Earlier this week, I sat at the kitchen table in my apartment to work on a paper, which I normally do, and watched some hockey with my roommates, which I don’t often do.
As I started watching, the puck went back and forth, and a fight soon broke out, of course. I sat there stunned — the referees weren’t doing anything to stop the two players, who were throwing direct punches to the head, bloodying each other up. I’m not a hockey fan, but both of the players helmets had come off at some point.
A fist fight is dangerous, no matter the context.
“You don’t see anything wrong with this?” I asked.
“It’s all part of the game,” one of my roommates said. “It’ll run its course.”
Well, the scuffle didn’t run its course. The two players kept taking head shots for a few minutes, until it looked like one of those boxing matches where the two boxers are so tired, they just lean their bodies against each other.
Then, the refs broke up the fight, when it was sapped of all its momentum. Even the crowd had obviously lost interest after a while. The injuries had been dealt out.
I wondered aloud, why don’t these league officials protect their players in a game that is based on points, instead of blows to the torso? For glory, I guess, for machismo.
Because that’s how it is.
It’s too bad for these players. While I’m not a sports fan to any extent, I’ve been interested in reforms in light of career-ending injuries and concussions, and even suicides.
Twenty years down the line, it’s hard to imagine hockey, football, MMA fighting and other sports looking the same way as they do today.
It’s clear that the leagues who put their players in harm’s way have a long way to go, and I encourage fans to share my outrage when officials allow this skull-cracking nonsense to go on for the sake of ticket sales.
At the most recent International Consensus Conference on Concussion in Sport in Zurich, where sports administrators and researchers join to review new research, the message was clear: “When in doubt, sit them out.”
Those are the words of Ken Dryden, the Hockey Hall of Fame goalie and former member of Canada’s Parliament. Certain notable instances indicate that the NHL still lags behind on applying this tenet.
Players are eager to return to the ice, even after receiving suspect hits, and administrators often do nothing to stop it, reliant on the outdated Sports Concussion Assessment Tool model.
Pittsburgh fans are eager to forget Sidney Crosby’s 10-month absence from the Penguins lineup, but the recent case of Colorado Avalanche player Gabriel Landeskog has also struck me as disturbing.
Landeskog suffered a devastating head injury in a Jan. 26 game, struggled to get off the ice, but was allowed to return for 18 more minutes of play.
After feeling concussion symptoms, which can take days to set in, he’s now on injured reserve.
Such stories abound across leagues. Esquire’s February issue features a piece on NFL injuries with a title that really spoke to me: “Theater of Pain.”
It recounts the warped definitions of on-field injury and absurd military symbolism that goes along with it, told from the perspective of players.
Author Tom Junod writes, on injuries, “For gamblers and fantasy-football enthusiasts, they are data, a reason to vet the arcane shorthand (knee, doubtful) of the injury report the NFL issues every week; for sportswriters they are kernels of reliable narrative.”
And, fans don’t see the rehabilitation, the hours of hard work players endure to return “in time.”
I hope these unhealthy time restraints go away sometime soon, along with officials who are lax to enforce the doctor’s orders.
Mike Hricik is a senior majoring in journalism and is The Daily Collegian’s Monday columnist. Email him at email@example.com.