About 33% of preventative healthcare is concerned with physical activity with the other 66% being food consumption mixed with other choices and genetic predispositions. Workers in most jobs appear to spend most of their time sitting down. Back in the mid-20th century, doctors would say to patients “what ever you do, do not exercise!” So there was a lot of confusion about the health benefits. Then there were tests conducted in the 1950s, led by Jerry Morris (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jerry_Morris), that showed that the conductor in double deckers bus (who would have had to walk up and down stairs) have a better quality of life than then driver of the bus. The conductors had to climb the stairs 1000s of times to check ticket in the upper deck. Cardiovascular activity is critical. It turns out exercise helpful for dealing with heart disease.
Olympics Versus Citizen Wide Exercise
Building a national exercise program is a wiser allocation of funding than building an Olympic stadium according to Simon Kuper. I agree. I love the Olympics, but I love average live expectancy past 90 years old much more (for fellow citizens of my own country and beyond). We need the local facilities while not necessarily commercial viable OVER the Olympic facilities gained through winning a hosting city bid which will rarely get used post games (i.e. take a look at London’s 2012 Olympic stadiums). Spending $9 billion on the Olympics is country brand signalling, cool, but those benefits are notoriously difficult to quantity in financials or otherwise. Expanding the local facilities infrastructure to be all weather in norther countires like Canada, Sweden and the UK is a worthy endeavor. Exercise facilities at work should also be subsidized, potentially by government. Expanding exercise opportunities comes with risk of course; first, what if people don’t show up to use these facilities? It’s kind of crazy that no one has successfully proposed a tax deduction for gym memberships. Being afraid of tax scams is hardly the major concern. There are steps to drive traffic for sure, but the culture of sedentary life is ingrained and a slow moving epidemic we will never “see”. I’m not saying do something foolish like Tennis Canada’s board member who advocated that tennis domes be built in every town under 5000 people. Leave the details to others at this point. But if the federal government were to intervene in any healthcare area (thinking in chunky terms and being blindly cavalier about revenue spending right now) why not look at preventative healthcare via an exercise mandate with teeth.
Civil society in Canada is very weak. On average, people don’t even leave their house if they don’t have to. Health benefits of exercise are massive and then of course, it’ll improve the happiness of people, you will see improvements in actual performance in global competition because you have a healthier population. The subset of people who actually participate in the Olympics is very very minute and it usually upper middle class to wealthy people. Making exercise and sport more accessible to train and compete will boost the quality of life across the income spectrum. Exercise has to be in a physical space: investments are underway, but the next generation needs to be obsessive about social exercise.
Edwards (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/N._Murray_Edwards) has $100,000 + his savings of $100,000 and started an oil and gas company. He had 10% of a 2 million dollar company (Canadian Natural Resources) https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Canadian_Natural_Resources. When he found no oil in the hole he drilled in Saskatchewan…and found no oil. Murray Edwards has a net worth of 2.2 Billion today and owns the Calgary Flames. His three big lessons from business:
People: you need quality people around you; collaborative decisions;
Plan: you need a clear well defined goals, business plans in details; think big and small.
Passion: you need to love what you do…..
Pony-Poop: children have access to the toys or pony poop. The kid that chooses the pony-poop will be more successful. Why because that kid is smart; “there must be a pony if there is pony-poop.” Always see the pony and be an optimist.
A Novel Trick: ask the listeners to complete a quiz and email the answer for tickets to a hockey game.
Written By Guest Academic Writers: Arie Vw, Ralph F, Sam B, Napur D, Adam Y.
Professional football is a thriving business. Each Sunday, millions of fans flock to National Football League stadiums to see their favorite teams play. Millions more watch the games on television, which provides one of the largest advertising audiences for television networks. However, there are some groups which are marginalized by professional football. In particular, some Native Americans are offended that Washington’s team is named the “Redskins”. “Redskin” has been used as a racial slur to denigrate Native Americans as savage and uncultured. This has led many Native American groups to argue that it is unethical to use the name Redskin as the basis for a highly profitable business. Despite the controversy regarding the name, team owner Daniel Snyder has vowed “NEVER” to change the name.
This article argues that Snyder is wrong. Using Redskins as a team name is unethical. To prove this point a careful identification of the ethical issues involved is necessary. Once identified, analysis of those issues using various ethical frame works will be conducted. Finally, an assessment of other relevant cases involving Native American imagery in sports will reinforce the position that the Redskins name should be changed.
Identification of the Ethical Issues
Business ethics is not black and white. There are grey areas which fall in between what is clearly right or clearly wrong. These grey areas form an ethical spectrum. At one side of this ethical spectrum are questions of legality, whether an action is allowed by law. At the other side of the spectrum are questions of whether an action is socially responsible. In order to clearly identify the ethical issues involved in the use of the name Washington Redskins, we will examine both ends of the spectrum before positioning the central ethical issue.
At one end of the ethical spectrum is the question of whether something is legal. At first glance it seems straightforward that the use of the name Redskins is legal since there is no law against it. However, the reality is more complicated. In order to profit from their name, the Washington Redskins need to be able to enforce their trademark. This is becoming difficult because of the recent decision in Blackhorse v Pro Football Inc.4 In Blackhorse, the United States Patent and Trademark Office found that the Redskins’ trademarks were disparaging of Native Americans and ordered them cancelled. While the Blackhorse decision is currently under appeal, the Redskins’ trademark is also under threat from Congress. The proposed Non-Disparagement of Native American Persons or Peoples in Trademark Registration Act, would effectively strip the Redskins of their trademarks.5 President Obama also came out in favour of changing the team name in 2013.6 Obama’s position is evidence of mounting pressure against the Redskins in the battle over their name. Thus, from the legal end of the ethical spectrum, the Washington Redskins name is controversial.
The other end of the ethical spectrum involves whether an action is socially responsible. The Washington Redskins have taken some steps towards fulfilling their social responsibility as a business. The team plays an important role in their local community through the Washington Redskins Charitable Foundation and also helps Native American groups through their Original Americans Foundation.7 However, the Redskins’ philanthropy is controversial. Several Native American groups have refused their money because they do not want to be associated with what they regard as a racial slur.8 Determining whether the team name is right from a social responsibility perspective involves weighing the good of these charitable contributions against the harm done to Native Americans who are marginalized and stereotyped by the term Redskin.
The central business ethics issue is whether it is right to profit from the use of the term Redskin. This involves elements from both the legal and social responsibility sides of the ethical spectrum. However, whether it is ethical to use the term Redskin for profit affects many agents beyond the wealthy Caucasian team owners. Actors such as sponsors, television networks, and merchandise providers profit indirectly from the team name. Players, coaches, equipment staff, and referees create the product that the team sells. Fans across the country provide the demand for the team’s services and ensure there is a market for sponsors and advertisers to tap into. Each of these individuals is involved as an agent in the ethical decision of whether it is right to profit from the term Redskin. Since there are so many agents involved, the ethical issue is very complex and requires careful analysis.
Analysis of the Ethical Issues
In order to come to a clear decision on the ethical issues associated with the use of the name Washington Redskins, one should think about the issue systematically using ethical frameworks. Ethical frameworks are models for thinking about ethical issues and determining the right course of action. These frameworks include utilitarianism, Rawlsian liberalism, deontological and virtue-based reasoning, consequentialism, end-statism, and contractarianism. While many of these ethical frameworks lead to the same conclusion, they take different routes to get to that conclusion. Understanding why the frameworks follow different paths requires delving deeper into each one.
The first ethical framework to look at is Contractarianism. Contractarianism holds that the right thing to do is to honour one’s agreements.9 Actions which lead to the breaking of an agreement are unethical. This approach is sound because society needs people to honour their agreements in order to function properly. Contractarianism is an ethical framework team owner Daniel Snyder could use to justify keeping the Redskins name as is. Washington has explicit contracts with sponsors including FedEx, Nike, NRG, Bank of America, and Coca-Cola which it entered into on the basis that the team nickname would be the Redskins.10 In addition, there is an implicit contract which has been made with fans. In return for their loyalty, ticket purchases, and merchandise spending, the team promises fans pride and a sense of belonging with “their” Redskins. By changing the name or aspects of the team’s tradition, the Redskins would be violating an unspoken premise of these agreements, that they would indeed be called the Redskins. Consequently, a limited contractarian perspective would suggest changing the name is unethical.
A broader contractarian perspective might suggest it would be ethical to change the Washington Redskins name. In addition to their agreements with sponsors and fans, the Washington Redskins also need to consider their social contract as a business. Society has an implicit contract with every business that the business will act responsibly and not cause harm.11 The purpose of this social contract is to protect the most vulnerable individuals from unfettered greed. Native Americans are a particularly vulnerable group within society because of the legacy of colonialism. By choosing a name which demeans Native Americans, the Washington Redskins have violated the social contract. As a result, an expansive understanding of contractarianism would find it unethical to keep the team name as is.
The next ethical framework to look at is Utilitarianism. Utilitarianism involves deciding upon the greatest good for the greatest number of people.12 Actions are right if they advance the greatest good for the greatest number and wrong if they do not. The problem with utilitarianism is that it is difficult to determine what the greatest good for the greatest number actually is. In the case of the Washington Redskins, polls show that a majority of the team’s fans want to keep the team name as is.13 This suggests fans are concerned about losing the value they get from the Redskins’ traditions if the name is changed. Furthermore, there are significant commercial gains for sponsors and ownership from keeping the name since tradition is one of the key drivers of Redskins merchandise and memorabilia sales. This suggests keeping the name results in the greatest good for the greatest number, making it the ethical choice from a utilitarian perspective.
Utilitarianism is actually more complex than a simple counting of numbers of people who would be benefited or harmed by an action. One also has to weigh the size of the benefits or harms to each person. There are very substantial costs to Native Americans from the use of the term Redskin. Redskin perpetuates the myth that Native Americans are somehow different and inferior to whites. Certainly legally different in terms of rights in Canada for example. The use of the term in professional sports makes racism seem socially acceptable. The harm from this stereotype is impossible to quantify since it affects some Native Americans more than others. As a result, a utilitarian approach to the ethical issue of the Washington Redskins name is ultimately inconclusive because one cannot tell whether keeping the name represents the greatest good for the greatest number.
Utilitarianism is not the only ethical framework which is inconclusive on whether it is right to profit from the use of the term Redskin. Consequentialism is a philosophy that involves looking at the consequences of actions. If the consequences of an action are good then that action is ethical. The critical question then becomes: consequences for whom? The Washington Redskins name may have negative consequences for Native Americans who feel marginalized and insulted by the term. However, there may be positive consequences for owner Daniel Snyder in keeping the name and continuing to make lots of money. As a result, unless we clearly determine what lens we are going to use, a consequentialist perspective is not very helpful to determining if keeping the name is right or wrong.
End-statism is similar to consequentialism because it assesses whether an action is ethical by looking at the end result. Thus the individual steps necessary to get to the end result do not matter in the ultimate calculations.15 For the Washington Redskins, the scope of the end state is unclear. If the scope is limited to the owner then the end state is a highly profitable football team. This is a positive outcome and suggests it is right to keep the name as is. Likewise, the scope of
the end state is the fans, then the end state includes the positive outcome of the joy of celebrating the Redskins’ tradition and watching their football games. However, if the end state includes Native Americans who are disenfranchised and oppressed as a result of the racial stereotypes that the name perpetuates then the end state is very negative. Without knowing which end state to look at, we cannot know whether the Washington Redskins name is ethical from an end-statist perspective.
While utilitarianism, end-statism and consequentialism may be inconclusive, there are also other ethical frameworks to consider. Deontological reasoning tests the ethical validity of an action by asking what the world would look like if everyone were to do so all the time.16 This universalization manoeuvre is best illustrated by assessing whether it is right to let your dog poop in a park and not clean up the mess. If everyone did this the world would literally be a crappy place. This means the right thing to do is to clean up the mess. Deontological reasoning is thus a clear and unambiguous ethical framework from which to judge an action.
Deontological reasoning would not support keeping the Washington Redskins name as is. Applying the universalization manoeuvre, we ask ourselves: What if every sports team had a racially offensive name that perpetuated racist behaviour throughout society? Would this be a pleasant world to live in? The answer to this question is clearly no. A society with more racial prejudice would not be a better place to live in. Since racially offensive terms increase racial prejudice, they make society a worse place. It logically follows that the Washington Redskins name is unethical because it is racially offensive to Native Americans.
The Washington Redskins team name would also be considered unethical when using a virtue based moral reasoning approach. In virtue based logic the aim is to act so as to maximize a particular virtue. The virtue could be honesty, accountability, integrity, inclusiveness, fairness or any other virtue. Actions are right if they increase a particular virtue and wrong if they decrease a particular virtue. When assessed against almost any virtue, the use of the term Redskin is unethical. For example, it flies in the face of inclusiveness because it perpetuates the stereotype that Native Americans are inferior to other races. Likewise, it does not encourage accountability for the discrimination which has affected Native Americans since colonization. Since the use of the term does not increase virtues, applying virtue based reasoning would suggest it is unethical.
The ethical framework which provides the strongest argument that the Washington Redskins name is unethical is Rawlsian Liberalism. John Rawls used the example of politicians to illustrate how his philosophy works. Politicians make decisions on the rules and resource distribution of society. This benefits some people and harms others. Politicians naturally also care about their quality of life once they are out of power. They thus tend to make laws which favour the group they expect to be in upon leaving office. The key test then becomes if a politician would take the same action if they did not know what part of society they would be in upon leaving office. Actions which would be taken in these circumstances are considered right by Rawlsian liberalism.
Applying Rawlsian liberalism to the Washington Redskins name is straightforward. Imagine you were the owner of a sports team and could name it anything you wished, but you did not know your own race, gender, age or other characteristics. In this scenario, would you risk giving the team a name that could be construed as a racial slur? There is a real possibility that you might end up part of the group being insulted by the slur. This is unpleasant, so you would be better advised to choose a non-offensive name. The Rawlsian framework would thus consider having a racially offensive name like Redskins to be unethical. If you would not take an action if you could be negatively affected by it in the Rawlsian hypothetical, then the action is unethical.
It is useful to look at the use of the term Redskins in a broader context because societal norms constantly evolve. Washington is not the only sports team to use a Native American themed name and Native imagery. Teams at the professional and intercollegiate level have nicknames such as Redskins, Indians, Braves, Chiefs, Warriors, and many tribal specific names. These teams are under the same pressure to be respectful of Native Americans as Washington. Their actions thus become useful comparisons when assessing current social trends and future options for the Redskins. The many different actions of these teams shows that there are alternatives to the status quo which the Redskins should carefully consider.
The most significant course of action teams have taken in response to pressure to be more respectful of Native Americans is a complete rebranding. For example, before 1972 Stanford University sports teams were known as the Indians and were represented by a cartoon logo which was widely viewed by Native American groups as offensive and unethical. The school responded to this criticism by completely removing all Native American imagery and changing its nickname to Cardinal. Likewise, Miami University underwent a comprehensive assessment of its sports teams’ use of Native American imagery. The review resulted in Miami’s nickname being changed from Redskins to RedHawks and all Native American imagery being discarded beginning with the 1997-98 season.20 The administrators at Miami and Stanford concluded that using Native American imagery as the basis for sports teams was unethical and needed to be changed.
Another option sports teams have is to get the approval of Native American groups. Consensual use of Native American imagery is ethically preferable because it ensures that the consequences for Native American groups are being considered by making them active agents in the decision making process. Not only does this maximize virtues such as inclusiveness, openness and fairness, but it also ensures that the use of Native American imagery is not offensive. No tribe would consent to the use of Native imagery which it considered harmful. For example, Florida State University has a very close relationship with the Seminole tribe. Following consultations with the tribe, the university made several changes to its sports traditions. Florida State redesigned the costume of its Chief Osceola mascot to better align with traditional Seminole dress and adopted a new logo with tribal approval.21 The fact that these changes were made with tribal input makes it easier for the university to argue it made the ethical choice.
There are also many sports teams which have made changes to their branding to be more respectful of Native Americans. For example, the Cleveland Indians gradually phased out their “Chief Wahoo” logo and replaced it with one that did not contain Native imagery. Likewise, the Chicago Blackhawks, Atlanta Braves, and Illinois Fighting Illini moved towards new mascots which did not involve dressing up as stereotypical Native Americans.23 The business decisions to make changes to team branding for these teams and many others were the results of ethical considerations and economics. From an ethical perspective, using logos and mascots which were offensive to Native Americans was the wrong thing to do. From an economics perspective, the controversy surrounding the use of Native American imagery posed a long term threat to brand value. By gradually transitioning away from the use of Native American imagery teams could maintain strong brand loyalty while limiting their exposure to reputational risk.
The various actions taken by other sports teams to be more respectful of Native Americans make the actions of Redskins owner Daniel Snyder even more perplexing. Snyder appears determined to keep the status quo, and is on the record that the Washington Redskins will “NEVER” change their name. This position goes against the broader trend of sports teams moving away from Native American imagery. Moreover, the controversy that has erupted since Snyder declared his hardline stance has been damaging to Washington’s brand value. For example, merchandise revenue for the Washington Redskins has declined 43.8% since 2014.25 This suggests individuals are now more reluctant to be associated with the term Redskin and are less likely to purchase team-branded clothing. The negative impact this has on the bottom line suggests the status quo might not be the most profitable course of action going forward.
Declining revenue is the first indicator the Redskins name fails the Tucker five question framework for ethical decision making. This model asks whether a decision is profitable, legal, sustainable, fair and right.26 While the name is currently legal, the Redskins’ trademark is under threat, so it may not be legal in future. The actions of other teams indicate that an offensive name is unsustainable and the harm to Native Americans suggests it is unfair. This leads to the inevitable conclusion that keeping the name is not right.
The Washington Redskins’ use of a racial slur as their team name is unethical. While a narrow understanding of the ethical framework of contractarianism suggests it would be ethical to keep the name, the ethical frameworks of utilitarianism, consequentialism, and end-statism are inconclusive. In contrast, the ethical frameworks of deontological reasoning, virtue based reasoning and Rawlsian liberalism strongly suggest that use of the name Redskin is unethical and needs to stop. This position is strengthened by the actions of other sports teams, many of which have completely abandoned their use of Native American imagery or moved away from practices which Native American groups found to be offensive. The Redskins should consider these factors and carefully begin planning a move away from their use of a racial slur for Native Americans. Not only would this be the right thing to do, but it may also be more profitable as well. Other businesses should carefully consider the challenges the Redskins are currently facing when making ethical decisions about how to brand themselves in future.
1 Consoli, J. (2010, October 6). NFL Games Breaking Audience Ratings Records. Adweek. Retrieved October 3, 2016, from http://www.adweek.com/news/television/nfl-games-breaking-audience-ratings-records-116272
2 Vrentas, J. (2014, April 3). The Battle of Washington. Sports Illustrated. Retrieved October 3, 2016, from http://mmqb.si.com/2014/04/03/washington-nfl-team-name-debate
3 Brady, E. (2013, May 10). Daniel Snyder says Redskins will never change name. USA Today. Retrieved October 3, 2016, from http://www.usatoday.com/story/sports/nfl/redskins/2013/05/09/washington-redskins-daniel-snyder/2148127/
4 Blackhorse v. Pro Football, Inc. Decision. (2014, June 18). United States Patent and Trademark Office. Retrieved October 3, 2016, from https://www.uspto.gov/about-us/news-updates/blackhorse-v-pro-football-inc-decision
5 NON-DISPARAGEMENT OF NATIVE AMERICAN PERSONS OR PEOPLES IN TRADEMARK REGISTRATION ACT. (2013). 113th Congress. Retrieved October 3, 2016, from https://www.gpo.gov/fdsys/granule/CRI-2013/CRI-2013-NON-DISPARAGEMENT-OF-NATIVE-AMERIC-89BA9D/content-detail.html
6 Obama weighs in on ‘Redskins’ (2013, October 5). ESPN. Retrieved October 3, 2016, from http://www.espn.com/nfl/story/_/id/9772653/president-obama-washington-redskins-legitimate-concerns
7 Washington Redskins Original Americans Foundation. (2014, March 24). Retrieved October 3, 2016, from http://www.washingtonredskinsoriginalamericansfoundation.org/
8 South Dakota tribe returning donation from Redskins. (2015, August 7). ESPN. Retrieved October 3, 2016, from http://www.espn.com/nfl/story/_/id/13395107/south-dakota-tribe-returning-25000-donation-washington-redskins
9 Moldoveanu, M. (2014, August). Managerial Models and Methods for Moral Reasoning. Foundation for Business Ethics.
10 Vrentas, J. (2014, April 3). The Battle of Washington. Sports Illustrated. Retrieved October 3, 2016, from http://mmqb.si.com/2014/04/03/washington-nfl-team-name-debate
11 Moldoveanu, M. (2014, August). Managerial Models and Methods for Moral Reasoning. Foundation for Business Ethics.
12 Moldoveanu, M. (2014, August). Managerial Models and Methods for Moral Reasoning. Foundation for Business Ethics.
13 Freed, B. (2016, February 5). Poll: 25 Percent of Football Fans Think Redskins Should Change Their Name. Washingtonian. Retrieved October 3, 2016, from https://www.washingtonian.com/2016/02/05/poll-25-percent-of-football-fans-think-redskins-should-change-their-name/
14 Moldoveanu, M. (2014, August). Managerial Models and Methods for Moral Reasoning. Foundation for Business Ethics.
15 Moldoveanu, M. (2014, August). Managerial Models and Methods for Moral Reasoning. Foundation for Business Ethics.
16 Moldoveanu, M. (2014, August). Managerial Models and Methods for Moral Reasoning. Foundation for Business Ethics.
17 Moldoveanu, M. (2014, August). Managerial Models and Methods for Moral Reasoning. Foundation for Business Ethics.
18 Moldoveanu, M. (2014, August). Managerial Models and Methods for Moral Reasoning. Foundation for Business Ethics.
19 What is the history of Stanford’s mascot and nickname? Stanford University. Retrieved October 3, 2016, from http://www.gostanford.com/sports/2013/4/17/208445366.aspx
20 Ellison, C. W. (Ed.). (2009). Mascot Story. Miami University. Retrieved October 3, 2016, from http://miamioh.edu/about-miami/diversity/miami-tribe-relations/mascot-story/
21 Culpepper, C. (2014, December 29). Florida State’s unusual bond with Seminole Tribe puts mascot debate in a different light. The Washington Post. Retrieved October 3, 2014, from https://www.washingtonpost.com/sports/colleges/florida-states-unusual-bond-with-seminole-tribe-puts-mascot-debate-in-a-different-light/2014/12/29/5386841a-8eea-11e4-ba53-a477d66580ed_story.html
22 Brown, D. (2014, January 9). Cleveland Indians demote Chief Wahoo logo. Yahoo Sports. Retrieved October 3, 2016, from http://sports.yahoo.com/blogs/mlb-big-league-stew/cleveland-indians-marginalize-chief-wahoo-logo-081024357–mlb.html
23 Ryan, S. (2016, May 3). Illinois to select new mascot. Chicago Tribune. Retrieved October 3, 2016, from http://www.chicagotribune.com/sports/college/ct-university-of-illinois-mascot-chief-illiniwek-20160502-story.html
24 Brady, E. (2013, May 10). Daniel Snyder says Redskins will never change name. USA Today. Retrieved October 3, 2016, from http://www.usatoday.com/story/sports/nfl/redskins/2013/05/09/washington-redskins-daniel-snyder/2148127/
25 Rovell, D. (2014, September 5). Redskins merchandising dips sharply. ESPN. Retrieved October 3, 2016, from http://www.espn.com/nfl/story/_/id/11471322/washington-redskins-merchandising-sales-drop-438-percent-year-research-shows
26 Powers, R. (2016, September 15). Business Ethics. Lecture presented in University of Toronto Rotman School of Management, Toronto.
Ice hockey is the national sport of Canada and it’s very popular in other northerly countries. But, it could be more popular than it currently is. There could be better talent in the sport today but the problem with hockey is the current manner in which the sport is played, the way the rules re-enforce certain behaviours and of course, the sport’s requirement of a lot equipment which isn’t conducive to the working class families….
There are several factors that could explain why hockey is less popular than basketball, baseball, football, soccer (football). And these factors could be fixed without completely changing the sport. I think change in certain areas could improve the sport’s global popularity and therefore increase the calibre of players, the level of entertainment and the awesomeness of this the greatest of sports. That’s right, I’m greedy, make the best better…..You might not like these ideas so convince me otherwise on an argumentative basis if possible.
Punch Me, Grab Me, I Can Assault You….On Ice
One of the hinderances to hockey’s success as a global sport is fighting. Fighting should not be “part of the game.” Um, just to clarify, hockey is not a game, it’s a sport. Everyone gets excited in the stands (supposedly) when they see a fight on the ice. And yet, this regular season game is supposed to be a family outing and sponsored by Tim Hortons, you say??? If there are young kids watching, it’s probably not the best example to set for those kids when two professional/paid hockey players are punching each other in the face, or wildly groping around in order to maximise bodily harm. It is illegal to assault a fellow human being….in you know…the real world under the Canadian Criminal Code. Of course, kids know that this is currently part of the game and kids aren’t taking the fight to the streets, but we can’t expect publically condoned violence to NOT have some effect on people in other contexts.
So, the issue here is fighting is entertaining but it’s kind of an embarrassing part of hockey. If you ask a Western European; a person from the United Kingdom, for example, what they think about when they think ice hockey, they naturally focus on fighting when it comes to this sport. I guess potential fans tend to remember random acts of violence rather than other things like talent & skill.
The NBA of Hockey
The NBA, the National Basketball Association, used to have fighting in the 1960s when the sport was still in its nascent phases of commercialization….another sport invented by a Canadian (Dr. Naismith)….randomly enough….
Anyway, fighting was phased out as the demographics of the sport changed and the sport matured… Low and behold, Basketball got much much more entertaining. Rucker Park experimentation arrived on the basketball court…fresh players started a new fad called “dunking”. Today, the average NBA franchise is worth 1.1 Billion USD. Just looking at the performance of the NHL here and I’m disappointed with year on year growth, folks; only the Toronto Maple Leafs, Montreal Canadiens and the New York Rangers are worth more than 1 Billion USD.
Now of course, you can point out that there isn’t much equipment needed to play basketball so the sport is able to grow faster BUT it is strange that fighting was ruled out in the 1960s and now basketball is a global sport….Meanwhile hockey still hasn’t changed from being a predominately caucasian and middle-class sport. Nothing wrong with that necessarily, it’s just that punching people in the face, isn’t as attractive to new entrants as you might think.
When you look at the demographics of Canada, you would think that there would be more non-white players in hockey but there aren’t. There is a pattern with sports that want to go mainstream…they inspire people across demographics to play the sport. Random violence isn’t the only barrier to better & more talent in hockey but I don’t think it helps.
Deterrence Through The Use Of Lawful Force
Now, fighting is the most obvious, surface level issue about hockey. But, underlying fighting is a deeper problem. Fighting is partly a means of deterring competing players from engaging in the body checking OF HIGH VALUE, high net worth players. If you can bodycheck or slash Wayne Gretzky and knock him out of game seven of the Stanley Cup final then you should go do that because the sport permits exacting bodily harm on fellow athletes. It’s a full contact sport.
So, what ends up occurring in this rational choice scenario is that players actively use body checking to harm others and thereby gain strategic advantage in game situations. But, in effect, what this does is it slows down the flow of the game. There could be more flow in this sport, it could be less about masculinity and blunt force, and more about skill and playmaking BUT body checking is the barrier to creating a sport that is more appropriately led by skilled players. Don’t tell me that bodychecking is a skill, I know it’s a skill, but it’s not a skill that adds to the health and well being of fellow players, bodychecking prevents athletes from reaching their full potential. Eric Lindros is just one of the NHL greats whose career, I recall, was cut short.
Here’s a list of talented players whose careers were cut short by injuries:
Pat LaFointaine (concussion)
Bobby Orr (knee)
Marian Gaborik (knee)
Peter Forsberg (ankle)
Steve Moore (concussion)
Adam Deadmarsh (concussion)
Matthew Barnaby (concussion)
Keith Primeau (concussion)
Dean Chynoweth (concussion)
Dave Scratchard (concussion)
Cam Neely (knee)
Dennis Vaske (concussion)
Scott Stevens (concussion)
Steve Yzerman (knee)
George Courtnall (concussion)
Stu Grimson (concussion)
Pavel Bure (knee)
Mike Richter (concusion)
Mario Lemieux (hip/back)
As mentioned, Eric Lindros (concussion)
Insert name of countless friends from your local community who had their NHL dream cut short by an injury.
Actually if you look at it, Wayne Gretzky and the Edmonton Oilers had a set of players who acted as body guards for Wayne Gretzky. These guys would body check opponents and escalate that conflict to 1 on 1 fights in order to establish that Wayne Gretzky wasn’t to be touched on the ice. They were sort of body guards, bullies if you will, and they would use their physical strength to assert themselves and protect Gretzky. In the process, they also had altercations that became fights, true, and they would fight on the ice and punch their opponent’s faces with blood soaked glee. Like mixed martial artists or boxers. But the point of the fight was that it was morale boosting.
More than anything a fight is about saying “Hey, check yourself. You have violated our unspoken law about egregiously harming myself or top players, and I want to equalize that by fighting you.” I guess, the problem is that these types of players are occupying ice time which would be better suited for creative & skill players. Don’t be fooled by the logic that defencemen will not be able to contain the offence because bodychecking is retricted. The game will be more skill based if you have to intercept the puck rather than a player’s body….at least it’s worth considering.
So fighting and body checking are not separable; you can’t remove one without removing the other. At least not without a lot of difficulty.
Equipment As A Barrier To Potential Talent:
The equipment problem is the biggest of all problems with hockey. Purists hate changes to their sport but if I was an equipment manufacturing executive I would be for all kinds of changes to hockey. And it turns out, manufacturers have made a killing on contact sports. Circa 1959, Plante gets hit in the face one too many times, good, equipment manufacturers have a new category. Someone gets cut in the neck, sell a neck guard for $25 bucks. Elbow pads aren’t big enough, charge double. Manufacturers are saying today “let’s keep hockey a semi-violence sport so that we can increase our revenue, shall we?”
And looking into the distant past, it’s not like Guy LaFleur was laying out opponents every game…..
Ever notice how equipment manafacturing for hockey has ratched up the gear? Most notably in the 25 years….First there was the mandatory helmets then there was more padding generally. As the sport developed alongside American and Canadian football, these sports informed manufacturers about how best to protect players from eachother. You could split your expensive research & development costs across a bunch of contact sports…With more padding came an increase in physical altercations as part of the game.
Today, the pads take the brunt of the discomfort in laying the hit. It’s hard to ignore the fact that hockey requires so much expensive equipment, meanwhile, purists believe that body checking is integral to how the sport is played. Seems like a perfect accident that these two interest groups have shaped the sport.
Now, it’s not likely that equipment manufacturers have intentionally made it easier to comfortably body check opponents and in so doing made the game less approachable for the working class by making the sport so expensive….in all likelihood, equipment manufacturers were responding to player demand. So I can’t fault the equipment manufacturers for making a living here. However, I kind of doubt that manufacturers would want to restrict body checking as it would mean less profits for themselves….at least in the short-term. Long term, I would expect more sticks to be sold globally.
Lost Legends That Never Were And I Have No Proof Existed….
So, I’m still talking about fighting, but in truth body checking is the core of the problem with ice hockey. It wasn’t always about body checking because there weren’t pads when you played shinny as a kid. Think of how many players in their youth stopped playing ice hockey around age eight or nine. There are statistics that show that this occurs, that there’s a significant drop off of player talent in the mid-teens as well.
If you read Malcolm Gladwell’s book “The Tipping Point,” you’ll know that obviously people who are born earlier in the year have a few advantages in life. If you were born in January of a given year, you can still playing ice hockey against people who were born in December but are still considered nine year olds. And the growth spurts of those two individuals could be wildly different, the guy or girl born in January could be several inches taller and larger than the guy born in December of the same calendar year.
So, you have created an inequality in the development of the players that is exacerbated by the serendipity of bodychecking at random. Also, more importantly, by the age of nine, you introduce body checking as if it has to be part of the sport. If you’re body checking someone at an early age, they’re still growing, you’re putting their bodies under duress. It’s quite similar to American or Canadian football. These kids get bruises, it’s a brutal sport, it’s a lot of fun to pummel each other with really expensive, heavy equipment but in hockey?….the long-term problem is that it could be harming the development of great skill players. Ultimately, the problem is that body checking may lead many kids to actually just quit and never play the sport again…
Possible Solution: Create Parallel/Competing League…
So I know these ideas seem ridiculous but I think that these changes would benefit the sport but lets A/B test it first. A/B testing is where you have two versions of a thing you are testing & then you include a new factor into one of the two in order to decide which one is better. There will be a lot of people who will decry any change to the sport because the sport is “great the way it is” just like the horse and carriage is the best way to get around circa 1875, but what these folks don’t realize is the key concept that this post is about; which is the hidden costs of the way the game is played today. When the automobile was popularised, there was a transition period. The sport could be better than it is presently but I can’t prove that at present because there is no other league to compare with the NHL.
Of course there was the WHA in the 1970s, teams like the Edmonton Oilers were infact from that league. I’ll put good money on the idea that a new Global Hockey League which would be a 21st century hockey league that, if it restricted body checking/fighting, would dwarf the NHL within 10 years pulling the carpet under the “best” in traditional hockey. Get ready for Moscow vs Montreal, October 15th, 2035. Yes, if you can’t join ’em replace ’em…..Let the free market decide which league is better. Just a thought though.
Hidden Costs Are Expensive
As we’ve seen the hidden costs of body checking and fighting are wide ranging. The equipment issue is probably a bigger problem than anyother but we don’t realise these costs for sure because there’s no alternative reality or parallel league to see these changes in play. There must be 1000s of talented altheletes who left the sport because of injuries. Players competing in Bantam hockey across Canada and elsewhere no doubt hit a threshold of pain that could not be overcome because the sport was wedded to random acts of violence leading to unexpected concussions….all in the name of this being part of the game. Again, hockey is a sport, not game. Checkers is a game.
Talent = Skill = Entertainment = Intellect = Revenue
You can completely disagree with me but if the sport can be more lucrative, popular and globally respected through these changes then what’s your problem? As I mentioned above, the average NBA team is worth more than the average NHL team by quite a lot. Hockey is a skill sport, a sport of intellect, of strategy, a sport of physical fitness, a sport that requires agility, endurance. There is intellect in body-checking but there is more intellect in playmaking, I suspect. If you look at any NHL game highlights, body-cheking is rarely emphasised. It’s a fantastic sport that has a huge, huge hidden cost inserted into it by the contact component; the body checking within the sport is really expensive from an equipment, injury & skill standpoint.
Canada has the highest post-secondary education rates on earth. Our heroes should reflect the demographics of Canada not just the best bullies in the playground. I am in no way saying top hockey players aren’t intelligent, don’t miscontrue the argument, it’s just that it’s possible that bully-centred players are potentially crowding out talent from market. There is no way to know for sure because there is no parallel league to compare the NHL to but I’m saying some smarter players never get the chance to play because of the way the sport is currently played. It’s quite possible that hockey fans globally want to restrict body checking but don’t have any means to express their decent. I believe they would spend more money watching hockey if body checking was restricted and I can explain why. But first, we should ask what Mohammed Ali thinks about body checking…..Oh right, he’s sustained too many hits to the head to speak competently about a sport he never played. Maybe body checking should be restricted to improve the lives of current & future-retiring atheletes? Also, hockey is not MMA or boxing. Hockey is better than these sports in my opinion. There is a place for violence in sport. I’m saying that violence shouldn’t play such a significant role in hockey.
One Group Guaranteed To Disagree With Me
Now before I upset purists further, let’s agree that those who most forcefully oppose penalising body checking are likely to be the NHL players who have the following problems:
They’re bulky and physically threatening on the ice;
They don’t have the head for strategy play;
They dream about the cheers they get when they lay a huge hit;
They can’t skate worth a damn but can slash you like a champ;
Their shot accuracy, speed, agility & general talent are below average.
If these changes mentioned in this article actually happened, they would lose their jobs as more talented players crowd them out of the league.
So yeah, the people who most forcefully oppose changes are those who benefit from the status quo. My point is not that if you disagree with me you are a ‘dumb goon’ or something, it’s that the sport could quite possibly be better IF the sub-sect of enforcer players were phased out THEN everyone else would benefit. That includes fans, teams, GMs and the overall global potential of the sport.
Serendipity of Body Checking
As mentioned above, Canadian football, American football, for the most part have very coordinated and fairly standardised contact. You have contact where two players pummel each other, directing their physical force in a single direction and the sport is built around anticipating hits. In ice hockey, it’s random, it’s serendipitous, i.e. someone crossed the blue line with their head down and gets a concussion, someone plows into the corner boards headfirst and is a paraplegic for the rest of his life.
The hits are not coordinated in anyway and can occur at any time on the ice. It’s random like a car accident or a cancer diagnosis…Obviously, hockey needs to at least restrict body checking. Once you get rid of body checking, as a non-starter fighting is out, it doesn’t make logical sense anymore to have the fighting deterrent, and you improve the total pool of potential players in the sport. Of course, making the penalties for bodychecking harsh and suspending fights would change the game quite a lot.
Just because you make something less appealing doesn’t mean it will stop immediately at first. But I’m sorry, hockey already has enough going against it as a global sport, most notably the fact that it is played on frozen water. But at least, the full pool of individuals who could be playing hockey could grow substantially if you change the sport to remove body checking and fighting from it.
Nail in the coffin
Now, that you’ve read this far along, I need to prepare you for the final blow. Body checking does more harm than good for hockey. Body checking inflates the cost of participating in the sport. Removing it would make hockey more accessible. To prove my point further, I’ve mentioned the NBA several times before. Well, I have just one last thought for you. Can you imagine basketball with bodychecking? Would the sport be better? As a hockey fan, are you strangely drawn to the prospect of basketball with body checking? Interesting, right?
Gonna need more padding….
Commercial Viability of The Spectacle That Is Hockey
Now, here’s where purists take a nose dive & get extremely upset with my argument. I’m happy to separate the following idea from the other two above but if you look at it from a commercial perspective and I’m putting my commercial hat on here, there was a time in the 90’s when the US broadcasters highlighted the puck on the ice, specifically to help fans see the puck. Of course, that was annoying and it was kind of a problem to viewers in Canada. Just a bit of a problem. Many Canadian fans felt that the TRAX PUCK was an affront to the sport, but net revenue and growth of the sport increased in that period. The truth is FOX subsequently dropped this strange highlighted puck solution and because of audience confusion (among other factors) FOX cancelled their coverage; the numbers didn’t add up. But, that failure has a self-fulfilling element to it.
The problem is still that new fans can’t see the puck in some instances. I think the third thing that they should change, and I say “they” I mean commissioner Gary Bettman of the NHL; he should get rid of the black hockey puck and replace it with a neon coloured hockey puck that’s easy to see. Because there is no doubt with even with HD television, you will have situations where it looks like everyone is skating around with no puck. Why am I watching mimes right now? Where’s the puck? They’re throwing around a puck at high speed and you can’t see it. It can be quite annoying for those who did not grow up with the sport. Now, I did grow up with hockey but I empathise with non-hockey fans who could love the sport. In fact, those who grew up with hockey have a vivid imagination as to where the puck is and thus like it the way it is. I think if you made the puck in NHL games neon or green or orange it would have a positive impact. Apparently having an orange puck was common practice in the WHA. Just saying. I know this sounds like an awful idea to have a puck you can see more easily but try it before you fry it. I think it’s worth exploring changes to the sport to penalize body checking, outlaw fighting and change the hockey puck to orange so there you have it. If you’re still not sold on these changes then consider the following……
An ancillary consequence of these changes could be problematic in and of itself and that would be, potentially, that there would be more hockey players competing for a handful of actual NHL jobs as NHL players, and the quality of hockey would increase and skilled players would dominate the sport. Now why that would be a bad thing I’m not quite sure just yet, but I’m pretty sure that would be the consequence. There would be increased competition because there would be a greater pool of athletes to choose from. There might be even, dare I say it, women hockey players. Now that’s just crazy….So, diversity is another beneficiary of this change in policy. Anyway, those are my thoughts. If you like one of the three ideas that’s cool, if you hate them all let me know. Convince me otherwise on an argumentative basis if possible.
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Foundation: You need to build a fountation for yourself. University is a great foundation for personal development: Bring your best mental self to everything you do.
Potential: Potential is a dirty word if you do not do anything with it. You need maximise your potential. You need to embrace life long learning.
Attitude: attitude shapes your life, it is more important then facts, money, failures or successes. Attitude is more important then appearance and will make or break a company. We have a choice everyday regarding the attitude we embrace for that day, we cannot change our past or the inevitable. 90% of life is how you react to it.
Mike Babcock went to St. James Elementary School, Holy Cross High School, McGill University and King’s College London…he did not go to the London School of Economics…He coached Canada’s Olympic Gold Medal Men’s Hockey Team in 2010.
Excercising shapes the body and mind. Schwarzenegger believed in conquering the world, he has done that pretty well. It wasn’t luck, it was willpower (self-discipline). Although, he’s made some mistakes in life, he was driven by strong principles. He created goals for himself and then did what he could to achieve those goals. But achieving your goals is about harnessing not just your body but most critically the mind. The ability to reshape the mind is critical for success in any field you choose. A polymath like Schwarzenegger conquered body building, film acting and government life through sheer effort and an iron will. Understanding how willpower works in conjunction with excercise is critical to your success in life…..
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