Enough is Enough
Posted By: Aaron Sims
A fatal accident occurred at the Fond du Lac & 28th Street intersection in Milwaukee when three siblings were crossing the street. According to reports, all three siblings were struck by a Milwaukee County bus. Two were seriously injured in the incident, and the third sibling was killed. The boy was only 7 years old.
This happened in December.
One neighbor who witnessed the fatal accident commented, "That's something you never forget."
In response, flashing pedestrian lights are currently being tested at the intersection of Kilbourn Avenue and Market Street. They are activated when a pedestrian pushes a button to warn drivers that the individual is crossing the street.
If officials notice an improvement in the awareness of drivers, they hope to install the lights at other dangerous crosswalks in the Milwaukee area in order to prevent serious or fatal pedestrian accidents from occurring.
The afore-mentioned neighbor who witnessed the death of the boy hopes city officials will install the lights in order to keep other children and pedestrians in the neighborhood safe. Since the accident, new pedestrian signs have been installed to caution drivers of those using the crosswalk, but the neighbor believes that the signs are not enough. "People still don't pay attention," he said.
Keeping your citizens safe should not be considered a “kneejerk reaction”.
On January 13, 1968, four minutes into a game against the Oakland Seals at the Met Center in Bloomington, MN, North Stars forward Bill Masterton was carrying the puck into the Seals' zone. Shortly after completing a pass to teammate Wayne Connelly, he was checked by Oakland's Larry Cahan and Ron Harris and fell backwards onto the ice head-first. The force of the back of his head hitting the ice caused blood to gush from his mouth and nose.
Masterton sustained a massive brain hemorrhage. The injury was so severe that doctors were unable to perform surgery, and Masterton died two days later.
His death would result in more intense lobbying to make it mandatory for hockey players to wear helmets, which were uncommon in North American professional hockey at the time. Helmets were made a mandatory piece of equipment for professional players before the start of the 1979–80 season.
It took a while, but the NHL and its players realized they should protect what can be protected.
In the past four months, the NHL has lost three young men to self-inflicted deaths. Derek Boogaard died May 13 of an accidental mixture of alcohol and oxycodone. Rick Rypien of the Winnipeg Jets died on Aug. 15 at his home in Alberta. He had suffered from depression for years and police called his death "sudden and non-suspicious."
Most recently, almost-an-Admiral Wade Belak was found dead in Toronto.
Adrian Dater of the Denver Post wrote a fantastic column which really falls in line with my theory about “tough-guys”. I’ll wait. You really need to read this
, then come back and finish my blog.
It was worth it, wasn’t it?
I have maintained for years that the sweetest guys on the team are the tough guys. Most of you reading this already know that. Nobody has a better smile than Zack Stortini. Nobody is more willing to talk about anything in the world than Kelsey Wilson. Scott Ford is as bright a guy as you’ll ever meet. These are just a few examples from my time with Milwaukee. While they probably aren’t “heavyweights”, they all are known for their willingness to drop the mitts.
I am not saying that the three players I mentioned have the self-esteem of a player that Dater described. I am saying that they (like Boogaard, Rypien and Belak) are highly thought of and well-liked.
Boogaard was very active in charities, including “Defending the Blue Line
”, a group whose mission is ensuring that children of military members are afforded every opportunity to participate in the game of hockey.
Belak was considered a great teammate, a very funny guy and one who would take care of those around him. He was a volunteer fireman. He, like Rypien, suffered from depression according to his mother
If playing at the top-level meant doing the dirty work, they were going to do it. If you asked them to make an appearance in the community, my guess is they were going to do it.
Sometimes we are willing to do anything to make others happy while we disregard what will make us happy. It’s human. Sometimes the thought is, “If I do a favor for this person, maybe they’ll like me.” “If I pick up the tab at the restaurant, everyone will see I’m a good guy and want to hang out with me.”
How many of you struggle to NOT be indentified by what you do? Don’t you want to be “Joe Smith…good guy, good father, good husband” rather than “Joe Smith…truck driver (or doctor or any other profession)”?
These guys have all been labeled as “enforcers” or “goons”. Labels are limiting. Labels inhibit you when they are thrust upon you, especially if they are contradictory to how you TRY to see yourself.
When I first moved to Madison ten years ago, I only knew a couple people. A friend of mine invited me to a party so I could meet some others. I didn’t want to say that I was a sports talk host. The reason: I was afraid of being pigeon-holed as a guy who only knows about sports. I really fought and struggled with the notion that I was just a one-dimensional character.
I think we, as men, still have a problem in this country in the fact we don’t often seek help. Contrary to what others believe, rock bottom does not need to happen. Too often we can’t come back from rock bottom. The culture of the “macho, tough guy” needs to change.
Now I realize that some of these players, perhaps many, are able to strike a balance. I’m not saying fighting is the root cause that leads to depression. I will say, however, that fighting, or being asked to fight, can exacerbate that condition.
I am also not going to downplay the potential role of head trauma and/or concussions in the deaths of the three. I think the entire world is anxiously awaiting some answers from studies of the brains of athletes like Bob Probert and Dave Duerson.
The NHL and NHLPA released a joint statement saying they will review the cases and look for similarities.
Mike Gillis, general manager of the Vancouver Canucks, said he expects the role to be reexamined. “I’m sure it will have an impact,’’ he said. “I’m sure it will create debate. I know in the case of Rick [Rypien], I don’t think we ever felt his role and how he played the game was influential in what happened. Perhaps we are wrong.’’
Many will argue that fighting should not be banned. “It’s part of the game and it always has been” will certainly be exclaimed. The NHLPA will likely say jobs will be lost.
The 2011 Stanley Cup Playoffs were certainly exciting. In total, 89 games were played. There were 12 fights. Twelve. That’s an average of .13 per game. Vancouver defenseman Kevin Bieksa was involved in three. For the other 21 participants, it was their lone fight of the postseason.
You can’t tell me, or anyone that likes the NHL, that the games were any less intense or less entertaining without the fights.
“Since the 1990s, the postseason has traditionally featured about one-fifth of the fighting of the regular season, as measured by the number of fighting majors issued per game. Yet many hockey fans say that playoff hockey is far more intense and entertaining — even the substantial number who say they see fighting as intrinsic to the game.”
According to hockeyfights.com
, Anaheim averaged a fight per game in 2008-09 (82 fights in 82 games). Eight teams averaged less than half a fight per game.
In 2009-2010, the Ducks led the NHL with 78 fights (.95 per game). Twelve teams averaged less than half a fight per game, including Nashville which had 23 fights (third fewest in the NHL).
Last season, St. Louis had 78 fights (.95 per game). Fourteen teams averaged less than half a fight per game, including Nashville which had 18 fights (second fewest in the NHL).
As you can see, statistically, fighting is not occurring as much as it did even a few years ago.
If a store sees fewer and fewer customers each year, eventually it’s going to shut the doors. If you don’t go there anymore, will you be upset when it’s gone?
Fighting is occurring less and less. Are we, as fans, going to be outraged if it’s no longer there?
I had a debate with an esteemed member of the Admirals staff about this topic. His position was fans need something to cheer about over the course of a 76 game schedule. Cheering comes from goals and fights. It’s always been that way.
I said it could change.
He said it can’t because it’s always been that way.
I replied, “I’ve been fat my entire life, too. Does that mean I can’t change? Of course not. I’m still fat because I’m too lazy to do something about it.”
Change can occur when you want it to.
I anticipate we’re going to see amazing conclusions from all the research being done with concussions over the next couple years. I don’t know if we can be shocked with what we’ll discover because I believe we all have a decent idea of what will come from the studies. Still, I think the proof will even exceed what we currently think we know.
All of this buildup leads to my drastic conclusion: it’s time to seriously curb, or eliminate altogether, fighting in hockey.
How do we do this?
We start with the college hockey rule for fighting. In its “Intro to College Hockey”, the website insidecollegehockey.com
writes: “Common misconception: fighting isn't "outlawed" in college hockey, its penalty (one-game suspension on your first offense) is just much more severe than the NHL's (five minute penalty, feel shame). The result, of course, is very few fights. While we're not above a good scrap now and then, we think you'll find that you don't miss it.”
So rule one: a combatant is ejected from the current game and suspended for the next. For subsequent fights, the games will increase: 2, 5, 10, season.
The professional player will also be fined $10,000 for the second offense. The amount increases to $15,000 for the next offense and $20,000 for the fourth.
Also, the team and its head coach will be fined the same amounts each time.
With this, the league will have to get tougher on pests. If a player like Matt Cooke is trying to coax a fight by slashing or running players, he needs to be penalized immediately and severely.
This is not intended to remove physical play. Big hits are going to happen. The speed and the size of the athletes will assuredly keep the hits coming.
Is this “kneejerk”? Perhaps. Is it “kneejerk” to put a stoplight at a busy intersection if a pedestrian is killed? No?
In the NFL, the most popular and successful (and arguably the most physical) league in North America, players are immediately ejected if they throw a punch that is deemed flagrant.
We’re talking of just three young men that played in the top league in the world. Over the years, how many names could we add to the mix? John Kordic died at age 27 nearly 20 years ago. We could add names from every level of hockey. There are probably names from the Milwaukee Admirals past that have met similar fates. We just never knew the private struggles. “Partying” in the old days has almost always been romanticized.
Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me.
Derek Boogaard’s death was something. Rick Rypien’s death was coincidence. Wade Belak’s death…this is a disturbing pattern. When will we support the players’ well-being and say “Enough!”? We can start now.
I'm sure this will start a debate. Let's keep it civil and let's hear your thoughts.
One final note: In lieu of flowers, the Belak family will accept donations to The Andie and Alex Belak Scholarship Fund. Checks may be made payable to:
Woodmont Christian Church/Belak
3601 Hillsboro Pike
Nashville, TN 37215