Don Sanderson is dead. The 21-year-old defenseman for the Whitby Dunlops died last night from the injuries he received in a hockey fight Dec. 12.
At the heart of hockey's Code of Intimidation there has always been the silence. What happens in hockey stays in hockey. The shroud of silence blanketed those who got hurt and those that did the hurting. It was insurance, a guarantee that the outside world would never disrupt the comfortable culture of intimidation within the sport. The silence meant outsiders could never make a case against on-ice violence." -- Bruce Dowbiggin, The Meaning of PuckSilence. Throughout the heartland of hockey violence is met with indifference and silence. If you never played the game, you can't understand.
Todd Bertuzzi was misunderstood by those liberal, urban sissies. He paid his price. Steve Moore was a whiny little punk. He should have known better than to hit a star with an open ice check. Clean or not, there had to be a price to pay. It was the code. A code that had been followed in hockey for generations and the same code Don Sanderson was following when he fought Brantford's Corey Fulton last month.
And now he's dead. What happens in hockey stays in hockey.
For years the mantra of the sport's apologists was that no one ever got hurt in a hockey fight. Fighting was to be encouraged. It helped stop players from engaging in truly dangerous practices like slashing and high sticking. Let the boys play.
It was a fluke. It could have happened anywhere, any time. It wasn't the fight that killed him, it was his head hitting the ice. My buddy knew a guy that hit his head off the ice while coaching his boy's novice team. Could happen to anyone.
We can anticipate the arguments. There is no need to tune into Coach's Corner for Sanderson's two-minute eulogy. He was a good Canadian boy. He wouldn't want the fuss. He certainly wouldn't want to be a martyr used by enemies of the game to attack the code. They never played the game.
We'd ask him what he thinks about it. Except he's dead. From a hockey fight.
So instead, silence. The code lives on.
What happens in hockey stays in hockey.
A Hockey Tragedy (Damien Cox, The Spin)
The horror, the horror... frankly, it's beyond our ken (Dec. 15, 2008)