As you may have gathered from the recent blog post we did on Jarkko Ruutu and his hit on a young Kalpa player. Since then it almost feels like all hell has broken lose on the Finnish elite league and the standard of play. It all goes back to a recent game between Jokerit and HIFK. There were a couple of injuries to players from clean hits.
I’m not going to waste time on analysing on breaking down the hits them selves, but rather focus on something that has been a topic of a lot of discussion: rink violence, or hockey violence. As we all know, hockey is a contact sport and should remain as such. As I mentioned in the last blog post, hockey has had some nasty plays and hits, regardless of the league or the level, but when you consider the number of games played per season, it is a pretty clean, physical sport. The trouble is that when something nasty happens, it makes big headlines and drives a lot of clicks to publications’ websites. With the rise and rise of social media, fans are able to discuss and share their views with the world at the touch of a button.
But what constitutes violence in hockey? Is it a body check? Is that violent? Well, in my opinion it is not, but sure, if you went and hit someone like you would your opponent on the street, the police might think that you were a violent person. But then again, you’d have to be pretty nuts to go and body check strangers on the streets. In my opinion body checks and hitting is in the nature of hockey and a natural hockey play and therefore, where it can be aggressive, it is not really violent. You expect that it will happen and it is allowed within the rules of the game.
When it comes to hitting, you often hear professionals say that they didn’t want to injure their opponent with a hit and I doubt no self respecting hockey player goes out on to the rink with the sole purpose of injuring his/her opponents. What players do however do is that they hit to hurt. It is a deterrent and a psychological tool that can win games. Hockey players are mentally tough so hard hits are becoming more and more common within the game. Unfortunately though, sometimes hits can lead to injuries. In the case of the hits mentioned in the link above, both hits lead to injuries (one with shoulder injury and the other to a “chest” injury, a concussion and a chipped tooth).
Fighting, at least in some European leagues (yes, I’m looking at you Finland) is particularly frowned upon. I remember there was a case last year when the President and Santa Claus were asked for their opinion on a particularly entertaining hockey fight. However, fighting is probably where you can start using the term violence a little bit more. However, call me old-school, but I believe that fighting is part of hockey. I am not a fan of the pre-arranged fights, be it two of the ‘goons’ just chatting at the face off as seen here. Before I get a new one ripped, yes I understand that it’s about getting momentum and to get the fans in, but I believe that fights like these are a dying breed. However, fighting in the sense of standing up for your teammates or for yourself is something that is inherent with hockey.
Some might not like it at all and it is a topic that has split people into two camps. As a player, I like to know that I play on a team where people stand up for one another instead of leave a player laying in a corner in a heap, as seen in the first video.
If you took a look at the video above, your teams’ leading scorer gets taken out (first hit) and your team Captain (second hit) is laying on the ice, someone might have the reaction to go and stand up for their team-mate.
I guess a big reason why the Violence in sports conversation exists is because some parents want to protect their children from violence, in particular if it is a sports game. Some might be afraid that kids might get bad influences from hockey fights, but if we really want to talk about the violence in sports and entertainment, we would pretty much have to censor majority of children’s cartoons or black out news if we really wanted to protect kids from violence.
Yes there are fights in hockey and yes children are impressionable, but I think that rather than have a wide spread discussion about how violent hockey is every parent should explain to their children what is acceptable behaviour and what is not. I think my parents taught me and my brother well, that we can distinguish what is socially acceptable and what is not. We watched cartoons that have, by definition, violence but we never went out and tried to hit each other, or anyone else for that matter, over the head with a frying pan because we saw it on TV. We never had fisticuffs just because we’d seen a fight in a hockey game. As I’m about to become a dad for the first time, I will make sure that I explain to my kids that sometimes fights happen in hockey and give them the same lessons I had when I grew up (when it came to violence on TV).
I think the discussion around hockey violence is important, as long as the conversation’s aim is to move the sport forwards and develop players in better preparing themselves for physical contact. My personal view is that hockey is a great sport and like I’ve said many times on this blog, I’ve learnt so many life lessons through the game that I doubt I would’ve learnt elsewhere.
I think what every hockey fan wants to see is an intense, fast, physical hockey game. However, what we don’t want to see is any player who lays unconscious on the ice as a result of a head shot or a career that comes to an end because of a dirty play.
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