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McKenzie: Parenthood trumps journalism at a time like this

TSN.ca Talent Blog
12/15/2008 5:21:43 PM
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On so many levels, I feel absolutely sick about the news of the day.

Don Sanderson, a 21-year-old York University student who plays senior hockey with the Whitby Dunlops, is in the Intensive Care Unit of Hamilton General Hospital after suffering a severe head injury when his head hit the ice in a fight Friday night in Brantford, Ont.

I mostly feel sick as a parent, who can only imagine what Sanderson's parents, Michael and Donna, are going through as they maintain a bedside vigil over their son, who is in a coma.

Think about that for a moment. Walk for a minute in those shoes.

It makes me shudder.

If you are a parent, there can be nothing worse in this world. My thoughts and prayers go out to the young man and his family and, honestly, that is all I'm concerned about right now. That, unfortunately, is the only ''story'' that matters to me today.

I'm afraid, for me anyway, that parenthood trumps journalism at a time like this.

Which is to suggest, I am also sick over how this tragedy has become a jumping-off point today to either rally around the game and how it's played or to use it as an example of all that is wrong with hockey.

I don't want hear the pro-fighting boosters tell me it's part of the game, that it's a tough sport and that accidents happen. I know that, but it makes it no less sickening.

And I don't want to hear the anti-fighting cause wag a finger and say it was bound to happen sooner or later, because that reeks of opportunism in the face of great tragedy.

The truth is, depending upon your view, you can make this sad story whatever you want it to be.

Sanderson was playing in a league where if you fight, you are automatically ejected from the game.

So you can have rules to reduce the amount of fighting, but you can't, as is often said, ''ban'' fighting, which is not to say the automatic ejection for fighting shouldn't be debated in the NHL from time to time either. But not today.

And as long as players fight, regardless of the rules in place, the potential for horrific injury exists.

Sanderson's helmet came off during the course of the fight - he did not voluntarily remove it in the ''buckets off'' manner we sometimes see in the NHL and other leagues - and while that will prompt valid debate on whether there should be rules in the NHL to ''encourage'' players to keep their helmets on in scraps, that discussion is best left for another day, at least in this corner.

What's truly frightening is that what happened to Don Sanderson doesn't happen more often. When you think of all the levels of hockey and how many fights there are, and how many times players in the fights lose their helmet(s), how many times those players end up falling to the ice and how hard that ice is, well, it's almost beyond comprehension that this isn't epidemic.

But at the end of the day, that is small consolation to the Sanderson family, which is experiencing a potentially life-altering moment.

I am sure they will take some consolation from the many thoughts and prayers that go out to them, especially the care and concern from the Dunlops' organization, headed by a team president, Steve Cardwell, who is a caring and compassionate man, a hockey parent himself.

But the truth is no parent ever wants their son's number on a helmet sticker or to see a photo of his sweater hanging over his team's bench.

In the meantime, we offer what we can - thoughts and prayers - and feel just sick about the whole thing.

Bob McKenzie

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