a beautiful game. With a few simple revisions, the downfall can be remedied. First, hockey is loosing its meaning. Second, violence is detrimental to the success of hockey teams. Third, hockey players are misleading the youth by acting as faulty role models. Fourth, hockey players are frequently being injured. Therefore, premeditated acts of violence must be eliminated from hockey.

The National Hockey League (N.H.L.) needs to further continue the fight against deliberate acts of violence to uphold the integrity and prosperity of hockey. Hockey writer Jerry Sullivan suggests that the N.H.L. supports and condones violence within the game (Sullivan). In accordance with that, hockey expert analysts Jim Hunt and Don Cherry, also agree that the N.H.L. needs to be tougher in the policing its players (Hunt). As a result of acts of ruthless violence in the past, the N.H.L has started handling acts of violence that occur on the ice (Gordon). The efforts have been rewarded by a higher quality of hockey that appeals to a larger fan base (Gordon). Since fights have dropped in the N.H.L., the leagues popularity and profitability have risen 18% from 1998-2000 (Westervelt). Hockey games have also started to appeal to a wider spectrum of people (Westervelt). With the extra revenue from larger the fan base, there is of a more opportunity for hockey to grow and progress (Westervelt). League officials are now truly beginning to understand the new breed of hockey fans that would prefer to see skating and passing as opposed to holding and fighting (Westervelt).

Unnecessary acts of violence are desecrating hockey. Hockey is meant to be a fast paced, exciting sport that focuses on the skill, finesse, and team work (Ronberg). Instead, it has degraded itself to the level of a major wrestling television show (Ronberg). Unfortunately, illegal play is common place in hockey games at all levels (Ronberg). According to statistics, there are approximately 40,000 acts of deliberate violence in the N.H.L. each year. With this in mind, Sportswriter Larry Wigge speaks of a nasty factor that certain teams use as a crutch for short-term success (Wigge). This, nasty factor , is characterized by an aggressive style that encourages players to intimidate through acts of violence (Wigge). Referees often feel that to protect their own integrity they must ignore the nasty factor (Wigge). The reason for this is because referees fear that they may be accused of throwing a game, as referee Rick Alterec was in 1987 (Wiggie). There is a lot more to hockey beyond the bully aspect of it, and I think the majority of hockey fans go along with that says Jim Thompson (Westervelt). It is well agreed upon by players of the past that today s game does not have the meaning that it has in previous decades (Ronberg).

Violent hockey teams are less likely to win. In a study of 1,462 penalties from 18 Stanley Cup Championship Final Series from 1980-1997, winning teams had less penalty minutes than losing hockey teams (McCaw). The teams with fewer penalty minutes had an average of seven more shots on goal per game (McCaw). In addition, over the coarse of a seven game series, less violent teams would acquire an astonishing fifty-three extra shots on goal (McCaw). Considering that there is only an average of 46 shots on goal per N.H.L. playoff game, this adds a entire extra game worth of shots (McCaw). Supporting data also shows that winning teams were noted for their heightened ability, that was displayed in the basic skills of hockey, being puck handling, skating, exc. (McCaw). The practicing of these skills is what makes a winning team, not the practicing of violent play (McCaw).

Losing teams and violent teams are closely tied to one another. Research has pointed to the fact that loosing teams are often characterized by their less desirable attributes (McCaw). These attributes being collective penalties (McCaw). According to players, penalties are often not a result of other teams actions, yet a result of frustration from their own team s lack of success (McCaw). Frustrated players, coupled with aggressive coaching, are an explosive combination (McCaw). Aggressive coaching includes playing of a player that is marked as an enforcers to help control the game (McCaw). This is when an enforcer is considered a team member that is not only notorious for acts of violence but also for an aggravated temperament (McCaw). Players with these characteristics are frequently used to establish an intimidation factor within the game (McCaw). As expected, when an enforcer is not controlling the game, it is much more likely that they will participate in illegal activities on the ice, activities that will eventually put the team in an even more of a precarious position (McCaw).

Children are mislead by professional hockey player s acts of violence. The average child, age 6-11, spends more time in front of the television than in the classroom (Walsh). If this time is spent watching hockey, the child is exposed to an average of 62 violent acts per hour (Wienburg). Or if the game is during the play-offs, there is an average of 68 violent acts per hour. This is 33 more acts of violence per hour than the average prime time television show (Wienburg). Considering this, the constant feed of violence begins to desensitize children to the severity of violence, inside and outside the sports forum (Walsh). In 1994, Paul Rupert, of The University of North Carolina, did a study testing the correlation between the behavior of children who s parents supervise what watch on television and parents that do not supervise children (Wienburg). The study concluded that, in fact, there was a strong correlation between unsupervised viewing and documented altercations with other students in a school setting (Wienburg). This just adds to the case that when a child sees a professional hockey player commit acts of violence, they are effected by it (Wienburg).

Violence trickles down from the National Hockey League to smaller venues of Hockey. As in many sports, one of the keys to progressing is watching more advanced players play (Johnson). This is were players learn advanced techniques that enlighten their own style (Johnson). This is exactly what many aspiring young hockey players do, watch professional hockey games (Johnson). Young hockey players watch every move, and try to incorporate this higher level of hockey into their own game (Johnson). Considering this, what is deemed acceptable by the N.H.L. is often considered appropriate for the minor leagues, college, high school, and even some novice events (Johnson). In a response to this, many hockey associations, such as the Pickering Hockey Association, have taken steps to reduce the threat of violent behavior on the ice (Pinkering). For example, Alaska has put their high school hockey program on a one-year probation after a player assaulted a referee (Diegmuller). In response to the event, John R. Johnson responded We have to put our people on notice that what they see nightly in professional sports, and often at the major college level, just is not acceptable conduct in a interscholastic setting (Diegmuller).

Hockey players sustain numerous injuries. Approximately 2000 young hockey players, between the ages of one and eighteen, endure an injury that resulted in a visit to the hospital in 1998 (Orford). In hockey, there is no injury more ominous than the concussion (Kennedy). Considering that it is difficult to measure the effects of a concussion, they are different from most of the other injuries that occur in hockey (Kennedy). According to doctors, the real threat with concussion is that each time one is received they become more and more damaging (Kennedy). Other serious injuries in hockey include eye injuries (Sibbald). According to the to the Canadian Standards Association, there are more eye injuries in hockey than in any other sport (Sibbald). Between 1972 and 1997, 1860 injuries eye injuries were recorded (Sibbald). An amazing 483 of these injuries resulted in permanent damage and 298 resulted in blindness (Sibbald). One of these eye injuries includes the one of, Dallas Stars player, Darryl Sydor (Jorden). After an altercation with New York Rangers player Jim McKenzie, Syder suffered a fractured eye socket that left him partial blind in his left eye (Jorden). Although not all hockey injuries are resulting from other players actions, only 15% of all injuries in hockey do not involve the presence of another player (Sibbald).

Premeditated acts of violence can end the career of a hockey player. In 1998, twelve players in the N.H.L. were forced into retirement because of injuries that were inflicted upon them on the ice (Jorden). For example, last year star hockey player Mike Modano was put into retirement when he was cross-checked into the boards headfirst by defenseman Ruslan Salei (Jorden). The cross-check resulted in strained neck ligaments, a broken nose, and a severe concussion for Modano (Jorden). Another aspect of injuries ending careers is in the case of concussions (Kennedy). Many professional hockey associations are very reluctant to invest in players that have incurred severe concussions (Kennedy). The reason for this, according to The Mighty Ducks general manner Pierre Gautheir, is that the likelihood of another severe concussion could easily terminate the rest of the players career (Kennedy). This is exactly the case of eighteen year old Patrik Stefan from Czech Republic (Kennedy). Originally, Stefan was going to be a first round pick for the 2001 season (Kennedy). Yet after suffering a severe concussion in minor league play, it is doubtful that Stefan will even be selected in this years draft, while he recovers from his injury (Kennedy). As players, and their peers, grow, larger, stronger and faster, more career ending injuries are inevitable (Wiggie).

Hockey is a beautiful game of speed, finesse, and technique. But perhaps the fast paced and violent nature of the sport has painted a negative image of the game that we now realize has to erased. It is obvious that premeditated acts of violence have become much too far a part of hockey. The acts of violence have become so mush a part of the game that it is effecting teams results. The violence that is present in hockey is detrimental to the game, it s players and its fans. With this in mind, it is quite apparent that hockey is beginning to loose its meaning. Also, the acts of violence executed on the ice are misleading to the young hockey fans; the players are acting as false role models. Most importantly, violence is injuring players, sometimes to the point where their careers are jeopardized. Therefore, premeditated acts of violence must be eliminated from hockey.


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