March 09, 2011

On Fighting and Concussions

With the recent news about Bob Probert's brain injury many people have been busy discussing concussions and fighting in hockey, specifically fighting's future in hockey.

If there was one NHL tough guy as popular and beloved/hated as much as Probert, it was Tie Domi. The two had some epic battles, and Domi was one of the few to get into more punch-ups in his career than Probert. One article speculated he was in as many as 400 fights in his hockey career including juniors and professional.

Which of course has many wondering about Domi's thoughts on the brain damage issue, as well as his own long term health. But until recently, the articulate Domi kept perfect silence on the issue. He has finally spoke out, somewhat reluctantly, through a Steve Simmons interview with the Toronto Sun.

In the interview Domi tried to say as little as possible. But in doing so he made some fascinating statements, including that he has no intention of seeking medical attention.
"If I get checked out, then what? What’s that going to do for me? I’m one of those guys who doesn’t like to look in the past. I haven’t read one article about what happened (to Probert) and I don’t plan on reading one. People keep sending them to, pointing me to them, but I’m not looking at them, I’m not looking in the past. I’m looking ahead. It’s how I have to be."
On what it is like to be a fighter:
“But I don’t think most people understand what it’s like (to be a fighter). When you did what we did, you don’t miss having the anxiety and pressure that goes with it. You did it because you had to do it, and you don’t want to talk about anymore when it’s over.
As for his fighting past, he makes no apologies:
“(Fighting) is my past life. It’s made me who I am and I’ll never forget that. I never discuss it with anybody, though. I never talk about fighting, ever. I’m not comfortable talking about it. Mentally, it was tough, tough on me. It was part of my job. It was what I had to do. I did whatever I had to do to make it. My dream was to be a hockey player. Everybody told me I was too small or not good enough. So I did whatever I had to do to make it. Once you’re done you’re done. There’s no point going back and talking about it.”
The article is a great read. Domi goes on to talk about his personal relationship with Bob Probert, a seemingly unlikely friendship based on great respect. He also talks about his belief that one day a player may die on the ice as the result of a fight.

Of course, that's already happened in an Ontario senior league a couple of years back. Sadly, little has changed since. Fighting sells, and that's the bottom line, the only line the NHL seems to care about.

I used to be quite indifferent to fighting - I've enjoyed more than a few tussles over the years but at the same time I could live without in the game. I used to believe fighting served a purpose at the NHL level. But now I believe the NHL needs to do what is right - end fighting, end all blindside hits and blows to the head. Come up with standardized suspensions based on intent, not injury. Extend the punishment to the teams by not allowing salary cap relief or roster replacements for suspended players.

A culture change is needed in hockey, and the NHL needs to be responsible enough to lead the way.

1 comment:

DeJordy said...

I recently watched some old videos of fights. They seldom squared off and had formal bouts. They just swung like crazy. And there was little of the "code" of not hitting guys after they fell. But then again, they weren't behemoths; they were hockey players throwing wild punches. And they were not boxing specialists.