Saturday, 7 April 2012

They Knew What They Were Getting Into

On March 22nd another story was posted about an enforcer who committed suicide.  It didn’t get as much exposure as those about Derek Boogaard, Rick Rypien or Wade Belak because it involved a junior player who didn’t make the big leagues.  I wonder how many more potential stories like this are out there - teenagers who chased their dream of playing in the NHL through the role of a fighter.


Lyndon Kenny committed suicide in November of 2011 and his brother posted a moving reflection on his life and brief hockey career.  The full article can be found here.   Lyndon was drafted by the Brandon Wheat Kings of the Western Hockey League because of his size, and ability to scare opponents with his hitting and fists.   Unfortunately this led to several concussions at an early age and he struggled with the same symptoms as reported by other enforcers; depression, lack of motivation and memory loss.

When the hockey world lost Boogaard, Rypien and Belak last year many noted that while sad, all of these enforcers knew what they were doing when they chose their career.  I’m sure that some will say the same thing about Lyndon, that he knew the risks when he pursued his dream of playing hockey.  But I have trouble believing that players at age 16 are getting full disclosure on the risks of hockey in general or being the team enforcer in particular.   At a young age these players need guidance from experienced coaches and former players to tell them what lies ahead.  I would like to know how many junior hockey coaches or team executives take the time to explain the following facts to the teenagers in their organization:
  • Across Canada there are approx. 2,400 players in junior hockey that feed the professional leagues.  Less than 5% will be drafted by a NHL team.
  • Of those that are drafted, less than 20% will ever play in the NHL   If you are drafted after the 3rd round, your chances are further cut in half.
  • The role of an enforcer can have a significant emotional and physical impact.   If a coach tells a player that his only chance to make it is by using their size and dropping the gloves, then they have a responsibility to sit down with him and his family to fully describe what that means.  Perhaps they should encourage that player talk to a former NHL enforcer, like Jim Thomson, to learn what they can expect.
  • Blows to the head can cause brain trauma and, according to recent NHL stats, you are 3 or 4 times more likely to get a concussion from fighting versus a hockey hit.   Why not have the junior player talk to a specialist in brain trauma so they can be forewarned about potential health risks in their later years.
 
Even a 4th line hockey enforcer can expect to make $500,000 or more if they manage to earn a spot on a NHL roster, more if they are a power forward with some skill.  Teenagers can get blinded by the expectations of that kind of money and the fame that comes with it.  They need reasonable advice from those charged with protecting their interests while playing at the junior level.   Junior hockey leagues in Canada offer a scholarship program that typically pays for 1 year of college or university for every year played in the league.  Perhaps more players should be encouraged to finish their junior hockey careers and take advantage of that offer, versus being encouraged to take boxing lessons in the off-season.

Junior hockey is expected to implement stiffer penalties for fighting next season but some coaches think fighting needs to stay in order to prepare players for the NHL.  If you look at the big 3 junior leagues; OHL, WHL and QMJHL, you have over 90 players who have had 10 or more fights in the 2011-2012 season (the top fighter in the OHL had over 30).   Using the stats above, perhaps 4 or 5 of those fighting focused players might be drafted and 1 might end up with a career in the NHL.  So these 3 leagues have almost 100 of the top fighters involved in well over 1,000 fights so that 1 player can be comfortable dropping the gloves in the majors.   The coaches should be concerned with the 99% of players that will never make it to the NHL and think about their safety on the ice right now and their future after the game.

Let’s not continue to read about players like Lyndon Kenny while there is much that can be done to prevent it.








12 comments:

  1. your an idiot !!!!! Dont you have anything better to do !!! I bet you were the guy that grabbed his pucks and went home like a punk after being leaned on abit !!! PUSSY !!!

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  2. I'll leave this comment on the site as it serves as an example of the pro-fighting hockey fan that responds with emotion instead of facts.

    Anti-fighting fans need to avoid leaving this type of comment and stick to the available facts, supported by studies and articles available on this site and elsewhere on the web. Fighting does not change momentum and it does not police the game. And junior hockey players should not be put at risk to serve the very small majority that will make it to the NHL.

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    1. mmmm i think you better rethink,i,m sure you have never had a pair skates on, or even played the game,what happen last season with these players as nothing to do with hockey, by the way your facts are wrong, you feed from what others say

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  3. Players from squirts all the way up to the NHL have the option to fight or even play the game. I appreciate all your facts but you're forgetting that it "takes two to tango". Sure, in some cases a guy might have to use fighting as a way to stay in the lineup but that doesn't mean they don't have a choice, they can choose their health over hockey if they want. I agree that players should be educated about the risks but it should not be eliminated because ultimately players have the choice and deserve the right to make that choice.

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  4. This is the most subjective garbage I have ever read. You refer to your stance as fact, yet there is no scientific or mathematical formula for measuring momentum in sports. You have every right to your opinion, but there is no reason for you to push it on others as fact. Which begs another question, where did you play? To say that fighting does not change momentum, or have any effect on policing the game, is merely your opinion. And not a very credible one, at that... Of the seven concussions I suffered during my playing career, ZERO were from fights, and only one was from a "dirty" play. Hockey is a high speed, violent game by nature and injuries will happen regardless of the rules. The bottom line is, if you don't like our sport, you are free to start your own league, and set the rules that you find appropriate, and stop adding to the overwhelming amount of society that feels they have the right to tell others what they can and cannot do.

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    1. I'll admit that this blog is biased as I do not believe that fighting is part of hockey. But where possible I point to factual evidence of my opinion. There have been several studies of fighting and momentum but PowerScout Hockey has produced the most qualitative data. It's available here - http://powerscouthockey.com/node/512.

      The research shows that fighting is pretty useless as a strategy for changing momentum. It takes approx 60 fights to equal 1 win over a season, a mere 30 if the coach knows what he is doing and picks his spots perfectly. That is what data and research does - it strips away the emotion and the perception, leaving just the facts. If you have a study or report that shows factually that fighting has a significant impact on momentum please share it.

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  5. You didn't answer the question on where you played. It's very simple, momentum does not always equal wins. And that study does not show momentum it merely shows a very skewed view on the number of fights it takes to equal a win. You could twist the way you phrase things and cause the numbers to show where a certain team was most successful following games with fights. It's all just a matter of including the parameters that will make your argument look valid. If you have never been on the ice or the bench following a big fight, blocked shot, hit, or save, then you have absolutely no idea what that does or does not do for the team. Again there is absoltely NO WAY to positively measure momentum, so clueless people should seek the advice of those that have been in those situations to understand the affect.

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    1. I played houseleague in my youth, on high school teams and in men's leagues after school. For the past 15 or so years I have played pick-up with the same group. Almost 50 years of playing and watching the game. BTW, Bowman, Johnson, Demers, and Keenan never played professional hockey. Jimmy Devellano, one of the most respected GMs in the NHL, never played or coached a single hockey game.

      If I take your statement, "Again there is absoltely NO WAY to positively measure momentum", as fact, then you have lost your argument. If you can't measure momentum then your experience is purely emotional. I don't doubt that you got excited watching a team mate getting punched in the face. Once a fight breaks up both teams are banging their sticks on the boards and congratulating the combatants. But that doesn't mean it did anything for the game.

      If you had read the report at PowerScout Hockey you would have understood that they are measuring momentum and, although there is a lift to a team after a fight, it's pretty much 50/50 meaning no advantage not predictable. There's nothing twisted to fit an argument and it's research provided by hockey consultants that provide data to the NHL. You choose to dispute facts and rely on emotion.











      Bowman, Johnson, Demers, and Keenan never played professional hockey.





      Bowman, Johnson, Demers, and Keenan never played professional hockey.

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  6. Hahaha, please tell me that you are not using those guys to try and give yourself credibility! Also, Bowman didn't play in the NHL, but he did play professionally. And the guys that you name have employed and used some of the toughest and busiest fighters in the history of the game. Perhaps they know and understand the game a little better then a guy that was never good enough to play at any high level of the sport, and get an understanding of ALL aspects of the game. Fighting is not a big part of the sport, but it is there for a reason. I read the source that you posted, and as I stated earlier it only looks at one aspect in relation to fighting. And of course the lift a team gets after a goal, fight, save, hit, etc is purely emotional! That is what momentum is, you clown! Which is why there is no way to gauge it other than by being on the.bench and feeling the energy! If you want proof of they way the physical battles can bring teams together, look at the Red Wings of the 90's. Or recent championship teams of The Ducks, Bruins, Pens, as well as the Hawks and Wings. All of those teams carried several role players and gritty depth guys. Many of those teams listed were amongst the top of the league in fights during their championship years too. So obviously teams that fight aren't hurt by it, and actually seem to benefit from the culture of sticking up for one another. Face it, there is no stat, is or study that can prove the true effect that fighting has on the outcome of a game, for either case. It comes down to the players, and coaches to use it as a they see fit. And not have some self righteous, house league hero, tell them what's right.

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    1. Getting upset and resorting to insults doesn't make your argument any stronger. And thank you for admitting that my point is correct; that fighting has no impact on the game. Your post above clearly states that it's purely emotional.

      Every bit of research that contains real data, not emotions, shows that fighting and enforcers have a negative impact on the game. If you have anything that resembles a real study that proves the opposite please post it.

      Goon Icetime: or what coaches really think of their fight-first players - http://www.arcticicehockey.com/2012/4/16/2951069/goon-icetime-or-what-coaches-really-think-of-their-fight-first-players

      Additional Statistics on the Impact of Fighting - http://itsnotpartofthegame.blogspot.ca/2012/02/additional-statistics-on-impact-of.html

      More Facts and Less Emotion - http://itsnotpartofthegame.blogspot.ca/2012/02/additional-statistics-on-impact-of.html

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  7. Lyndon would be the first to tell you that, from a very young age, his coaches told him to 'suck it up' when he got hurt. He was big for his age and played against older players. His coaches did not care about the CHILD being injured. His coaches were willing to risk his and others' futures because of their 'win at any and all costs' attitude. Thing was, it wasn't the coaches futures at stake - outside a chance at participating in play-offs and a 'notch-in-the-belt" victory. Please read Andrew King's Nov 15 2011 blog post about his experiences at http://kingcolliennetravels.wordpress.com/

    Brain injuries are serious business. Concussions are brain injuries. Repeated concussions leave the brain more vulnerable with each successive concussion. Depression is a very common outcome of brain injury. That's a high cost for playing a game.

    I am curious about Anonymous' medical background and knowledge about brain injury. I would invite him/her to view slides from a presentation made in April 2012 by Dr. Charles Tator, a Canadian neurosurgeon practicing in Ontario, Canada and the founder of Think First Canada. http://www.thinkfirst.ca/programs/documents/webinar/Overview%20of%20Concussion-English.pdf

    Dr. Tator treats people who are brain injured. He knows the consequences of repetitive concussions and it is precisely because of his personal experience with the brain injured that he has issued a statement that says "Get rid of fighting, elbows, illegal play and the “enforcer” role in hockey."

    Dr. Paul Echlin, board certified sports medicine specialist @
    http://www.sportconcussionlibrary.com/

    Keith Primeau and Kevin Goulet's website:
    http://www.stopconcussions.com/injury-prevention-research/what-is-a-concussion/

    The NHL, like the NFL, has been complicit in not acknowledging the seriousness of head and spine injuries sustained by players. I cannot believe for a moment that the likes of Ken Dryden and Gary Bettman are ignorant of the outcomes of brain/spinal injury. They are both learned men who profit handsomely from the willingness of young players to take unacceptable risks. Sounds like prostitution to me. The parallel is there.

    Ignorance is not bliss. Lyndon's death, and those of other players, is a clear demonstration that the personal cost of violence in sports is too high.

    "Too often we...enjoy the comfort of opinion without the discomfort of thought."
    --John F. Kennedy

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    1. Well said. "Did you ever play hockey?" is a common refrain from the pro-fighting side. "Did you ever study brain injuries?" is an interesting retort.

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