NHL Ignores the Impact of Violence and Concussions

May 3, 2019

Doug MacQuarrie, Chief Operating Officer

It’s a shame…

Violence and concussions are two major threats to Canadian Sport. It’s a shame that the National Hockey League (NHL), who arguably has the strongest sport influence on Canadian youth, is absolutely tone deaf when it comes to the impact of these threats on their sport and the resulting negative impact on Canadian sport overall. Yesterday, NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman did his best impression of an ostrich before the Parliamentary Committee investigating sports-related concussion, arguing that there is no conclusive link between concussion in hockey and chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE). Spoiler alert, Mr. Bettman: concussion is very bad! Sports-related concussions pose a major health concern and, as a threat to sport participation, should be a significant concern to governments and sport organizations alike. 

To add insult to injury, the NHL and its outdated, patriarchal opinion leaders are also trying to spin a recent malicious and devious punch to the back of an opponent’s head by a serial offender as merely an example of "good ol’ playoff hockey!" Last year, they stopped the same scoundrel from licking opponents… however; it seems that’s where they draw the line! Their actions suggest they see nothing wrong with targeting the back of an opponent’s head with a cowardly punch! I wonder how the thousands of youngsters and coaches interpret this message when they play on neighbourhood rinks? This is yet another clear indication of the NHL’s preference to "see no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil."

Mr. Bettman’s wild conjecture that increasing head protection means eliminating body contact from hockey is ridiculous. Dangerous behaviours that are outside of the rules and which are intended to harm have no place in sport. When such a behaviour is apparent, whether or not we catch it immediately, it must be sanctioned – full stop! In fact, if such acts were consistently sanctioned, it would not be very long before we would see an end to these despicable behaviours.

Canada is currently pre-occupied with a focus on safe sport, with implementing a system to ensure that sport is free from sexual abuse, harassment and violence. Gratuitous violence and preventable concussion have no place in a values-based and principle-driven sport system. The NHL has not twigged to that… it’s a shame!