SUN Hockey Pool

Banning fighting isn't the answer

Former Nashville Predators player and now broadcaster Stu Grimson arrives at the memorial service...

Former Nashville Predators player and now broadcaster Stu Grimson arrives at the memorial service for Wade Belak at Woodmont Christian Church in Nashville, Tenn. on Sept. 4, 2011. (Mike Strasinger/QMI AGENCY)

Mike Zeisberger, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 3:34 PM ET

When the man known as The Grim Reaper would find someone’s actions “inappropriate” during his playing days, it was a good bet that the gloves would quickly be dropped.

Usually that was bad news for the poor sucker whose face often ended up absorbing The Grim Reaper’s fists.

These days, the retired Stu Grimson is living a much more peaceful existence, practising law here in Music City. The days of pummelling opponents out on the ice have long been left behind in the rear view mirror.

On this particular soggy Sunday afternoon, Grimson has joined several hundred mourners at Woodmont Christian Church to honour the memory of Wade Belak, who was found dead in Toronto on Wednesday.

Since news of Belak’s passing first broke, there has been a rash of reports linking his death with those of fellow pugilists Rick Rypien and Derek Boogaard this summer. It seems there is a pressing desire in some circles to connect all three of these tragedies, with the blame landing on their jobs as NHL tough guys.

Standing in the reception room after Belak’s funeral, the foolishness of such conclusions becomes quite evident, even for a former enforcer like Grimson.

“I’ve seen those reports and, frankly, I think they’ve been very inappropriate,” said the soft-spoken Grimson, whose NHL resume featured 2,113 career penalty minutes.

“All three of these incidents are individual. Call them random. It’s a coincidence all three were enforcers. There are many more logical reasons against fighting that people could bring up.

“This should be about Wade’s memory, not about stretching to come to conclusions about the role he filled.”

But it hasn’t been.

Instead, a scan of the Internet reveals countless articles saying the roles that Belak, Rypien and Boogaard occupied on the ice all led, directly or indirectly, to their respective passings. Some, like former Montreal Canadien Chris Nilan, have actually called for a ban on fighting.

If you are part of the anti-fighting establishment, fine. But to try to use those three deaths as part of a push to eliminate fisticuffs is a lame argument.

Where is the connection here?

Boogaard, 28, was found dead in his Minneapolis apartment back in May. It eventually was determined that Boogaard, who had a history of substance abuse, died by accidentally mixing alcohol and a powerful painkiller, oxycodone.

Rypien 27, twice took leaves of absence from the Vancouver Canucks to deal with a personal matter. Those were later attributed to a bout with depression that he had battled for more than a decade.

As for Belak, his mom Lorraine claims her son was dealing with depression issues of his own. But there is no evidence to suggest his alleged sagging state of mind was a direct result of his role as an enforcer.

In an exclusive interview with the Toronto Sun this weekend, former Leafs Tie Domi, Belak’s ex-road roommate, slammed those who are coming to that conclusion.

“It’s got nothing to do with the role — that’s crap,” Domi, who delivered a heart-felt speech during Belak’s funeral, said on Saturday. “All the players should be ashamed of themselves who said (Belak’s death) had to do with his role as an enforcer.”

There are still questions swirling over Belak’s passing. Police have never officially used the word “suicide,” adding that his passing was non-suspicious.

Fair enough. But to try to use his death as a push to get fighting out of the game? And to try to lump his passing with those of Boogaard and Rypien?

Come on. There are no facts to back up that argument.

Weak.


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