This article can be found published on Chicks Who Give a Puck.
Fighting is a staple in the National Hockey League. Players will fight to stand up for their teammates or try to turn the momentum of a game. There are those who argue against it, but the majority feels that it’s an integral part of the game and belongs in hockey. But does it belong in youth hockey?
In the Texas state varsity championships, fighting is not permitted, as clearly stated in the Code of Conduct form.
It began after two back-to-back boards by Arlington Martin players seconds apart with just a few minutes left in a game that Keller was well on their way to winning the Silver League state title with a 9-3 lead. Keller players jumped in, and a scuffle quickly turned into an all-out brawl on the ice. The worst part was when Martin player Jeff SoRelle jumped off the bunch to join in, and was completely blindsided by Keller player Braxton Mills, who came flying in at top speed and landed a hard hit to SoRelle’s jaw.
SoRelle collapsed to the ice while the melee continued in the corner. SoRelle suffered a concussion and broken jaw from the hit.
According to Chuck Palmer, president of the Martin Warrior Ice Hockey Club, Mills was given a 10-minute misconduct for checking from behind at the 13:46 mark of the third period (periods in the league are only 15 minutes), before returning to the ice where he leveled SoRelle.
“I’ve never seen an ejected player come back on the ice and deliver that kind of hit in the NHL or any level of hockey,” Palmer said.
Maybe this is a sign that the real problem has nothing to do with whether fighting should be allowed, but that a problem currently plaguing the NHL has been seeping down into juniors and could now be affecting high school leagues as well. That problem? A lack of respect among the players.
You see it happening throughout the NHL with reckless plays injuring others, and sometimes ending careers. Now we’re seeing that type of reckless play at the high school level.
There’s a difference between defending a player – which is what seemed to have started the fighting – and reckless behavior, like the hit on SoRelle.
Palmer has some opinions on this behavior. His views, though, come from that of a hockey dad who has a son playing, and do not represent the views of the Warrior Ice Hockey Club or SoRelle and his family.
“The recklessness and violence of the hit by Keller player Braxton Mills against Martin player Jeff SoRelle is unlike anything I’ve seen in my years of involvement in youth hockey and even high school hockey,” Palmer said. “Look at YouTube and you’ll see all kinds of ‘big hits’ and hockey fight videos, NHL and other levels. If that kind of behavior is glorified, or even tolerated at the NHL level, it sends a message to kids that it is okay, even ‘cool’ to be the badass on the ice. What the kids don’t understand is that NHL hockey is part sport, part entertainment.”
This draws even more attention to hits at the NHL level that the league is trying to prevent, yet are still happening.
It’s time to take these dangerous and dirty hits to the head out of the sport and help prevent it from spreading to minor and youth leagues. No one can soon forget the play in the OHL a season ago, when Mike Liambas’ hit on Ben Fanelli left him with a fractured skull.
“As long as fighting is allowed, encouraged, glorified, replayed in slow motion…that behavior will be emulated in high school hockey,” Palmer said. “Glorification of ‘the big hit’ in the NHL is part of it… Just as in the NHL, kids tend to fall into roles based on their skill level, their size, and their particular temperament… Ultimately, it is what is in the kid, and what is allowed by coaches, officials and the league that creates these kinds of situations.”