Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Whether you care to admit it, fighting in major junior hockey is on its last legs.
Sooner, rather than later, junior hockey operators are going to realize that the evidence showing the destructiveness that can be caused by blows to the head continues to mount, and that they are going to have to act to get pugilism out of the game.
It has been noted many times that boxers aren’t allowed to punch each other in the groins, but punches to the head are acceptable.
In hockey, the powers-that-be are working to get checks to the head out of the game but, at the same time, if you are playing major junior or above in North America, you are allowed to punch an opponent in the head during a fight.
It just doesn’t make sense.
Perhaps Neate Sager of Yahoo! Sports summed it up best on Monday when he wrote: “. . . one wonders how much longer fighting can exist in the Canadian Hockey League when the medical evidence and wider public awareness of a disease such as CTE each continue to mount. There is a chicken-and-egg element to it, wondering if it would take the NHL to act first before its longest-standing feeder system takes decisive action. But saying the NHL permits fighting is not enough of a reason to justify having it in the CHL.”
It is one thing for the NHL to allow fighting. After all, the combatants in that league are, for the most part, adults who are presumed capable of making their own informed decisions.
But it’s an entirely different story in the CHL where oftentimes there are physically immature and physically mature players on the ice at the same time, and where players often fight purely because of peer pressure.
At some point in time, someone is going to have to make a decision to protect these young people from themselves.
One also hopes that major junior owners and operators are paying attention to developments south of the 49th parallel where three lawsuits have been filed by former players against the National Football League, all of them dealing with concussions.
The most recent filing occurred Monday in Los Angeles Superior Court with 18 former players involved. According to an Associated Press report, “The suit claims the NFL, Riddell Sports Group and its parent company, Easton-Bell Sports, knew the long-term effects of brain injury from trauma suffered by the players and purposefully hid it from them.”
The AP story adds that “more than 75 current and former NFL players filed a similar suit in Los Angeles in July and another group did so earlier this month in Philadelphia.”
Steve Ewen of the Vancouver Province reports on goaltending, imports and 20-year-olds as they concern the Vancouver Giants. How close did the Giants come to landing G Eric Comrie and/or G Drew Owsley? Check it out right here.
As well, if you haven’t seen Ewen’s latest blog entry at Crush the Tumour with Humour, it’s right here.
The Moose Jaw Warriors have signed three of their 2011 bantam draft picks. F Brayden Point, the 12th overall selection, Miles Warkentine, who was taken 14th overall, and Josh Uhrich, the 33rd pick, signed WHL contracts on Monday. All three are expected to play tonight as the Warriors’ rookie take on the host Swift Current Broncos’ rookies. . . . Point put up 102 points for the Calgary Bisons to lead the Alberta Bantam Hockey League scoring race last season. Warkentine played for the bantam AA Prince Albert Pirates, picking up 70 points in 21 games. Uhrich, who had 48 points in 23 games with the bantam AA Notre Dame Hounds, expects to play this season with the midget AAA Saskatoon Contacts. . . .
The Portland Winterhawks are in camp without forwards Ryan Johansen and Nino Niederreiter, who are waiting for the Columbus Blue Jackets and New York Islanders, respectively, to open camps. All told, the Winterhawks will have 15 players off last season’s roster going to NHL training camps. Also headed that way will be D Taylor Aronson (Nashville), F Sven Bartschi (Calgary), F Riley Boychuk (Boychuk), G Mac Carruth (Chicago), G Oliver Gabriel (Columbus), D Joe Morrow (Pittsburgh), F Taylor Peters (Minnesota), D Brett Ponich (St. Louis), F Ty Rattie (St. Louis), F Brad Ross (Toronto), D Troy Rutkowski (Colorado), D Tyler Wotherspoon (Calgary) and D William Wrenn (San Jose). . . . You have to think some young Portland prospects are going to get a good look this exhibition season. . . .
The Calgary Hitmen opened camp with 81 players on hand. However, two goaltenders — Chris Driedger (ankle) and Michael Snider (wisdom teeth) — will watch for a few days and may not get on the ice until after the long weekend. . . . The Hitmen do have both their 2011 import draft picks on hand — Russian F Alex Gogolev and Swedish F Victor Rask. Rask was a second-round selection of the NHL’s Carolina Hurricanes and could be an impact player in the WHL. However, because he was drafted out of Europe, he could sign with the Hurricanes and play in the NHL or elsewhere in their organization.
A couple of items that showed up Monday provide a bit of insight into the business of major junior hockey.
Drew Wilson, the radio voice of the Prince Albert Raiders, wrote on his blog about how the team’s board of directors “has determined they will need 2,100 season-ticket subscribers in the next few years to remain a financially viable franchise.”
Wilson pointed out that this “is not being laid out as a scare tactic.”
Bruce Vance, the Raiders’ business manager, told Wilson that the goal of 2,100 season tickets “isn’t just a goal; it’s a must.”
Wilson reported that the Raiders’ budget for this season is “a little more than $2 million.”
According to Wilson, the Raiders, who have lost $300,000 over the last four seasons, have sold about 1,450 season tickets, an increase of 200 over last season.
Wilson’s complete blog entry is right here.
Meanwhile, in the OHL, the Kitchener Rangers showed a profit of $341,871 for 2010-11 — the 16th straight year in which the team has made money.
Josh Brown of the Kitchener Record reported that the subscriber-rn Rangers’ profit was up from the profit of $324,152 from the previous season.
According to Brown, revenues were $5.38 million; in 2009-10, revenues were $4.9 million.
Brown’s complete story is right here.

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