Connor’s Corner: New rules mark the beginning of the end for violent sports

Increased head trauma research has changed the culture and attitude surrounding contact sports, and it’s only going to get worse for fans.

The growing awareness about the lasting negative impacts on professional athletes’ quality of life are forcing professional leagues are to revise their rules.

This trend is evident in almost every National Football League matchup on television.

Flags are thrown around the field like confetti at a 4-year-old’s birthday party – mostly for roughing the quarterback or flattening defenseless receivers. Both are arbitrary calls that never seem to be consistent.

It slows the game down, and ultimately changes the way the game is played. Players like Rodney Harrison and Ray Lewis made careers feasting on receivers running across the middle of the field.

These big hitters would find themselves up to their knees in fines in the adjusted rules era.

Many complain that football is becoming too soft. The rules are focused on giving the offensive players an advantage over their highly scrutinized defensive counterparts.

A similar relationship could be found in the National Hockey League, and its increased emphasis on players’ safety. The game has come a long way since the 1972 Broad Street Bullies, and has become a more inviting atmosphere for speedy playmakers.

The NHL understands that change is necessary to keep the popularity of hockey on the rise. Following the lockout in 2004-05, the NHL introduced new rules that made two-line passing legal and then added the shootout.

The rule changes created a more exciting product for fans, but there is still one violent aspect in hockey that is undoubtedly the most popular – bare-knuckle fighting.

The only place on earth two grown men can legally assault each other and are merely sentenced to spend five minutes in the penalty box.

To a hockey outsider it is easy to dismiss the barbaric ritual, but to someone who grew up loving and playing the sport, it means so much more.

Fighting allows the players to police the game. The moment someone defies the unwritten code of hockey, everyone in the arena knows the fourth line grinders will take the ice.

Youth hockey players learn that standing up for your teammate is a part of the game. It offers a sense of comradery and accountability to each player on the ice.

The NHL has started to force all players entering the league to wear visors, which makes fighting a bit trickier.

There was also a rule implemented that states if players remove their helmets to fight, there will be a two-minute unsportsmanlike conduct penalty added to the five-minute major.

The NHL seems to be moving toward a league that resembles Olympic hockey. No one is permitted to drop the mitts when they are representing their country.

I understand the need to slowly remove fighting from hockey for long-term health benefits of its players, but die-hard hockey fans will oppose the ban until the bitter end.

Sadly, the end grows closer as each year passes.

A small rule change turns into a slightly bigger adjustment and the next thing you know we’re all playing golf.

CONNOR SONDEL

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