An excellent online article at Motherlode, the New York Times’ parenting blog, considers the question of fighting and youth hockey. I have written on a number of occasions about the risk here in Oregon of traumatic brain injuries and spinal cord injuries in sports, especially at the college and pro levels and in heavily physical sports such as football and hockey.
The Times article, however, looks closely at the question of youth hockey. This level of the sport needs to receive more attention not only because it involves children, but also because children are more prone to injuries than highly trained (and better-equipped) professionals. On a deeper level, youth sports also require our attention because it is here that young athletes establish habits that can be extremely difficult to break as children become teens and teens become adults.
As Motherlode notes, the NCAA long ago proved that you can have exciting hockey games without fighting, “but youth hockey has so far followed the lead of the National Hockey League and allowed – even tacitly encouraged – fighting in some youth leagues for players from 16 to 20.” Now, however, the article notes that USA Hockey and Hockey Canada are both considering rule changes that would effectively outlaw fighting in non-professional leagues throughout North America, possibly as early as next season.
As the Times reports: “For most hockey parents, new rules that harshly penalize fighting can’t come too soon. Hockey is a fast and risky sport, and concussions aren’t uncommon even when the game is played right.”
It is unfortunate that it may require a decision by national governing bodies to put an end to something that should have been stopped by individual leagues long ago. Still, anything that makes the sport safer for young players and cuts down on serious head, neck and spinal injuries here in Oregon and elsewhere is to be welcomed. No family should require the help of an Oregon brain and spinal cord injuries lawyer in the wake of a youth sports accident. Parents, coaches and league officials all have an obligation to each other, and especially to the young people placed in their charge, to ensure that the game is as safe as it is exciting.
New York Times: The fight to end fighting in youth hockey