The Mail

The Mail

March 20 2000
The Mail

The Mail

March 20 2000

Kudos to Maclean's for highlighting the silent epidemic of neurological injuries (“Blood sport,” Cover, March 6). As a neurosurgeon, I am acutely aware of the life-changing effects of brain and spinal-cord injuries occurring in our youth. In 1997, the last year for which data are available for Ontario, 200 people aged less than 34 sustained a spinalcord injury, 4,157 youth sustained a head injury severe enough to warrant admission to hospital. Good data for concussions are not available, but that number is undoubtedly at least 10 times higher. The costs for our country run into the billions of dollars annually, not to say anything of the anguish, and lives ruined and forever changed. The problem with saying that violence is OK in the National Hockey League is with the millions of children idolizing their NHL heroes and worshipping the game. They grow up saying that this is how the game is supposed to be played and incorporate that not only into their sport, but also more broadly into their psyche. Organized hockey at all levels has a golden opportunity to lead a change in society right now by banning violence in the game. History will tell if it takes up that challenge. Dr. Michael D. Cusimano, Associate Professor of Neurosurgery, St. Michael’s Hospital, University of Toronto, Toronto

You could not have been more correct in saying that the “NHL is left with a contradiction” by suspending players for violence with the stick, and barely slapping their wrists for violence with their fists. While Marty McSorley’s actions were appalling, the leagues treatment of the incident was not much better. By suspending McSorley and ruling the case essentially closed, the NHL is turning a blind eye to a much larger problem of which this incident is only a symptom. The NHL can no longer afford to rely on player self-control to ensure that only the “acceptable” violence of bare-knuckled fighting occurs. Ross McCallum, Mississauga, Ont.

We had three boys in 30 months. The eldest is now 9. Living on the Prairies, we got teased a lot about how much time we would be spending at the local rink in the years to come. Having seen the injuries, the politics and animalistic behaviour this sport produces, we enrolled the boys in a martial arts class instead. A good school teaches self-defence and self-reliance, producing self-confidence and self-esteem. The idea in martial arts is not one-upmanship—the point of the hazing described in your article “The hell of hazing”—but a sense of achievement and fulfillment. British sports psychologist Eric Dunning states in your article that “men can’t go out of their caves and drag a woman home by the hair anymore” and “these rituals let some men still express that extreme form of masculinity.” The hazing techniques mentioned usually involved some degrading gesture involving the genitals. This does not lead me to believe these men are in any way secure in their masculinity. I believe an extreme form of masculinity is found in men who take financial and spiritual responsibility for their families, who stand and be counted and defend those who can’t. Bullies don’t last long in the world of martial arts; when they fail there, they go play hockey. Marj Lawrence, Estevan, Sask.

The subheading accompanying your “Blood sport” story says: “When Marty McSorley whacked Donald Brashear, he dealt a devastating blow to hockey.” I doubt it. My guess is that the incident will soon be forgotten, and the game will continue to be played as your writer described it in the movie Slap Shot, “a violent fringe sport more closely aligned with wrestling and roller derby than with baseball, basketball and football.” Keith Ainscough, Red Deer, Alta.

Frankly, I’m tired of your hockey bashing. You choose to focus on the most negative incidents and blow them up into your cover story, creating the misconception that this is all hockey has become. As a regular fan of the Calgary Flames, I find their games thoroughly entertaining; the skill and finesse in the National Hockey League is unsurpassed. As a family, we’ve been involved in minor hockey for the past five years and the experience has been overwhelmingly positive for both my children. (Granted, Calgary minor hockey recently enacted a fair-play code to keep coaches and parents on track.) Violence in hockey may be an issue that requires addressing, just as every other sport around the world periodically needs review. However, there is still a lot of fun, skill and personal development to be gained from participation in the sport. B. L. Biddell, Calgary

Some years ago, when my two sons were at the age when so many young Canadian boys want to play hockey and dream one day of making the NHL, I dropped by the local rink at practice time. I observed and listened—and, as their father, felt compelled to make an important decision: my sons would not play hockey. Too much had changed since I played as a youth. From what I heard, I concluded that these young boys were taught to be fighting, swearing thugs! I had higher ambitions for my sons. They went on to excel in various sports. Many of the overpaid, undisciplined, egotistical individuals we see playing the game today are anything but role models. I have watched my last game; hockey is dead as far as I am concerned. Ben W. Kirkpatrick, Dalmeny, Sask.

Marty McSorley’s action goes far beyond the reasonable assumption of risk that sport participants are deemed to accept. Of course it is right that he be charged with committing a violent crime. We can no longer heed the bleating of the sports moguls: don’t worry, we’re looking after it. They’re not looking after it, and we must worry. Sport is too glorious a force for good, and the vast majority of participants too decent, to allow corruption from inside. We must continue to demand that sport conform to the standards of our larger society. Roger Burrows, Ottawa

Protecting our water

Last year, a friend of mine visiting from the States mentioned how dry the southwestern United States was and how desperate their burgeoning population was for water. He joked that Canada should elect the most rightwing government we could and spend every dollar possible on our military so that we could defend our border. I thought he was joking until I read the article “Water wars” (Special Report, March 6). This is a resource that needs to be protected. Once the tap is turned on, you can’t just turn it off. Earl Keen, Calgary

Regarding whether or not we should sell our water, I must answer with a resounding “No!” Can’t people think beyond one generation? Once we let the Americans take our water, we would be a Third World country. So much of Canada’s wealth is already leaving the country. We have a brain drain due to high taxation and a lack of investment in research and development and education. Foreign ownership in Canada is so high that our sovereignty is at risk. Must we also hand over all our natural resources to foreigners? Ottawa must act quickly to pass strong legislation protecting Canadian water. And it must be national policy and not a question of letting the provinces do as they please. Companies that try to say the whole idea would create jobs refuse to see the larger picture. Natural resources are not infinite and they deserve our protection so they will still be part of this beautiful country for future generations. Frances DeFoa, Woodbridge, Ont.

Billions of gallons of pure, potable water spill into the sea along the B.C. coast every day. Just one of these sources (Ocean Falls) could fill many converted oil tankers with this precious, wasted resource at a minimal threat to the environment compared with their current cargoes. We could give away this life sustaining fluid to Third World countries, or sell it to Californians, or both. If we insist on pouring our inheritance into the ocean, then one day a thirsty world will come and take it from us, by force if necessary, and we shall have no one to blame but ourselves. Alan Clews, Saltspring Island, B.C.

Negotiation or war?

Your story about strife-torn Kosovo (“Life amidst strife,” Overture, March 6) only reminds us of Canada's error in taking sides in the illegal NATO bombing of Kosovo under the pretext of humanitarianism. Even a former Canadian ambassador to Yugoslavia stressed its illegality as Canada and most of the media supported the U.S./NATO propaganda. We mocked the rule of law. NATOs unlawful aggression encourages Russia to maintain its nuclear capability, and did not even remove Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic. We could have gained as much or even more through negotiation or arbitration. Ross Smyth, Montreal

Global warming

Inevitably, someone writes in to scorn the idea of global warming (“Warming alternative,” The Mail, March 6). Yup, it could be a natural cycle. So, lets crank up those furnaces; lets produce even bigger gas-guzzling, carbon-spewing monster cars to drive from suburban three-car-garage monster homes, one by one, into that urban jungle. Let’s expand the roads, forget about public transportation, bulldoze the trees and pave over the farmland. Let’s encourage even more production and consumption of mostly useless goods. Yes, it’s all good for the economy. Just don’t forget to leave your tiny little heads buried in the sand. Tanya Ambrose, Mallorytown, Ont.

‘Quit riffing on us’

I was extremely insulted by “Kidspeak: how to break the code” (Overture, March 6). It was demeaning to anyone under 20. As a teenager, I felt this was compartmentalizing teens. None of my friends or I have ever said “molesters,” “sick” or “my bad.” To say we all do is to say everyone who grew up in the ’60s was a hippie. I can’t help thinking the baby boomers were upset when the Establishment at that time named them hippies and yippies, and generalized that they all said “so dig yourselves, man, cuz you’re really groovy.” So why are you doing it to the new generation? Quit riffing on us cuz that is so, like, you know, WHACK! Caitlin Ward, Saskatoon

‘Gouging’ gas prices

1 heartily applaud the independent truckers for daring to take on the government and the oil industry (“Rolling to a stop,” Business Notes, March 6). The recent increases in fuel prices are nothing more than gouging the public. The party line of the oil industry is that the high prices are the result of OPEC production restrictions, yet we continue to be one of the largest exporters of crude oil to the United States. How is it that we have so much oil that we can export it, but continue to have to pay OPEC prices? To say that it is OPEC’s fault is to have a scapegoat to hide behind. If the oil industry is so hard done by, then maybe it can explain the record profits posted last year. While they are at it, maybe they can explain why the cost of gasoline is higher than it was during the Gulf War when crude was at a similar price. And with regard to Prime Minister Jean Chrétiens suggestion that the truckers pass on the costs, well, it is definitely the first time that I have heard a prime minister suggest that someone create inflation. Robb MacQueen, Alvlnston, Ont.

The drug problem

I agree with Allan Fotheringham when he says about the problem of drugs, “Where there is a market, there will always be a product,” and hope that, someday, our leaders will address the drug problem where it really exists—at home (“Blame us, not them,” March 6). The availability of drugs is no secret and it would be common sense to legislate their purchase and use in the same way as alcohol, with zero tolerance. The huge cost to society should be directed at the user rather than the aftermath. Thank you, Dr. Foth, for putting the facts out where they belong. Robert Webber, Victoria

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