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Saturday, September 09, 2006

Next week's newspaper column

Here's my LIVE WRITE newspaper column for next week. For those who don't know (or care about) hockey, you could probably substitute football or baseball or soccer for some of the advice here. I'll let one of you Canucks explain (if it's possible) who the gent in the photo is...


The first time I escorted my son to the hospital from a hockey rink it was for a neck injury delivered through a check from behind. The second trip (in an ambulance) was for suspected internal injuries, after he was speared with a stick. He recovered after both injuries and was eager to get back on the ice. I think I aged a year or two with each incident.

There are more than 500,000 players registered in Minor Hockey in Canada. According to the BC Injury Research and Prevention Unit, youth hockey injuries rank third after basketball and soccer in emergency room visits related to sports and recreational activities. In one BC study, one in five of these hockey injuries were head injuries.

Injuries occur more often during games than practices. Exhibition and pre-season games have roughly three times as many injuries as league and post-season games. Injuries occur in the later periods and in the later minutes of each period. Forwards get injured the most often and almost half of those injuries are of the head and face.

The body-check is one of the most commonly reported causes of both soft tissue and severe trauma injuries, followed by contact with a hockey stick. There has been some debate as to what age young players should be allowed to body-check. According to SMARTRISK Canada www.smartrisk.ca a rule change that allowed 11-year-old hockey players in Alberta to begin body-checking for the first time more than doubled their risk of severe injury. In that study, concussions were more than three times as common and fractures 2.6 times as common among the body-checking 11-year-olds.

Commentators writing in the Canadian Medical Association Journal contend that body-checking should be eliminated from minor hockey altogether. I won’t join that debate here, but will pass on some safety tips for players, parents and organizers.

Ensure coaches are certified and qualified to teach players to be aware of injurious situations. Officials should be certified and qualified to strictly enforce the rules that predispose players to injuries (high sticking, checking from behind and fighting).

Protective gear won’t make any player invincible, but it works. No blinding eye injury has been recorded for a player wearing a CSA full face protector, a number have occurred with a half visor. Mouth guards have been proven to prevent dental injuries. Youth players should not be allowed to play unless wearing all their protective gear and wearing it correctly.

Higher injury rates in the third period and later minutes of each game indicate that fatigue plays a role in increasing the risk of injury. Proper physical conditioning (strength, flexibility and endurance training) and a proper warm-up will help prepare the body for increased physical demands.

Most parents and coaches want their young players to have fun and to learn hockey skills. However, you don’t have to attend many minor hockey games to learn that the negative attitude of some parents and coaches affects the kids on the ice. Perhaps they are modeling harassment and bullying so that we’ll all know what it looks like.

Here’s an inspiring statement, ‘We all want our children to be safe – keeping them safe means putting the child’s best interests first. In sports, this means ensuring that the young player is treated with respect and integrity – emotionally, socially, intellectually, physically, culturally, and spiritually.’

That quote comes directly from Hockey Canada, the organization that runs minor hockey across Canada. Perhaps it should be read out loud before each game.

My son eventually traded his hockey stick in for a guitar. I miss watching him play the game, but so far we haven’t had any hospital visits from musical injuries.

Did you see on the news the other day where a coach actually beat up a kid playing a sport, soccer I believe. It's getting out of hand.

(I see you're a Red Green fan. Do you chant the mantra? You know the one: "I'm a man, and I can change, if I have to, ...I guess") Love it.

that's no gent in the photo. that's don cherry,a canadian cultural icon.
I used to love to watch hockey before I became a mom. I got tired then of watching entire games but missing every single goal. Also, when your team is one that always craps out in the post-season, well, it's not so much fun (Blues).

My oldest son tried basketball a couple of years ago. I remember we're at a game and the kids are running around like ants because only half of them understand the game at all at that age, and one coach for the other team is racing up and down the sidelines shouting at the kids to "be aggressive" etc. Finally, another dad from his team took him a aside and had a "come to Jesus" moment with him or something because he settled down then.

One of my students told an interesting story in class the other day. It was about working as a referee in junior high for little kids' games, and a dad came down on the court and choked him right in front of everybody. Imagine if he were your kid.

Remember when Dino Cicarelli (sp?) was charged with assault in the US for his actions in a game? Funny. I'm sure he had it coming.
I am SO glad my kids never had a thing for organized sports. Anarchists through and through, thank god. I would have made a miserable hockey mum.

Jublu, I love that "come to Jesus moment" thing! Never heard that one before.
Ha Josie, yes the Red Green prayer for men, it's kinda classic, that after the duct tape! My friend back in Ottawa (Canada, there is one in the US) is a hockey widow because her husband is a sports fanatic who got their two boys in it as well. Since she's a nurse and works evening shifts, she hardly sees the boys and her husband throughout the week because of practices and games. Pfff, get a life! I remember when I had emigrated to Canada (from Holland) in the mid '80s and I lived as a live in nanny for one family with two girls and one boy, sport fanatic. The way to his heart was to know ALL the players of the different hockey teams, I can still hear him say as an 8yr old, look (!), that's Mario Lemieux, he's pretty cute (I'm sure just copying what everyone else said), me, I couldn't tell under that helmet.. I'm not big on sports..can you tell??? lol
I really hate sports--the violence is the main reason. I'm all for physical exercise, but I think sports have taken over too much from school in many places. Instead of bringing out the best, they seem to bring out the worst in people lately. A game of chess anyone?
the english anthropologist Desmond Morris wrote a book way back about ''The Soccer Tribe''. i haven't read it but remember from the time he theorised the popularity of team sports and supporters as being a surrogate form of ancient tribal warfare - so no surprise that aggression and violence are in the mix. the rules are there merely to stop them killing each other!

i had no aptitude for sport but did Judo at school. I actually found it far less aggressive than Rugby, Basketball etc, it's true!

anyway, good write up, Gary.
well I have no problem commenting on body checking in hockey.

(pause while mother steps onto soap box)

I believe that body checking is ruining the sport. it's sanctioned violence. and to allow it at the levels that children play at is indefensible. to say 'it is part of the game' is pure bull. there is no allowed violence in soccer, or basketball. you don't regularly see players in those sports 'dropping their gloves' to have a go at each other. in what other sport is term 'a bench clearing brawl' used (NOT counting British football fans here, sticking to players, NOT fans).

Don't get me wrong, I AM Canadian, and I AM a hockey fan(Toronto Maple Leafs, so you know I'm die hard) - I played street hockey as a kid, as do my kids. (and my son has taken a stick to the face, luckily he didn't have any eye damage), but the body checks, and the fighting are a slur on sportsmanship, and make the players look like overpaid thugs - no role modeling for hockey's youth.

So, body checking, I think it should be sacked altogether - at ALL levels of the sport, then we could see some exceptional developement in player skills, instead of brutality. Can't ever see it happening, but that's what I think anyhow.

(quietly stepping down from soap box now)

thanks for letting me vent....

ps ever listened to the Arrogant Worms "We Like Hockey" ? very appropriate.....
JOsie - of course I'm a Red Green fan and each year on the Annual Gentlemans Cruise A Palooze, we begin with the motto. "I am a man. I can change. If I have to."

Table mountains - yes, it's Don Cherry of course - lovely photos on your site by the way.

Jublu, Madcap, Ingrid and SOthis - you just need to drink more beer and watch a little more WWF wrestling - then you'll appreciate hockey :)

Ian - that book would be interesting.

Callooh, the day bodychecking is totally eliminated from hockey may be the day of the Second Coming or even more rare, the day George Bush says, "I'm sorry, I was wrong."
A nicely written article appealing to ones common sense, an uncommon attribute in some sports minded pursuits.
I understand your first real game, played in Montreal in 1875; only 7 years after Canada became a country, ended in a fight and during the first fiery few years four people were killed on ice.
Lot’s of ice under the bridge since, now more of people’s game I guess with hundreds of thousands of enthusiastic players, but I am with you; I really do prefer to see your son swap his stick for a guitar. I have watched a few matches and I don’t like the violence at the elite level.

best wishes
Gordie Howe played a physical style well into his fifties. If you taking body checking out of the game, it dramatically changes the flow and dynamics.

Let kids play the game as it is meant to be played.

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