Don Sanderson Dies

boxingWhitby Dunlops' defenceman Don Sanderson is dead.

Sanderson, a student at York University, and a native of Port Perry, got into a fight with Corey Fulton of the Brantford Blast in the third period their game back on December 12. Sanderson lost his helmet during the altercation and both players crashed to the ice with Sanderson's head striking the ice. He's been in a coma and on life support until he passed away earlier today.

I've always enjoyed a good hockey fight. I loved seeing Wendel take on Probert. I enjoyed the many Domi battles I watched on television. Fights got me on my feet and got my heart pumping. They've always been a part of hockey, so I never really questioned the practice, until very recently.

My six year old son loved the Wendel Clark tribute video set to Aerosmith's Dream On. His favourite parts were the scenes of Clark punching the crap out of somebody. James and I participate in a "learn to play hockey" program every Saturday, and once he was in full uniform he'd want to fight me. This prompted a chat between us which made me realize how barbaric and ludicrous it is that fighting is an accepted part of hockey.

Try explaining to a six year old that he can't fight in hockey, but NHLers and other pros, like Don Sanderson, can. Explain to him that he would be kicked out of the league for doing what we celebrate Wendel Clark for doing. Explain to him that fighting is wrong as you watch the Wendel Clark tribute video for the 17th time.

You almost never see a fight during the Junior tournament taking place in Ottawa right now, yet it's some of the best hockey you'll see all year. Hockey is a game of skill, a game of speed, a glorious game of dekes, passes, shots, goals, clean hits and great saves. Hockey wouldn't miss fighting, and neither would we. It's time for the sport to evolve.

Banning fighting in hockey won't bring back Don Sanderson, but it will prevent the next senseless death. And it makes sense. Just ask my son.

Don Sanderson

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Comments (33 - click here to join in!)

Fredericton Steve

I have to disagree with you Mike. The situation with Don Sanderson is certainly an unfortunate tragedy but we can't go making knee jerk decisions based on one incident. The likelihood of such an incident is very slight given past precedent. If we lived our lives based on slight percentages where would be the fun? People can drown so do we ban swimming? Alcohol invariably leads to death do we ban it? of course not.

Another point is the role of fighting in the game. It allows the game to police itself. A ban on fighting would increase, IMO, stick work and cheap hits of which we have already seen with the implementation of the instigator rule.

As for the juniors, after seeing the taunting and dirty work we saw in that Canada vs USA game A fight would have been a welcome change.

January 2, 2009 @ 1:58 PM

Toronto Mike

But do we really need fighting?

I agree, there's a little knee jerk here, but these general thoughts have been peculating for a while.

No other sport tolerates a boxing match breaking out during their sport. It just seems barbaric now.

Maybe I'm just growing up.

January 2, 2009 @ 2:01 PM

Fredericton Steve

And just to add another point for discussion, Sanderson played in a league where fighting is already punishable by an automatic ejection.

Hockey is a very emotional game and whether banned or not, fighting will still occur.

January 2, 2009 @ 2:02 PM

Fredericton Steve

I would agree that maybe it is not needed as the game could certainly survive without it (at least here in canada).

As for other sports go, no other sport combines the physicality and danger of hockey. It's a fast moving game where there is often no "cool down" period as things just happen.

I don't want to debate this further as the wake of a tragedy is always the worst time for debate, however as long as the combatants are willing to tangle I have no problem with fighting in hockey. It's the dirty hits and stomps/slashes that hinder the game to me.

January 2, 2009 @ 2:08 PM

Toronto Mike

Clearly the game suspension wasn't enough of a deterrent. From what I understand, Sanderson and Fulton fought a lot.

January 2, 2009 @ 2:09 PM

Jason |

Is this a bad time to ask if anyone's seen The Wrestler yet?

January 2, 2009 @ 2:09 PM


Mike – We finally agree!!!

I enjoy a good fight as much as the nest guy but hockey should be like every other sport in the world where if you fight, you’re thrown out of the game.

There would still be the odd fight (albeit late in the game) but nevertheless it would make hockey a less moronic game.

As for buddy dying in a fight on ice. He has become the early front runner for the annual Darwin Awards of 2009. I mean this person gets into a fight in a game in a league that’s essentially a rec/beer league.

January 2, 2009 @ 2:11 PM

Toronto Mike

I've got a game tonight. Things get heated out there, no doubt - even in my no-hit league.

And don't worry, fighting isn't going anywhere. And I'll probably still stand up and watch closely when the gloves are dropped. I just wonder if it isn't just a matter of time before fighting is completely weeded out.

I really don't think we need it anymore.

January 2, 2009 @ 2:11 PM


I just want the Hockey Fight supporters to explain why it shouldn't be banned like all other sports.

"As for other sports go, no other sport combines the physicality and danger of hockey."
That's bull. Football, Lacrosse, Rugby....

I just want a good reason. Otherwise ban it.

January 2, 2009 @ 3:47 PM

Jason |

I don't watch UFC/MMA but it is getting more and more popular. There has always been fighting in hockey. The masses cannot glorify violence and then call for it to be banned at the same time. At least Mike has been honest about that in his comments. The ticket buyers obviously want it and have no problem with it. Fighting will not go anywhere. I don't think even a death in the NHL could change it. Stiffer rules and fines might lessen it.. but it will still occur.

January 2, 2009 @ 6:13 PM


Too much violence and goons in hockey. If someone is injured during a fight and can not play the other party involved should be out of the game the same amount of time.

January 2, 2009 @ 9:39 PM


What if the other player dies? How long the ban will be for other involved player?

January 2, 2009 @ 11:09 PM


here's something to thinks about

the Latimer guy in Manitoba gets jail time for what he did
what does the Corey Fulton get? seems to me, they the both cause the death of someone.

personally I think any body that in any way promotes fighting in hockey be it enjoying it, encouraging it, or doing it, is a moron plain and simple

Corey Fulton should go to jail for his involvement in this, i don't care how you might try to argue otherwise

January 3, 2009 @ 12:32 AM

Mike from Lowville

Helmets should NOT come off that easily! If I wore my motorcycle helmet like most of the "cool" hockey players, I would be dead at least twice by now.

January 3, 2009 @ 10:29 AM


WAKE UP PEOPLE !!!!!!!!this is the loss of a young man's life !!!!!!!!! Is it worth the little thrill you get watching hockey players drop the gloves? What kind of planet are you people on?

January 3, 2009 @ 12:58 PM


WAKE UP PEOPLE !!!!!!!!this is the loss of a young man's life !!!!!!!!! Is it worth the little thrill you get watching hockey players drop the gloves? What kind of planet are you people on?

January 3, 2009 @ 12:59 PM


There's the problem right there - 'my 6 year old son and I watched Wendel Clarke beat someone up 17 times'.

...and then we don't expect people to get killed?

I agree with the last poster - what planet do you think you live on not to understand causal relationships?

January 3, 2009 @ 1:41 PM

Ottawa Jimmy

I found this blog after hearing the news of Don's death. I read the comments and felt that I needed to reply.

I promise you that everyone of you talking about banning fighting have never played on a high end hockey team. It is not a barbaric event. It is not even about hurting the other guy. In fact most fights I was ever in I knew the guy well, tried to land more blows but never tried to take his head off or even remotely try and hurt him. It is a way to relieve tension in a game that has no comparison.

You are a moron if you think rugby or football (I played both when I had time when I was young - hockey took over all my time as I aged though) are even remotely close to as fast paced or dangerous. Lacrosse is the only other game that can even come close and at that they are running not gliding on ice faster than any other sport on 2 feet period.

What happened was extremely tragic but to borrow from an earlier response, do we ban Olympic diving when a diver hits his head on the board and dies. Nascar when a driver dies. Football when a man is paralyzed. Marathon running when a man dies. How about boxing where there is hard evidence that these men are scared for life post career.

We are human. We are animals at the core. Fighting is part of our lives, every day. Pray for his family. Do what you can to teach you kids that fighting is not used in place of words off the ice and out of sport but realize that this had as much of a chance of happening from a hard hit as it did from a fight.

Nice blog btw :)

January 3, 2009 @ 2:05 PM

Toronto Mike

No, they don't ban Olympic diving when a diver hits his head on the board and dies, but we're not talking about banning hockey. We're talking about taking the fighting out of hockey. There's a big difference here.

Who here doesn't live good international hockey? I can't wait to see Canada vs. Russia tonight, I'm even going to sacrifice most of a Leafs/Sens game to make sure I don't miss a minute of it, and there will be no fighting.

We are humans and humans are animals, but we've evolved to a point where fighting doesn't have to be a part of our daily lives. And it certainly doesn't have to be a part of our glorious national sport.

January 3, 2009 @ 2:11 PM

Praying for Snderson's Family and Corey Fulton..

I really don't want to debate vis-a-vis fighting and its morality and/or it's place in hockey..
The Sanderson family has tragically lost their promising, young son..
Corey Fulton has tragically been involved in another person's death..
I am praying for the Lord to minister to both the Sanderson's and Mr. Fulton in this time of grief and disblief..
Hockey may be the Canadian national pasttime. It is, however, only a game..
Let us prioritize what's important and pray for those in pain and grieving.
Reverend Gregg Abrams

January 3, 2009 @ 3:04 PM

Allison from Whitby

Jimmy from Ottawa, I completely agree with you! I'm a female hockey player and even I understand fighting in hockey. I've felt the tension but for girls there are greater punishments for hitting and fighting so we've learned to live without it, for the most part. But we still hit, hard and occasionally fight. But I also agree that we can't change anything right now and fighting will still be apart of the game, no matter how many punishments there are created to stop it from happening.

But now really isn't a time for arguing about this because we really can't do anything at this moment. Now we must all pray for the Sanderson family as well as Corey Fulton. Don was probably a good friend of his and he is hurting just as much as the Sanderson family. It is a hard time right now and I can see it in Don's fathers eyes when I see him coaching the women's team he coaches. We have to be here for these people, whether we personally know them or are just praying for them.

rest in peace Don. There are greater things awaiting you.

January 3, 2009 @ 10:49 PM


I have to agree with you Mike. Fighting is a strictly North American concept for Hockey. As one of the earlier posts indicated, you rarely see this in International or Womens Hockey. I find both these games much more skilled as they are focused on the game and not who they are going to hit or fight.
Rest in Peace Don. Maybe something positive can come out of your tragic death.

January 4, 2009 @ 11:04 AM

No one

Don was a close friend of mine and this is a very tragic loss. after reading all these comments I felt a calling to reply.

Everyone here is right but not fully.

No I do not think fighting should be removed from hockey, but I do think it should be strongly unencouraged by all leagues.

This task is not hard. All it requires is suspensions being given to players who fight. A few games here and there keep goons off the ice and skill in the game.

Being a hockey player and 13 years old I have gotten in to a few scuffles but nothing serious. Im my league if you fight you miss 2 to 5 games.

I'm not saying that you professional hockey players should be getting 5 games for a fight, but they should miss at least a game. Make fighting punishment an elevating suspension.

Rest in peace Don.
We'll miss you.

January 4, 2009 @ 4:59 PM


The death of Don Sanderson was as inevitable as it was tragic. North American hockey people want to emulate the National Hockey League in every way but the game is a contradiction of terms. You can fight in pro hockey but not in minor hockey. Have you noticed how the "Big Three" of NFL, MLB and NBA have the same rules for all levels of each respective sport? The NHL is bush league. Do you remember a few years back when a 10-year old girl in Columbus was killed by a flying puck over the end board glass? One incident. Now every city has high netting to prevent this from happening again. Do you think that perhaps the girl's parents insisted that high nets become a reality as part of a settlement? Or do you think that the dinosaurs that run the NHL would make it happen because it was the right thing to do? Hey Ottawa Jimmy! How long did you play in the NHL? Do you think Ken Dryden played at a high level? His views on fighting in hockey have been well documented. Do you really think that hockey is a more demanding sport to play at the highest level than football or rugby? I try to imagine Kyle Wellwood or "Sid the Kid" playing anything other than holder for field goal attempts. By the way, what is it REALLY with Loss, overtime loss and shootout loss? Do you really get a point for losing the game? Or is it just smoke and mirrors to make mediocre teams look better than they really are? Bush league. Did you watch the Canada/Russia junior game? How was THAT for entertainment? Any goonery? Fighting? That's right. When the world spotlight is on, somehow the fighting disappears. In minor hockey, fighting will get you suspended. In the 60's and 70's I used to see bench clearing brawls that sometimes ended up in the stands. For some reason that doesn't happen anymore. Hopefully the NHL will take the lead and abolish fighting once and for all. But I won't hold my breath waiting. It'll take a death in the NHL and then the chickens will be running around the hen house with their heads cut off...again.

January 4, 2009 @ 6:01 PM

No one

Bravo John!

January 4, 2009 @ 8:25 PM


This is to Greg. The reason he gets nothing is because it was a freak accident, and he did get a lot out of it. Today he said he quit the team for good. He also has that life teasing memory that he was in a fight that killed someone.

January 18, 2009 @ 6:59 AM


what r u guys talking about??? this guy died! it definatly should be banned!!!!

January 21, 2009 @ 5:22 PM

Victoria L

I fail to see why fighting is considered an integral part of a game where you put a round piece of plastic into a net. Hockey should be about skill, pace and teamwork. Instead it's become about brawls and violence. You want a sport where the hits are harder? There's no shortage of that in boxing, tkd, mma and wrestling (not wwe). Somewhere along the way, hockey rinks turned into a roman arena and apparently to some a death on the ice isn't an eye opener--it's collateral damage. A life was lost as a direct result of something that has no place in the sport. Clearly something needs to change.

January 26, 2009 @ 3:18 PM


Michal CZECH Rep. Je to hrozná smůla fight
Hi fighting so no death

January 26, 2009 @ 8:04 PM

Michal CZE

Hi fighting so no death

January 26, 2009 @ 8:06 PM


I believe fighting is a part of the sport, and i do not believe fulton should be charged... it was a freak accident, both players fell to the ice and one happened to not have a helmet on that unfortunately took his life. If a player checked a man and his helmet came off and hit his head and died, do we charge him with the death as well. Do we charge the man who made contact with Kevin Everrett for paralyzing him??? it was a terrible accident and that is all

February 20, 2009 @ 11:04 AM


If fighting truly was "part of the game" there wouldn't be a rule against it. Hockey is no more of a contact sport than football, where this type of thing never happens. The idea that by having a fight you can somehow put a spark under your team is ridiculous. If teams put as much effort into scoring goals as they do into fighting, they'd really put a spark under their teams, and more fans would be interested in the games.

January 29, 2010 @ 5:17 PM


Was watching tv tonight, saw a short Video 'For Don Sanderson" i looked up his name.... I was a dedicated hockey child in the 70s but life got
In the way.
I agree with John, Andy, kd, Valerie, Victoria L, toronto Mike, jHoot etc.
Fighting is NOT part of hockey.
IT is difficult to watch a game when you expect
Skill, athleticsm , team work etc.... But its replaced by
Barbaric fights.
I remember the referees used to stop the fighting
A few seconds after it starts. Its disgusting how
The crowds cheer. You wouldn't be cheering if your brother,
Daughters, father, mother gets beaten up.

January 3, 2014 @ 10:20 PM

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