Focusing on violence in hockey does a disservice to the three young players who have killed themselves this summer. Almost all suicides are a symptom of an untreated mental illness. We should be discussing how we can encourage NHL players with severe depression to ask for the help they need. This in turn would signal all male fans with the same problem that they deserve the best in their lives. Help is available to make that happen.
I’m also not sure that there is a special stigma associated with mental illness on the part of professional sports. Almost all of the players and management in any organization are caring individuals who would do whatever they can to help a colleague and friend. It’s unfortunate, but one of the main symptoms of depression is withdrawal – the disease pushes the sufferer to secrecy and isolation.
Is there a problem with violence in the NHL? Absolutely. A little fighting in a hockey game is fine as long as it “looks” really violent but in reality is pretty benign (like professional wrestling!). Improvements in equipment and role specialization mean that a small, relatively harmless, part of the “drama” has become seriously destructive.
There’s a relatively simple way to deal with the issue. Once a player has accumulated a set amount of penalty minutes they are out for the rest of the season.