NHL to End Fighting?

By: AP Email
By: AP Email

When it comes to the age-old question of fighting in hockey, opinion seems to be shifting.

The question is how much?

Bryan Lewis, a former supervisor of officials for the NHL, said fighting in hockey is on the way out.

Lewis was part of a Violence in Hockey Symposium staged Tuesday by the Middlesex-London Health Unit, a gathering of hockey officials, coaches, media members and a former professional player at the London Convention Center.

"I believe the screw is finally being turned," Lewis said. "I think it's slowly being removed from the game."

He worked more than 1,000 NHL games between 1970 and 1986 before becoming supervisor of officials and then director of officiating in 1989.

He retired from the NHL in 2001 and is a director of officiating for the East Coast Hockey League.

He drew a laugh with his suggestion to end fights.

The symposium, attended by 98 coaches, trainers and administrators, sought recommendations leading to a decrease in injuries resulting from gratuitous violence on the ice.

Lewis said his two fears as a parent were a head check to his son or a check from behind.

The topic of hits to the head was prominent at the symposium. Ken Bocking, chief of staff at St. Thomas-Elgin General Hospital, spoke of a son who sustained two concussions because of elbows to the head that ended his career. Bocking showed a graphic film clip of a monkey's brain upon impact.

The Ontario Hockey Association got involved but the NHL, Bocking said, "took it under consideration."

"It's immoral to hit another player with a head-check," Bocking said. "I can't fathom how we, as a society, put up with it. The dinosaurs are in charge but they won't always be."

Throughout the symposium, the NHL was fingered as the type of play most in the minors tend to emulate. Yet what one panelist termed "flagrant, wanton acts" went on all the time with scant punishment.

Panelist Bernie Pascall, a veteran sportscaster who did play-by-play for the Vancouver Canucks along with 12 world hockey championships, conducted a report on violence for the government of British Columbia in 2000.

Among his findings were evidence of parental and crowd influence, inconsistent officiating, and also, a 'culture' in hockey that celebrates aggressive behavior as a manly pursuit.

Has he seen changes since his report and recommendations?

"A little, not much," Pascall said. "Young players aren't born to be violent, they're shown to be violent."


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