All the commentary about head shots and concussions in sports have brought back repressed memories from my years as a hockey dad.
Now men like to hit each other or fight. You only have to watch young children playing to appreciate this. This is also apparent in other species where it is not necessarily limited to males. Consequently we have sports like hockey football and boxing. This is not a North American phenomena, we also have rugby and hurling.
I only played one year of organized hockey. My parents gave all kinds of reasons including, the early ice times and the fact that I was not very good. This is despite the fact that in 1977 when I would have been eligible to play in the NHL, all the teams were drafting big guys who couldn't skate and at 6'5" I would have been the tallest player in the NHL (you can check on this if you want). I should get over this but I won't. This trauma is why when my oldest son announced at age 7, that he desperately wanted to play hockey I did nothing to stand in his way.
Of course having 2 boys, you can't just put one in hockey without putting the other in hockey and so little brother had to go in as well.
Little brother had a different personality from big brother, he was one of those cute kids who skates around in circles oblivious to the puck. This was fine at the Tom Thumb level where he had kids who would actually play the game for him but as he reached novice where he was put on a team with kids of similar ability, it became painful.
Hockey in our province is non contact until age 11 at which time body checking is permitted. I wish we could say that we were mortified but actually we were quite proud that this was an area of the game in which number 2 son excelled. Body checking gave him a role on the team, his interest peaked, he actually started scoring goals and playing at the outdoor rink. And of course he injured players. Many players I learned don't watch Don Cherry and don't appreciated that you don't cruise across the blue line with your head down. Thanks to Don Cherry our son realized that players would do this and many of his worst hits came on those players. Now my son was not a dirty player, many of his hits were to the head which was legal then but they were with his shoulder not with his elbow. He got a penalty every couple of games unusual unrelated to hitting. In his second and final year of contact hockey he was badly mis-tiered at the beginning of the season which meant he played with and against a number of players in their first year of contact hockey.
The carnage every week was incredible. I remember seeing a player skate out of the corner, head down and my son laying him out; I saw the legs buckle, the player slump the ice and the other team's trainer sprinting across the ice. Meanwhile number 2 son was getting high fives at the bench and I had never been so proud of him. At the end of season party one of parents came up to my son and said, "Thank you for protecting my son".
Body checking is an integral part of hockey just as tackling is an integral part of football or rugby. Most 11 year old kids in minor hockey want to body check.
Sadly my son also suffered a number of concussions in minor hockey. Some of these were inflicted by his own team in practice as some players wanted to see how tough he was. A few were in games, at least one skiing.
My number two son is in University now and doing well. He no longer lowers his shoulder into people's heads. He just skis and bikes off cliffs.