Rachel Blount: Last thing hockey needs is a fighting camp for kids

  • Article by: RACHEL BLOUNT , Star Tribune
  • Updated: July 16, 2007 - 10:39 PM

Teaching kids how to put up their dukes contradicts the direction hockey ought to take.

The last thing the NHL needs is someone inviting sports fans to ignore it. They are doing that already, as evidenced by lagging attendance in several U.S. markets and TV ratings that couldn't be located with a microscope.

Yet Derek Boogaard has trotted out that tired old taunt again. In a story about his hockey fighting camps for children -- an idea so grotesque it hardly needs to be stated -- the Wild brawler thumbs his nose at puck purists. "Hockey fights could last 30 seconds, max," he argues. "It's just like anything. If you don't like it, don't go and don't watch it."

Think Gary Bettman is cringing at that one? At a time when another round of salary wars seems destined to threaten the NHL's delicate economics, a guy employed to beat up people -- which, by the way, still lands you in the penalty box -- is calling out the customers who would rather see skating and scoring. Worse, he's taking that bully act to the youth level, under the guise of "helping" young players.

Aaahh, yes. It's all about the kids. At least, it's all about the $40 the young'uns pay to get a T-shirt splashed with fake blood and watch a videotape of Boogaard's most ferocious beatdowns. The big guy seems to have a gift for entrepreneurship, but he's going to have to work on his debate skills to sell this dubious venture to a sporting public weary of unchecked violence in its games.

"That is awfully young to even know the ugly side of the game," said Dr. Aynsley Smith, a sports psychologist and researcher at the Mayo Clinic's Sports Medicine Center. "It's counterproductive to the direction we're trying to go as we try to grow the game among kids [in Minnesota]."

Anyone who has spent enough time in an ice rink to get cold has heard the logic-bending arguments of the blood-hockey crowd. Skilled players need protection from physical opponents. Eliminating fighting would lead to more high-sticking and other dangerous behavior. Fisticuffs provide a necessary outlet in a physically rough game.

Of course, hockey has flourished without fighting in colleges, European leagues, world championships and the Olympics. The faster, more skilled game that resulted from NHL rule changes in 2005-06 drew rave reviews. But the segment of the population that revels in bloodlust -- and the players who provide it for a paycheck -- refuse to let go of their narrow interpretation of masculinity.

Boogaard's camp is indoctrinating a fresh generation of kids into that warped mindset even as hockey organizations work to eliminate it. Minnesota Hockey's HEP program, which Smith helped create, emphasizes skill development, sportsmanship, fun and clean play. Some youth teams have won titles with the help of the "Fair Play" points they earned for sportsmanlike conduct.

"[Fighting] totally contradicts what we stand for and what we're doing," said Minnesota Hockey President Dennis Green. "The HEP program is working, not only on the ice but in the stands. We're getting parents on board because they're starting to see the value of making the game more fun for their kids."

Boogaard also offers the false argument that people shouldn't complain about brawls on ice when caged free-for-alls have entered popular sport. But the object of hockey is to put a rubber disc into a net through talent and teamwork, not to subdue one's opponent through physical force. While ultimate fighting and boxing are clear about their brutality, hockey continues its tradition of doublespeak on the subject, condoning and condemning it in the same breath.

The Boogaard camp seems particularly disingenuous. He insists he is not urging his 12- to 18-year-old students to fight; rather, he is teaching them how to protect themselves. That hardly squares with the fake blood on the T-shirts, the multiple video replays of Boogaard crushing Todd Fedoruk's cheekbone and the instruction on how to throw a punch.

When people disapproved of Boogaard's camp, he complained that "a lot of times, when people don't understand something, they don't like it." No matter how much he tries to dress it up, it seems they understand perfectly clearly. Boogaard has a right to play the role of hockey enforcer. But please, leave the kids out of it.

  • get related content delivered to your inbox

  • manage my email subscriptions


San Francisco - M. Bumgarner 7:07 PM
Pittsburgh - E. Volquez
Minnesota 10/2/14 7:25 PM
Green Bay
Buffalo 10/5/14 12:00 PM
Chicago 10/5/14 12:00 PM
Cleveland 10/5/14 12:00 PM
St. Louis 10/5/14 12:00 PM
Atlanta 10/5/14 12:00 PM
NY Giants
Tampa Bay 10/5/14 12:00 PM
New Orleans
Houston 10/5/14 12:00 PM
Baltimore 10/5/14 12:00 PM
Pittsburgh 10/5/14 12:00 PM
Arizona 10/5/14 3:05 PM
Kansas City 10/5/14 3:25 PM
San Francisco
NY Jets 10/5/14 3:25 PM
San Diego
Cincinnati 10/5/14 7:30 PM
New England
Seattle 10/6/14 7:30 PM
Washington 6:00 PM
Carolina 6:00 PM
Pittsburgh 6:30 PM
Montreal 7:30 PM
Arizona 8:00 PM
Fla Atlantic 10/2/14 6:00 PM
UCF 10/2/14 6:00 PM
Arizona 10/2/14 9:30 PM
(2) Oregon
Louisville 10/3/14 6:00 PM
San Diego St 10/3/14 9:00 PM
Fresno State
Utah State 10/3/14 9:15 PM
(18) BYU
(6) Texas A&M 10/4/14 11:00 AM
(12) Miss State
Ball State 10/4/14 11:00 AM
Iowa State 10/4/14 11:00 AM
(21) Oklahoma State
Marshall 10/4/14 11:00 AM
Old Dominion
Southern Miss 10/4/14 11:00 AM
Middle Tennessee
(20) Ohio State 10/4/14 11:00 AM
Purdue 10/4/14 11:00 AM
Florida 10/4/14 11:00 AM
SMU 10/4/14 11:00 AM
(22) East Carolina
Virginia Tech 10/4/14 11:30 AM
North Carolina
Eastern Mich 10/4/14 1:00 PM
North Texas 10/4/14 1:30 PM
Massachusetts 10/4/14 1:30 PM
Tulsa 10/4/14 2:00 PM
Colorado State
New Mexico 10/4/14 2:30 PM
TX-San Antonio
(3) Alabama 10/4/14 2:30 PM
(11) Ole Miss
(14) Stanford 10/4/14 2:30 PM
(9) Notre Dame
(17) Wisconsin 10/4/14 2:30 PM
Navy 10/4/14 2:30 PM
Air Force
(7) Baylor 10/4/14 2:30 PM
(4) Oklahoma 10/4/14 2:30 PM
(25) TCU
Wake Forest 10/4/14 2:30 PM
(1) Florida State
NC State 10/4/14 2:30 PM
Buffalo 10/4/14 2:30 PM
Bowling Green
Ohio U 10/4/14 2:30 PM
Central Mich
Oregon State 10/4/14 3:00 PM
Vanderbilt 10/4/14 3:00 PM
(13) Georgia
Kansas 10/4/14 3:00 PM
West Virginia
Kent State 10/4/14 4:00 PM
Northern Ill
South Alabama 10/4/14 5:00 PM
Appalachian St
Texas-El Paso 10/4/14 6:00 PM
Louisiana Tech
(15) LSU 10/4/14 6:00 PM
(5) Auburn
UAB 10/4/14 6:00 PM
Western Ky
Texas Tech 10/4/14 6:00 PM
(23) Kansas State
Michigan 10/4/14 6:00 PM
Hawaii 10/4/14 6:00 PM
Toledo 10/4/14 6:00 PM
Western Mich
ULM 10/4/14 6:00 PM
Arkansas State
Georgia State 10/4/14 6:00 PM
Idaho 10/4/14 6:00 PM
Texas State
Memphis 10/4/14 6:00 PM
Arizona State 10/4/14 6:30 PM
(16) USC
So Carolina 10/4/14 6:30 PM
Pittsburgh 10/4/14 6:30 PM
Miami-Florida 10/4/14 6:30 PM
Georgia Tech
(19) Nebraska 10/4/14 7:00 PM
(10) Michigan State
UNLV 10/4/14 7:00 PM
San Jose St
Ga Southern 10/4/14 7:00 PM
New Mexico St
California 10/4/14 9:30 PM
Washington St
Utah 10/4/14 9:30 PM
(8) UCLA
Boise State 10/4/14 9:30 PM
Winnipeg 10/3/14 6:00 PM
Calgary 10/3/14 9:00 PM
Edmonton 10/4/14 3:00 PM
Brt Columbia 10/4/14 6:00 PM





question of the day

Poll: Is Paul Molitor the best choice to manage Twins?

Weekly Question


Connect with twitterConnect with facebookConnect with Google+Connect with PinterestConnect with PinterestConnect with RssfeedConnect with email newsletters