Eliminating fighting and head shots from hockey is simply a matter of common sense, according to Charles Tator, the renowned concussion doctor.
"We have no treatment for concussions, we have no treatment for the accumulative concussion, we have no treatment for the repetitive concussion, and it is the repetitive concussion that causes brain damage," Tator said Thursday night during a panel discussion about hockey fights at the Hockey Hall of Fame in Toronto. "Let's get head shots out of hockey."
Former Calgary Flames general manager and TSN broadcaster Craig Button believes fighting is on the way out of the NHL because fewer general managers support it each year. But, he added, "I don't think it's about fighting, it's about blows to the head." Like Tator, Button believes head shots should be legislated out of the NHL.
"They should take away all contact to the head," Button said to a round of applause from the audience. "Zero tolerance."
The closest thing to opposition to Button and Tator came from the two former players who made up the rest of the panel. Both Aaron Downey, who fought many times during his seven NHL seasons from 2001 to 2009, and Michael Peca, who was a small but hard-hitting two-way centre from 1994 to 2009, said they neither opposed nor condoned fighting.
However, Downey thinks the NHL should consider dropping the instigator rule, which calls for a two-minute minor penalty in addition to a major penalty for players who start a fight, as a way to eliminate head shots. He believes if players know they would have to answer a challenge to fight if they targeted someone's head with a body check that the problem would diminish.
Downey, who admitted to more than one concussion during his NHL career, said the injuries were not the result of illegal hits or blows that should have been illegal. He said he documented all of his injuries during his hockey career and blamed himself for his concussions, saying they came when he "wasn't 100-per-cent focused as a warrior."
The panel discussion was part of George Brown College's inaugural sports awards, called 5 To Watch, which recognize up-and-coming leaders in the sports business field. The awards are co-sponsored by The Globe and Mail.
This year's winners were Adam Ashton, president of the Canadian Olympic Broadcast Media Consortium, Rachel Lewis, chief operating officer of Vancouver Whitecaps FC of Major League Soccer, Shawn Redmond, TSN's vice-president of programming and marketing, Alyson Walker, executive director of the Canadian Olympic Committee's marketing partnerships and Jeff Deline, senior director, corporate partnerships, for Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment.