The Vent: A plea to the media on fighting and dangerous hits

The Vent is a column that hands the mic on Puck Daddy over to hockey fans to rant, rave and react to everything in the game. If you have a pitch for an editorial, or have one written, and want it featured on Sunday, email with the subject “The Vent.”

As the fighting debate continues on, here's a reader who has a plea that he wants heard.

by Gerald Morton

Dear Media,

I think I understand.

It must be hard being complicit in the damaging of young men’s brains. It has to be awkward to watch young people, barely more than kids, damage their bodies and brains in the pursuit of our entertainment and your livelihood. You seem to have unresolved guilt about living a lifestyle of relative leisure and travel at their expense. It makes sense to have complicated feelings and conflict about your job.

But please save us from your misguided outrage and moral panic.

If not for me, or others that enjoy the game, then do it for yourselves. Instead of howling at the void or taking a stance of moral and ethical superiority, convert your energy into something useful. Pressure junior, and lower, leagues to remove fighting, the most dangerous hits and make the game as safe as possible. Most of these kids will not make it as professionals and it is the job of those who have gone before to look after children.

But please save us from your quest to save millionaire adults from themselves.

Ya, I get it, twenty year old adults are still full of youthful idiocy. But every time a thirty year old has an affair, a forty year old buys a Porsche he can’t afford, or a fifty year old drinks too much at a holiday party and gets a DUI, we are reminded that short-sighted idiocy is not the sole domain of testosterone fueled twenty-somethings.

If you feel your job is to talk about brain damage and CTE in order to give these ‘kids’ the information they need I applaud you. But stop filtering everything through your ever changing moral compasses. One week hitting from behind is evil. Then, blind side head shots are the panic of the day. Soon fighting, and, god forbid, staged fighting, are the true menace in the game. Next the crusade turns towards visors, or even full cages.

All of these are ways to assuage guilt over a simple truth about hockey.

When bodies hit each other at speed the brain shifts in the head and the potential for damage is created. CTE is not simply caused by concussions. The medical data, although not yet conclusive, suggests sub-concussive hits may be as damaging as major concussive trauma. Put simply, a game that causes the free floating brain to bash against the skull will cause brain damage in some people, and eventually CTE in a few.

If you are truly concerned about the lives of these young men, then support the removal of all hitting from hockey. Stop talking about fighting and certain types of hits. All of them are dangerous and potentially deadly. If you can’t live with the level of guilt that comes with this knowledge, and it is not an option to remove yourself as an accessory, then focus your guilt into meaningful action. Don’t stop at the mere presentation of outrage. It’s easy and cheap.

And for the rest of us, especially those that toil for a living, please realize the inadvertent insult you give. You spend too much time and energy worrying about the health and well-being of millionaires. You let out your guilt through vitriol about the Patrick Kaleta’s and Raffi Torres’s of the hockey world. Meanwhile, men and women all over North America are wrecking their bodies working for your pleasure. Migrant workers are bent over pesticide sprayed, carcinogenic produce in the United States and Canada, for less than minimum wage and no benefits. Men and women will die on the ocean, in the woods, and in factories this year to provide you seafood, Ikea furniture and iPhones. Every year an unimaginable amount of people are killed, made sick and permanently altered for their work.

(Seriously, look up the stats. The best, and by all accounts conservative, estimate is that more than 2 Million people are killed on the job worldwide each year. And hundreds of millions have work related diseases).

Too few scream to protect them. They are not millionaires. They will not be allowed to retire before 40, never to worry about money again. They will have permanent injuries and sickness from chemicals and will be haunted to their graves by the daily grind of life in the working world.

So don’t actively, and callously, destroy their entertainment. Protect the children and underage kids who play the game. Educate the world about CTE and concussions and mental health and addiction. Stop oversimplifying these complex problems. Be nuanced and informed. Be true educators for the public good. But save us your endless moral panic and do your job—analyze the sport and add something to the entertainment or knowledge of the audience.

Please stop pretending your guilt about the horrific reality of CTEs comes from a position of superior intelligence, knowledge or ethical concern. When you read the reports and the personal accounts of ex-athletes who died you became sad, angry and guilty. Like us fans, you are reacting to visceral stimuli. I implore you to understand this, accept it, take a step back and contemplate what you can do to help.

I’m sure the proper course isn’t impudent rage.

Expend your energy in a useful way, as often as your job permits. Don’t simply download your guilt to your viewers, readers and listeners.

And please save your moral panic for the weak, the downtrodden and the exploited, not professional athletes.

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The Vent is a column that hands the mic on Puck Daddy over to hockey fans to rant, rave and react to everything in the game. If you have a pitch for an editorial, or have one written, and want it featured on Sunday, email with the subject “The Vent.”