Ask any hockey fan about their favorite memories and sooner or later you’re going to hear about a fight. You’ll hear about Wendel Clark pummelling Marty McSorley and Felix Potvin speedbagging Ron Hextall. You’ll hear tales of Wade Belak exacting revenge on Cam Janssens or Colton Orr breaking Chris Neil and Matt Carkner or maybe you won’t be talking to a Leafs fan.
Don’t take this as being sanctimonious or an attempt to be holier than thou; it’s time for fans to recognize that fighting in the NHL isn’t ok. It doesn’t make us bad people for having cheered for and enjoyed fights in the past but there’s more information now. Bob Probert’s death revealed chronic traumatic encephalopathy, a degenerative disease prevalent among people with multiple brain injuries.
Symptoms of CTE include depression and suicidal tendencies. We don’t know anything about Rick Rypien’s death today but if anybody wants to place a cash bet that it wasn’t suicide and he didn’t have CTE I’m willing to give you good odds. Ultimately we, the fans who pay for tickets and cheer for fights, are responsible for the men who sacrifice their brains for our entertainment. This isn’t intended to be a sanctimonious lecture on the evils of fighting because I stood up for every fight I ever saw in a hockey rink.
I don’t think people who like fights are troglodytes because when I woke up this morning I was a fan of hockey fights. Speaking as someone who’s had some serious brain trauma though the stories of Derek Boogaard, Bob Probert and others have been on my bruised mind for a while. I like watching fights and I like it when players fight but I just don’t think I can support it anymore so count me out. You might consider what the cost of cheering people punching each other in the head really is.