What causes violence
By Matt Larkin
Gazette File Photo
ARE EVENTS LIKE THIS CRIMINAL ACTS?. Sports, and hockey in
particular have come under heavy scrutiny recently because
of questionable activity on the ice.
For the past few weeks, Todd Bertuzzi’s vicious attack on
Steve Moore has been the talk of the sporting world.
The incident’s impact stretches far beyond the realm of
professional hockey; in addition to altering the reputation of
Bertuzzi, the Vancouver Canucks and the NHL, the event has raised
many questions on the issue of violence in sports.
Is there a place for the “eye for an eye” mentality?
Do two wrongs make a right in some cases? If one “cheap shot” goes
unpunished, should a player take the law into his or her own hands?
Should incidents such as the Bertuzzi attack or the more recent
Mark Messier spear and Wade Belak slash be seen in a criminal light,
or do they deserve isolation from the law?
The sucker punch on Steve Moore was tied to a previous hit delivered
by Moore to Vancouver Canuck and Bertuzzi teammate Markus Naslund,
and serves as evidence that violent retribution is a constant presence
in many sports.
Natascha Wesch, a Western kinesiology professor and coach of the
Mustangs’ women’s rugby team, sees no purpose in answering
violence with more violence on the playing field.
“I think violence in rugby, and fighting back, is not accepted,” Wesch
says. “In some other sports, like hockey, that’s not
the case — it’s encouraged and nobody cares.”
Paul Cook, coach of the Western women’s hockey team, says
he feels that a violent offender on the playing surface does at
times need to be disciplined, but only if that message is non-violent.
“If you see someone who keeps giving cheap shots, not simply
to play intensely but with intent to injure, it’s difficult
to decide if you need to deliver a message to that person”.
Mustangs’ women’s hockey captain Amanda Somerville
agrees in sometimes delivering a message to a dirty player, but
not through additional violence.
“I don’t think violence is necessary to stand up for
your teammates,” Somerville says. “It can be done verbally
or through shadowing your opponent to get a point across.”
Speaking in a hockey context, Cook sees communication problems
between a coach and player as the source of much of the violence
seen in sports.
“You have to be careful who you send out for a face-off,” Cook
warns. “A coach must make sure a player understands that
delivering a message doesn’t mean an order to attack.”
Physiological arousal often comes to the forefront as a defense
for violent behaviour in sports. Can one appropriately blame the
heightened emotion that occurs during competitive athletics for
vicious acts, or is doing so a cop-out?
“I think your actions, whether you’re on a playing
field or not, no matter what level of arousal, must be controlled,” Wesch
says. “If you can’t control yourself, that’s
a matter of an arousal problem. Whether you’re on a sports
field or in a car, you’re still responsible. Saying ‘the
emotion of the game made me do it’ is like saying ‘the
alcohol made me do it’. That’s garbage.”
Should sport-related attacks like those seen in recent weeks be
treated as criminal matters? Reflecting on the infamous Marty McSorley
stick- swinging incident that occurred in an NHL game several years
ago, Somerville feels that each violent incident must be treated
“I think [the legal penalty] depends on what the attack
is,” she explains. “Bertuzzi used his fist, unlike
McSorley. You need to be in control of your stick, even in the
heat of the moment. If you’re using your stick as a weapon,
Attacks like that performed by Bertuzzi suggest fingers are being
pointed at referees for not properly punishing the initial incident
that inspires the often more malicious act of vengeance. Wesch
feels most officials do a sufficient job of dishing out punishment,
at least from a rugby perspective.
“It depends on the level of officiating,” Wesch says. “Is
the right referee with the proper experience refereeing? Can she
handle the game? It depends on what the sport expects from the
officials, players and coaches. Rugby problems are dealt with quickly
because [retribution] isn’t expected or accepted.”
“An eye for an eye is not the way to go,” Cook says. “You
want the officials to look after the game. If for whatever reason
[a violent act] isn’t punished, it’s not right as a
coach to send a message to avenge an injury. For a coach, there’s
a fine line between looking after the game and making a mistake.”