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Injury to Red Wings Larkin Indictment of all That’s Wrong With NHL

Larkin injury predictable outcome of league’s barbaric policies



Dylan Larkin, Red Wings
Red Wings captain Dylan Larkin wouldn't have been knocked out Saturday if the NHL wasn't okay with players punching each other in the head.

There’s much ongoing debate over what punishment should be meted out following Saturday’s episode that left Detroit Red Wings captain Dylan Larkin unconscious and face down on the ice.

Certainly, there’s a lot to unpack, but there’s one undeniable factor that we cannot be overlooking in the outcome. If it weren’t for the backward, barbaric and neanderthal thinking that pervades the NHL and hockey culture in general, none of this ever happens.

If Ottawa Senators forward Mathieu Joseph did what he did to Larkin – punching him in the back of the head with his right hand and in the jaw with his left – in any other sport, the end result is not up for debate. All other sports consider punching another player to be an unacceptable and unforgivable offense. It will always lead to expulsion, with fines and in most cases, suspensions to follow.

That’s not the case on the ice. Punching people with a gloved hand is deemed a minor offense. Drop your gloves and punch each other, as Detroit’s Christian Fischer and Joseph were opting to do later in the game, and okay, we’ll make you sit out for five minutes of the game.

In fact, Detroit coach Derek Lalonde was lauding Fischer and Joseph for their third-period punch up.

“I appreciated that,” Lalonde said. “He’s doing that for his teammates. I even appreciate Mathieu Joseph understanding and taking the fight.

“That’s been our game.”

It’s that last part of Lalonde’s statement that is most telling. Yes, it has been hockey’s game, and continues to be the code of hockey, even with all of the growing evidence regarding the long-term effects of head injuries.

Larkin Injury The Result Of Hockey Culture

I played hockey for many years, and at a high level. I’ve been in hockey fights. And yes, if someone had done to one of my teammates what Joseph did to Larkin, I would’ve sought retribution.

That doesn’t make it right, or mean that such behavior should be tolerated.

But hockey not only accepts this way of playing the game, the power brokers and the players willingly embrace this as their way of life.

I also played rugby and football, two other physically violent sports, for many years. The thought of punching someone in the head in either of those sports is viewed as an entirely reprehensible act. Severe punishment would immediately be meted out and deservedly so.

There was nothing about Joseph’s actions against Larkin that was a hockey play. He could’ve sought to move Larkin away from the front of the net without punching him in the head.

It’s viewed as a minor foul, even though any long-term injury to Larkin figures to make a major impact on Detroit’s season.

Hockey’s culture and rulebook are accepting of what he did. As long as that’s the case, fans will just to have to accept that scary incidents like what we saw on Saturday are also going to continue to be an unnecessary part of the game.