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Action Needed

from Cathal Kelly of the Toronto Star,

Maybe the job needs to change.

We cannot know to a certainty what role their work — intimidating and inflicting pain on other people — played in these deaths. However, the league must now operate under the assumption that the loss, in such a short time, of three men who performed the same specialty function for a living points toward a causal link.

What exactly that link may be — brain injury? the cumulative mental toll of a life of violence? — is the starting point of a debate.

Debate is what the NHL’s overseers do best — much of it pointless, and most of it leading nowhere.

Headshots were easy for them to brush past — no amount of rule changes can entirely prevent blows to the skull, since so many of them are accidental.

There is no such thing as an accidental fist fight.

This new debate must be different.


Filed in: NHL Teams, NHL Talk, | KK Hockey | Permalink
  Tags: derek+boogaard, rick+rypien, wade+belak



No. Totally wrong. Each man is an individual, with different experiences, and personal make up.

To come out and almost demand that we start framing the debate in your terms is disgusting, Mr Reporter. About on a par with your wrong reporting on Mr Rypien’s death.

Yes, it is sad that this happened.  Yes, they all dropped the mitts from time to time.  But in an era where they are watched very closely for these things, neither Belak nor Rypien had a concussion.

Mr Rypien’s demon was depression. He did not drink much, and supposedly just beer. Never took pills.  Now, Boogey dies from an OD, ( pills mixed with alcohol ) and some reports stated Mr Belak had a problem with the painkillers.

It does not change that apart from the fact that they all played a similar style, there was nothing else in common.  May just said, in the last days ” he lit up a room”. Belak was known to be a happy guy.

So, doubtful that he might have had a similar problem to Ryp…its just another example of the fact that trying to make these things black and white is specious reasoning, lazy journalism ( nice to tie things up in a box, but not reality ), and just not right.

It seems more like this reporter being a little full of themselves and going for hits, which, sadly, is what the MSM is now when it comes to sports.

Posted by vancitydan on 09/01/11 at 12:07 AM ET

Hank1974's avatar

vancitydan, this is not meant to be a vicious attack against you, but it’s hockey people such as yourself that are preventing the sport from cleaning up.

Too many fans and executives who refuse to see the correlation’s would prefer to stick their heads in the sand and continue to repeat “the game is fine, the game is fine”.
3 goons. 3 deaths, and yet so many people think there’s no link.

Until the culture of hockey changes, which means the line of thinking by those from a by-gone era who run the sport, deaths and ugliness will continue to plague this great sport.

Get rid of goons. Get rid of fighting.
No fighting, no head shots, no hard-capped equipment = cleaner, safer hockey. And hopefully no more hockey players taking their lives.

Posted by Hank1974 on 09/01/11 at 12:23 AM ET


Belak was known to be a happy guy.

And of course there’s never ever been a case of someone who seems happy outwardly, in public and turns out to have deep, deep depression.

Posted by Garth on 09/01/11 at 12:44 AM ET


Its OK Hank, I don’t take it personally.  But its not “people like me” ( a horrible generalization, you don’t know me, and it seems if you feel that way, you missed the point of my post )

I am not dismissing it, and/ or refusing to see anything.  But the fact that they all were fighters is not enough. It just is not. Its specious reasoning. Its wrong to connect all three INDIVIDUALS because of what they did in hockey.

I fully expected the pollyanna view from someone Hank.  And I would not mind getting rid of staged fights at all.  But fighting is just a part of hockey. You talk of the culture.  Let me tell you, it is more integral.

Without the players at least, even partially, being able to police themselves, in a game that is fast, where split second decisions can result in teammates being injured by things that go against the culture of the game…without that, you will hardly be able to recognize those that play the game from all the scars from the stick fouls.

People get hurt in the game Hank. Its a fast dangerous game. People get hurt in football too, its a fast dangerous game. What they have in common is that people hit each other. The difference is, there is no out of bounds in hockey. The action does not last for 5 seconds and then we all go back for a huddle.

Stick fouls would increase to much, guys would still try to get after each other in less than honorable ways. They just would.

Is everyone that fights in the game a goon?  My team, for instance. Bieksa drops them from time to time. Is he a goon?  Kesler?  Burrows?

Yeah, they don’t fight s often as the staged guys, and I agree that should probably go the way of the dodo bird,

But, no offense, it is idiotic to say there is a LINK without far more proof.  Like, medical causality.  Otherwise, the tragedies have to be judged on their own evidence.  I pointed that out in my previous post. Its a shame you are so ingrained in your own view to not see the truth, or at least the reality.

For instance ( sorry to ramble here ), you blithely throw in “no head shots”.  But every time a guy gets his head hit, it is not a “head shot”. In a fast game, where big men are colliding at high rates of speed, its going to happen.

Get rid of the hard caps? I agree totally.  You bet.  People will still be hit in the melon, because it happens.  Even if the hard caps are gone, lots of guys will still be throwing the big hit.  Shoot, Scott Stevens put out two guys with what were both called “clean hits” in the day ( and they would still both be clean today, well, maybe not! ) in Lindros and Kariya. He was not a goon. He just hit hard. Part of the game.  Don’t dismiss it. Because you can’t. Its part of the game.

Bottom line, it is stupid to say that “hockey players took their lives” because of violence in hockey. It is extremely biased as well, and wrong. How dare you.

Apart from totally missing the point I was making, that they are all individuals, the fact they fought is probably a minor aspect…unless you have medical proof otherwise, that hitting in the head causes suicide. You go ahead and do the research then, I don’t want to. Boxing would be a good place to start, and then older time hockey, when guys were punching the hell out of each other FAR more than in today’s game.

Two of them, it is possible drugs were involved, and the other missed time due to depression, and did not take drugs.  Boogey, by all reports, was ruled accidental with the drugs taken and drinking.  One report for Belak ( and BTW other guy, I was just saying that, from guys like May and others that had seen Belak a lot recently, he seemed to be happy and taking to retirement well…of course appearances can deceive, but come on ) said he hung himself, another talked of painkillers. So, its too soon for you to even put him in any LINK Hank.  We just do not know.

So, in closing, I am not some bloodthirsty fan reveling in violence. I love this game as much as anyone else.  Because I grew up in an era where I actually had my first hockey fight at 12, and it was something that happened all the time at all levels, does not make me a lover of goonery either.

But I do find it insulting, and very judgemental, that “folks like you” ( no offense!) that have this pollyanna view of the game are so quick to use anything, even a pretty sleazy ( the guy just died,) and you seem to agree with this reporter that it is OK to diminish his life to “goons are bad”.

Posted by vancitydan on 09/01/11 at 01:32 AM ET


But, no offense, it is idiotic to say there is a LINK without far more proof.  Like, medical causality.  Otherwise, the tragedies have to be judged on their own evidence.  I pointed that out in my previous post. Its a shame you are so ingrained in your own view to not see the truth, or at least the reality.

There is medical causality for depression due to concussions. There is causality between depression and substance abuse. The premature mortality in jobs where one gets hit in the head a lot (say, Stage Wrestling or NFL lineman) is astronomically higher than in similarly-compensated athletes of a similar socioeconomic background (Nascar or Basketball).

It’s also worth noting the only premature hockey death from the last 20 years that didn’t involve a fighter or a freak accident I can think of is Brian Fogarty (severe alcoholism). That’s 1 versus about 6.

I’m not at ‘ban all fighting’ quite yet, but the big picture’s looking pretty bad for it.

Posted by steviesteve on 09/01/11 at 02:13 AM ET

Hank1974's avatar

vancitydan, I’m glad you didn’t take it personally and I apologize for my wording.
I regretted what I wrote as soon as I hit reply. I guess this topic gets the better of me and I apologize for painting you with a large brush.
I’m sorry.

But if I can make one more comment. While it’s true that fighting has always been in the game (Canadian game anyway), I don’t think people realize how little amount of fighting actually occured.

Ted Lindsay was one of the toughest guys in his era. And yet, over 16 years of NHL hockey, he had a total of 21 fights:

Gordie Howe played 30 years and had a total of 28:

The 40’s, 50’s and even 60’s didn’t have nearly the violence people think it did.
It wasn’t until the WHA that we saw the advent of the goon. Knowing they couldn’t compete against the NHL, they brought in every goon in North America to sell tickets. Boom, the Goon was born.

So I don’t think people realize that the NHL was downright passive in the 50’s as compared to what we see today.
Watch an old clip on ESPN classics and see how guys rarely finish checks, there aren’t any scrums after the goalie stops the puck and an opposing player is within 10’ of him, and there were barely any fights.

I think the NHL can survive very nicely if they remove the goons and let the guys just play the freakin’ game.
Yes, tempers will flare and every now and then you’ll get a dustup. I’m okay with that because most non-fighters can’t do any real damage. They don’t weigh 260 and can punch like Ivan Drago.

But if the NHL would simply remove hard capped equipment, actually enforce dirty/cheap plays to the maximum, you wouldn’t need goons and you’d get clean hockey.
Not to mention, we would hopefully never have to read another sad story about an enforcer taking his life or overdosing.

Posted by Hank1974 on 09/01/11 at 10:38 AM ET

Hank1974's avatar

Sorry, I think these stats are hilarious:


Total fights in the 1950-51 season - drumroll please…
6. SIX total fights.
Top fighter that year? Gordie Howe with a whopping TWO fights.
3 of the 6 teams didn’t record one fight.

So while I guess you could say fighting’s always been in the NHL, it’s not fair to say it’s to the extent we see it today.
Not even close.

Posted by Hank1974 on 09/01/11 at 11:51 AM ET

UMFan's avatar

Get rid of goons
Posted by Hank1974 on 08/31/11 at 10:23 PM ET

Goons are pretty much gone from the game. With points being a premium these days, a one dimensional goon is seen pretty much as both a defensive and offensive liability. I myself am not a fan of the staged goon on goon fights as it really serves no purpose. I’m not a boxing fan for the same reason. I do however see the purpose of a fight being used as a deterrent for dirty play. If somebody hits somebody wrong, he knows somebody is going to go after him. Granted, I have no empirical data to show that fighting does decrease dirty hits. It just seems logical to me that if you take fighting out of the game we will see an increase in dirty play. Maybe the NHL should do a test run and ban fighting in one of the minor leagues for a year or two to get some data.

Posted by UMFan from Denver, Colorado on 09/01/11 at 01:03 PM ET

Hank1974's avatar

I agree for the most part UMFan.
But this offseason, there were more goons/tough guys being signed than skaters.
Look at Chris Campoli. Dude can skate like the wind, but can’t find a team.
Meanwhile, Ben Eager gets snapped up in a hurry.

Also whenever someone brings up that fighting curbs dirty play, I can’t help but bring up the fact that Matt Cooke is still hurting people and ending careers despite goons being on the ice.
Steve Ott is another troublemaker that couldn’t care less.

I don’t think goons really do anything anymore. Part of the problem is that middleweights like Cooke, Perry, Ott, etc. know they never have to fight a heavyweight.
They’ll only fight guys equal to them, which isn’t much of a lessen learned.
Besides, if they can make millions in the best league in the world, they’ll make that sacrifice.

Perhaps in the 80’s when everyone was expected to pay the piper, things were different. I still remember Probie knocking Barasso’s helmet with one-punch as he was trying to get to Kevin McGuire who was tangled up with Yzerman.
Back then, goons didn’t seem to care as much if you were a non-fighter. If you took a liberty with their star player, they took you for a canoe ride.
Not anymore. Now we see guys fly around the ice looking to put someone in a coma, and they don’t care if they have to fight a Dustin Brown.
They might think different if a Boogard was breathing down their neck. But that doesn’t happen anymore.

Posted by Hank1974 on 09/01/11 at 01:23 PM ET

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Paul Kukla founded Kukla’s Korner in 2005 and the site has since become the must-read site on the ‘net for all the latest happenings around the NHL.

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