The incident involving Camaryn Baber of the Soo Thunderbirds (who suffered a concussion after a blind-side hit from a Rayside-Balfour Canadians player in a recent Northern Ontario Jr. Hockey League playoff game) has once again put a damper on our great game.
And at a great time of the year for hockey, no less — playoff time!
These incidents happen far less than they used to but the fact that they still do is somewhat disturbing.
The game is such a great act of athleticism and intensity but somehow there still are some people who will cross a line to take that away and resort to violence!
Our game is played very fast, highly competitive and with great skill. There was a time that intimidating your opponent physically was a game tactic — thank goodness that is no longer acceptable at high levels.
People intimidate now with speed, skill, relentless work ethic, etc. But for some reason, some — not all — people in youth hockey and lower junior leagues haven’t got that message.
They need to take a lesson from the Ontario Hockey League where commissioner David Branch has made the game safe and highly skilled because of his courage to stand up and make changes.
I would hope that adults who organize and watch these leagues — commissioners, coaches, referees, etc. — will follow the OHL’s lead and completely remove senseless acts.
The game should never lose its physical play, it is part of it, but we don’t need the 1970’s mentality. With all the talk and research that still has to be done on concussions, let’s work to try to let our kids play in a safe and competitive environment.
If you ever have a chance to talk to someone who has life-long issues with post-concussion syndrome, you will wonder why people still make these decisions on the ice.
I sure hope coaches are well aware of these dangers! They will be able help change a player’s intentions better than anyone.
If anyone is still encouraging this behavior, then shame on you as an adult!
Also, to me, the referee’s first responsibility is to protect the players, call penalties and be aware of situations that are dangerous. Take this part of refereeing very seriously!
I sure hope that Camaryn is going recover and go on and have a great career.
Let’s work together so we aren’t talking about this type of play but are talking about exciting, well-played, playoff hockey!
EDITOR’S NOTE: This is part of an ongoing series of columns written for Hockey News North by retired National Hockey League player and coach Craig Hartsburg. Hartsburg retired from the game in 2016 after an eventful 27-year coaching career that included 19 seasons in the NHL and successful stints in the Ontario Hockey League and Western Hockey League. As a player, Hartsburg had a world-class career as an all-star defenseman with both the Soo Greyhounds of the OHL and the erstwhile Minnesota North Stars of the NHL. He was captain of the Greyhounds for two of his three OHL seasons and was captain of the North Stars for seven of his 10 NHL seasons.