Whitby 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.