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Ralph Nader asks Gary Bettman to ban fighting in the NHL

Feb 7, 2012, 4:35 PM EDT

Ralph Nader

Political activist and five-time presidential candidate Ralph Nader has taken the NHL to task on his sports reform website, League of Fans.

In An Open Letter to NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman: It’s Time to Ban Fighting, Nader asks “the leader of the most influential hockey organization in the world” to “take immediate steps to ban fighting and outlaw all blows to the head.”

More, from League of Fans:

Fighting in hockey can no longer be a long-debated issue pitting those who find it barbaric and unsportsmanlike and those who argue that it’s an integral part of the fabric of the game.  The growing mound of research on sports concussions and brain injuries has taken the fighting issue to an entirely different level.  We’re talking about short-and-long-term damage to the brain, the very foundation of who we are as people.

Repeated head trauma has shortened the careers of Pat LaFontaine, Eric Lindros, and Keith Primeau.  Currently, concussions are threatening the careers of Pittsburgh Penguin’s superstar Sidney Crosby and the Philadelphia Flyers’ Chris Pronger.  Three enforcers, Derek Boogard, Rick Rypien, and Wade Belak, whose primary job was to protect teammates by throwing fists at the heads of opponents, have died in the past year.  It’s certainly possible the brain trauma they received on the ice from their fellow combatants played a significant role in their deaths.

You can read the full text of Nader’s letter here.

This isn’t the first time Nader’s publicly challenged a major-league commissioner. He’s taken runs at NBA head honcho David Stern — once criticizing referees (then criticizing them again in the wake of the Tim Donaghy scandal) and once questioning the scheduling of Christmas Day games.

  1. lapsncaps - Feb 7, 2012 at 4:43 PM

    Rabble, rabble, rabble, rabble

  2. 1943mrmojorisin1971 - Feb 7, 2012 at 4:45 PM

    In response, hockey fans ask this know-nothing to stick to politics and leave our sport alone.

  3. 1943mrmojorisin1971 - Feb 7, 2012 at 4:52 PM

    I mean for God’s sake, the players he lists weren’t fighters and the jury is still out on fighting’s role in those enforcers’ deaths. Zip it, Ralph.

  4. sharks123 - Feb 7, 2012 at 5:01 PM

    Really appreciate your concerns Ralph, now stfu.

  5. crusty14 - Feb 7, 2012 at 5:07 PM

    Honestly Ralph, stick to what you know, which is…..ummmm..I’m not sure, but you know nothing of hockey , so as previous posters have said, STFU!

  6. quizguy66 - Feb 7, 2012 at 5:12 PM

    Yeah, I’ll listen to the guy that backed the causes he supposedly supports by ensuring Bush got in. Nader is a joke.

    • nothanksimdriving123 - Feb 7, 2012 at 5:35 PM

      Yes, I agree his role in the 2000 US election fiasco was very sad, though there were several other factors that led to Gore not being officially elected. But Nader has done much good in his lifetime, more than most of us. For one thing, our cars are MUCH safer because of his efforts.

      • blomfeld - Feb 7, 2012 at 10:58 PM

        So let’s see … making cars safer has equated to more people driving, more cars on the road with more congestion and hence a greater likelihood of being involved in a traffic accident … Nader means well no doubt, but his efforts are a complete waste of time at the end of the day …

  7. lsxphotog - Feb 7, 2012 at 5:15 PM

    Shut up, Nader.

  8. alexb64 - Feb 7, 2012 at 5:18 PM

    While I believe that fighting allows players to police the game themselves, I do think the NHL faces a slippery slope in regards to “head shots”. It is kind of backwards to become so concerned with head shots & at the same time permit two guys to trade bare knuckle blows to each other’s heads to settle a score. I am behind fighting remaining a part of the game, but as many as said the league does need to clean it up. A player should not have to fight to defend a clean hit, so instigator penalties need to be more enforced. If two players start to throw down as the result of a perceived dirty hit or cheap shot, it doesn’t slow the game down at all for a referee to make his way to the nearest TV screen for a replay of the play that sparked the brawl & decide whether one side should be penalized.

    I also think the best & most effective way to eliminate cheap shots is if the resulting penalty put your team at such a significant disadvantage you would be intentionally hurting your own team by doing it. Maybe a 5 minute disadvantage that can’t be ended with a goal, maybe a penalty shot. I think the league could also use the same Toronto office that reviews goals to look over controversial hits & hand out penalties regardless of how much game time has passed. If Matt Cooke hits a defenseless skater in the 2nd period & nothing gets called, they should still be able to call the penalty in the 3rd. I don’t see teams continuing to employ cheap shot artists if they hurt their own teams, fans certainly aren’t going to tolerate it not even in that “When he’s on your team you LOVE what he does” crap way.

    • 1943mrmojorisin1971 - Feb 7, 2012 at 5:32 PM

      It’s not backwards at all. A fight is between two willing combatants. The guy on the wrong side of a head shot has no say in whether or not he gets hit. Instigator penalties need to not be enforced at all so guys won’t take so many liberties with each other knowing there won’t be any immediate repercussions.

      Eliminating cheap shots is one thing but eliminating blows to the head is another, much more difficult one. Look at Steckel’s hit on Crosby. The only way to get that out of the game is to ban contact. With the speed and size of the guys playing in the NHL there is always the possibility of a head injury occurring in every game. I like the idea of using bigger ice, but I also know they’ll ban hitting before they put Olympic ice in NHL arenas.

      • alexb64 - Feb 7, 2012 at 5:46 PM

        Just because both participants were willing it doesn’t justify the fight. There are countless times when a player delivers a clean hit & gets goaded into an unnecessary fight just because they didn’t want to back down. Which like I said, is why instead of having all officials watching the fight at least one of them can be looking back at the hit that sparked the challenge & deciding if it merited retaliation, if the provoking came from a clean hit the instigator should absolutely get a penalty for it.

      • 1943mrmojorisin1971 - Feb 7, 2012 at 5:58 PM

        I don’t like the idea of players trying to fight an opponent after he delivers a clean hit, but I think the instigator rule does way more harm than good in terms of curbing cheap shots.

  9. nothanksimdriving123 - Feb 7, 2012 at 5:30 PM

    Really Ralph, if we get rid of fighting in hockey, all we’ll be left with is the world’s fastest and most exciting sport, with nothing but skillful skating, stick-handling, passing. crunching body-checks, scoring and great goalkeeping! What fun would that be? I mean, who would even remember the 1972 Summit Series, the ’87 Canada Cup, the great Olympic matches and NCAA finals if not for all those epic fights in those games? Oh, that’s right, there weren’t any.

    • 1943mrmojorisin1971 - Feb 7, 2012 at 5:36 PM

      Watch how dirty those “crunching body checks” become without fighting. The Summit Series may not have had fighting, but it had some ankle-breaking and faux attacks on the refs. Not exactly the model for good clean hockey.

  10. nhlbruins90 - Feb 7, 2012 at 5:35 PM

    stfu. the nation’s chief busybody. mind your own. who asked you anyway. oh, i could go on, but i’d probably get banned from this site.

  11. steelernation1 - Feb 7, 2012 at 5:48 PM

    this guy is a douche isnt the fighting that causes the brain damage…its the cheap shots.get real..fighting is part of the game it should never be removed.has been a part of the game since the begining.

    obviously Nader has no idea in what he is talking about..the NHL needs the enforcers to protect the stars of the game.take the enforcers out of the game you will see a lot more concusions.Nader zip it you cant even win an election to be prez let alone know what the game of hockey is about

    • 1943mrmojorisin1971 - Feb 7, 2012 at 6:02 PM

      Fighting and brain damage probably have some links. It’s still being worked on, but it doesn’t take a genius to know taking repeated blows to the head isn’t exactly healthy. That being said, these are grown men and they know what they’re getting in to and the risk involved. It should be left to them to decide if they’re going to fight or not. Not to Gary, and certainly not to some blowhard politician.

  12. vismund11 - Feb 7, 2012 at 5:55 PM

    A) The amount of enforcers is waaay down compared to even the beginning of 2000. and B) They know what theyre getting into, do they not make mounds of cash?

    • alexb64 - Feb 7, 2012 at 6:22 PM

      Enforcers are down in regards to the old guard, I just think the typical enforcer has changed. They need to be able to give you other things on the ice. Its very much a 4 line league now, even coaches like Tortorella are playing 4 lines. When you need every available forward its just harder to use an active line spot on a guy that can’t do much beyond fight & something that resembles defense or forechecking but really isn’t. I think the modern enforcer will handle your fighting & also be out there defending the opposition’s top line & chipping in a few goals here & there. Not to bow down to The Rangers again, they just happen to be the most recent team I’ve watched, but they seem to have that with guys like Prust & Rupp.

      • 1943mrmojorisin1971 - Feb 7, 2012 at 8:02 PM

        That’s the way it should be. Guys in the NHL should be allowed to fight all they want, but they better be able to skate, backcheck or play D, get in on the offense once in a while, and basically just be a hockey player. Goons need not apply.

  13. govtminion - Feb 7, 2012 at 6:13 PM

    I propose that if Nader can strap on some skates and win a hockey fight, he’ll have earned the right to make his voice heard on the matter. Otherwise you clearly don’t know what you’re talking about because you don’t know what it’s like.

    • nhlbruins90 - Feb 8, 2012 at 12:55 AM

      Actually, he didn’t know much about auto safety either, but that didn’t stop him back when. For some reason, the media anointed him as a saint, and apparently he believes his own press.

      Oddly enough, this critic of the free market has done remarkably well in the stock market, profiting off of those ‘evil’ corporate masters. What a crank.

  14. wheelinbeauties21 - Feb 7, 2012 at 6:17 PM

    Nader, stick to trying to get into the white house. 6 times the charm buddy ha
    talk about a guy being sour over getting picked last in gym eh?

  15. bompster42 - Feb 7, 2012 at 7:00 PM

    Has that idiot ever seen a hockey game

  16. scottfmullin - Feb 7, 2012 at 7:03 PM

    Ralph Nader always has to be “that guy”

  17. buffalomafia - Feb 7, 2012 at 7:16 PM

    Why dont Ralph Nader fight me?

    No wonder why this guy is a bust!

    • ryandomico - Feb 7, 2012 at 7:36 PM

      100% agree with a fighting ban. It’s something that isn’t needed in the game anymore. Especially with the recent string of deaths to ex nhl fighters. Its hard on the players who have to drop the gloves on a nightly basis. I realize its been a part of the game since it began, but it may be time for a change.

  18. matty373 - Feb 7, 2012 at 9:31 PM

    I agree with Ralph. I just hope he can get convince boxing to do the same.

  19. ajsjr40 - Feb 7, 2012 at 9:47 PM

    Has Ralph Nader ever even watched a hockey game? What a complete a-hole.

  20. tommytd - Feb 7, 2012 at 9:47 PM

    Hey good luck Ralphy boy. Let me know how that one works out for ya!

  21. notpartofthegame - Feb 7, 2012 at 10:03 PM

    Regarding Nader’s letter to Bettmen; he’s got the right message. How can the NHL care about the players when they allow two people to pound each other in the head. It’s time to eliminate fighting from the game –

    I don’t believe that fighting ever had a place in the game and as far as the accountability arguement goes, why were the 70’s and 80’s some of the bloodiest hockey years while fighting was at it’s peak? Let’s focus on skilled hockey players, good hard hitting and fast paced action. Not two grown men wrestling for a few minutes before falling to the ice.

  22. sjsharksfan11 - Feb 7, 2012 at 10:15 PM

    Nader’s comments are as dumb as he looks. Keep you political agenda out of the game….one in which you know nothing about

  23. blomfeld - Feb 7, 2012 at 11:06 PM


    I seriously don’t get it ? On the one hand, a lot of “you people” enjoy watching MMA or UFC where some guy gets his head beaten to a pulp … yet you same people get “queasy” when there’s hard contact or fighting in the NHL ? … which is it then ? … either you want blood or you don’t ? … make a decision you idiots !

  24. kotteintheslot - Feb 7, 2012 at 11:34 PM

    Nader, you’re right. We should eliminate fighting. It seems pretty dangerous that’s not what they signed up for. Fighters are the talented ones who let their game pay the bills…oh wait.

  25. rainyday56 - Feb 8, 2012 at 3:39 AM

    Ralph Nader, didn’t he have a cameo in the movie “Reds” where he plays a perv who puts the move on Diane Keaton? No, that was George Plimpton. Or wasn’t he the guy who played one of the dinner guests in “Beetlejuice? That was Dick Cavett. I get all those ’60’s fruitcakes mixed up.

  26. bigbadbruins1968 - Feb 8, 2012 at 9:45 AM

    Better idea: Ralph Nader can keep his nanny-statism out of hockey and mind is own business.

  27. jpelle82 - Feb 8, 2012 at 10:34 AM

    why should anyone listen to a perpetual loser like nader?

  28. michiganhockey11 - Feb 8, 2012 at 12:54 PM

    Lindros was a pugilist in his own right, but didn’t he take quite a few hits with his head down, causing his bell to get rung multiple times? He mentions Crosby in the same argument of baning fighting, which are two unrelated things. Crosby’s consussion/neck injury/whatever they are calling it now was from a hit, not from (as Stewie Griffin would say) throwing hands.

    Nader shoudl do a bit more research before throwing players names out there to support his argument.

  29. kitshky - Feb 8, 2012 at 5:19 PM

    Hey Ralph … get back to us after you’ve had this conversation with one of the (maybe thee) fastest growing sport in your country primarily governed by the UFC. If your concern is head injuries and concussions I’d focus more on a sport where the entire objective is more often than not to beat your opponents head in till he’s passed out, submits, or the official has to step in because he can do neither.

  30. vanyesno - Feb 9, 2012 at 5:19 PM

    Ralph…shut the front door bud.

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