Monday, 16 March 2009

Head game

As the NHL GM’s meet, one of the hot topics in the sport at the moment are fighting and hits to the head. Not too long ago we learnt of a tragic death of Don Sanderson. Don shot from obscurity to being recognized by the hockey world at large. Don died following a fight in December 2008 and his death sent shockwaves through the hockey community.

Where I take grievance in the fact that a young life was lost in a hockey game and to my knowledge he is the first one to do so after Bill Masterton. Sure there have been instances where players have passed away due to heart or other health problems mid game, but not from a physical altercation like a hit, or a fight.

The other hot topic at the moment is hits to the head, which is obviously concerning, given that the rates of concussion went up last season. Hits to the head are concerning because the consequences are life threatening. Where I find these types of injuries and concerning and I have been at a receiving end of a few hits to the head during my time, I have grown to accept it as part of the game.

Hockey is a high intensity contact sport and it requires players to stay alert at all times. Every time you lace up the skates you try and put it at the back of your mind that you might get seriously injured. You put your trust in the fact that you keep alert and you keep your head up and you will skate out relatively unharmed. Sure there will be a few bumps and bruises, but as long as you escape without serious injury you will be fine.

Injuries are something that happen and where they are annoying and undoubtedly painful, you can always heal ligaments, broken bones and muscle sprains, you can never fully heal a brain. Hockey is about being fearless and being brave to go to the corners. Hits hurt momentarily, but they are essentially quite fun and a core strategic part of the game.

I just hope that the NHL doesn’t strip away the essence of hockey in fighting. There is no other sport in the world where aggression and adrenaline are allowed to flow as freely as it is in a hockey game. But at the same time I hope we have all learnt a lesson from Don Sanderson and I wish that his family and friends find peace and that Don’s death is not forgotten.

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