VANCOUVER (NEWS 1130) – “Hockey is an easy game to love, but there is a dark side,” writes Jeremy Allingham in his new book Major Misconduct: The Human Cost of Fighting in Hockey.
He begins by talking about a particularly bad scrap he witnessed at a Vancouver Giants game. “It was one of those [games] where the gloves hit the ice before the puck does and I kind of had this epiphany moment where, as the crowd rose to its feet and kind of had this guttural bloodless scream and cheered for these guys, I zoned in on their faces and realized that these were just kids bare knuckle boxing each other on the ice. Ever since then, I’ve just come to see fighting in hockey as this kind of blemish on a beautiful sport that has speed and skill and thinking and teamwork and vision,” he explains.
“But, for some reason, we like to stop all that good stuff every once in a while to let two people, and sometimes kids at the junior level, bare knuckle box each other on the ice.”
In Major Misconduct, he profiles three former on-ice enforcers, each with remarkably similar medical issues. “The guys in my book live with symptoms common to this disease and that’s depression, anxiety, suicidal ideation, rage, impulse control, inability to focus,” he says.
“Basically you can kind of lose a lot of the faculties that you kind of just rely on in your day-to-day life and it can be devastating.”
LISTEN: Major Misconduct
All of these may be early signs of CTE (chronic traumatic encephalopathy), a brain disease believed to be caused by repeated blows to the head. Unfortunately, it cannot be positively identified until after the patient has died.
While fighting in hockey has decreased over the years, if we wouldn’t tolerate it on the street, we shouldn’t put up with it on the ice.
“Yes, the numbers are down but I mean, it has so far to go. Like, there was nearly 2,000 fights last year. Like, if we saw people fight on a street corner, we’d call the police. But this happens nearly 2,000 times in one year on the ice,” he says.
Allingham argues not only should fighting be outlawed, he outlines how it could be done. “If you legislate it, if you decide you don’t want that anymore and that you value player health over having a few scraps out on the ice, you can do it,” he says.
“You just have to do two things: one is, take away the thing hockey players love most, which is the ability to play hockey, a.k.a. suspensions and don’t just fine the player, fine the teams too. So then the teams and the players have this kind of incentive.”
Major Misconduct is available from Arsenal Pulp Press.
A book launch for is on today from 2:00 to 4:30 p.m. at the BC Sports Hall of Fame, located at BC Place.