An editorial published Monday in the Canadian Medical Association Journal, Stop the Violence and Play Hockey, conflates fighting with head trauma and muddies the waters of a needed debate before it even starts.
"The tragic story of Sidney Crosby's layoff due to concussions has not been sufficient for society to hang its head in shame and stop violent play immediately," writes Dr. Rajendra Kale.
Kale may be an expert on chronic trauma encephalopathy, an Alzheimer's-like condition of increasing concern to all sports where head injuries are common, but clearly he is not a hockey fan or he would know Crosby's concussions had nothing to do with fighting.
A re-evaluation of fighting in hockey may yet take place, but the National Hockey League is rightfully more concerned about dangerous hits to the head. A rule change has been made this season, but it does not address the fundamental shift that has taken place in Canada's game.
Improvements in sports nutrition and training as well as lighter but harder padding means stronger men are hitting each other with better weapons. Then the league cracked down on hooking and holding so these men could skate even faster. Then the league removed the blue line and refused to instigate a no-touch (no-hit) icing rule. The result: stronger men with better weapons are now hitting each other at speeds of 30 km/h.
If the league wants to convince the world it is serious about protecting its players, it would immediately go to no-touch icing, mandate the use of soft pads and either reintroduce the blue line or find other ways - we can't believe we're saying this - to slow down the game.