Guilty or Not Guilty

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The Bertuzzi-Moore incident was a controversial ice hockey event that took place during the National Hockey League match between Colorado Avalanche and Vancouver Canucks on 8/3/2004. In anger, Steve Moore beat Matt Cooke, a Vancouver player. He was served with a 5-minute fighting penalty. Bertuzzi had been sent onto the ice. When he failed to instigate Steve Moore for a fight, the former skated after him, grabbed his jersey, and hit him hard on the jaw.  He was later joined by his teammates in driving Moore into the ice. The victim remained motionless for some time, before being carried away in a stretcher having sustained injuries and face cuts.

The ultimate penalty for this incident was the ending of Moore’s professional Hockey career. Bertuzzi was charged with criminal assault. A civil lawsuit against the offender and the team was filed. The trial ended on 19/8/2014 after all parties agreed on an undisclosed settlement. Previously, Bertuzzi had injured Canuck’s team captain, Markus Näslund, for reaching for the puck before him. Then penalty for fighting was not issued, as the referee argued that such a fine would be illegal (Sharp & Sharp, 2011).

This story is among the many witnessed in youth sports. The question is why there is a growing frustration in sports. The youths are faced with various challenges in their lives. They may have had a difficult childhood. They might have lived in the environments, where they felt insecure. They live with such resentments and ultimately become aggressive (Kerr, 2004).

In sports, everyone wants to win. It is the ego that makes young players want to see their teams win. When this ego is challenged, a young player turns his anger on the people they perceive to be threats to their success (opponents) (Kerr, 2004). Such was the case with Berluzzi, who saw John Mooe as getting on his way when he wanted to win. Sports is never a fair game. It is marked with boastfulness, jealousy, hatred, and disregard of all laid down rules.

Research has shown that the likelihood of violence in sports increases especially if the game is considered unfair (Kerr, 2004). Violence among fans depends on their psychological attachment with the game, underlying ethnic and social tensions, alcohol consumption, social alienation, and predominance of young players in the game. A player’s moral judgment is impaired by their desire to clinch victory.

Violence and aggression in sports can be psychologically explained; thus, the nature of contact sports is such that violence and aggression are the fundamental sources of a player’s pleasure, excitement, and satisfaction; players feel motivated when they use physical might (Kerr, 2004).

Cultural Spillover Theory asserts that young players often feel the need to use strength to show they are “man enough” (Kerr, 2004). The coaches are not helping either; they encourage the players to be physical in the field. Violence is then used to attain ends. Specifically, in hockey, there is the issue of the subculture. Younger players are more aggressive and violent than older players. This is the formative stage in the career of young players. Male athletes have higher testosterone levels than their female counterparts; perhaps explaining why violence is most common among youthful male players.

Hockey involves players competing to reach the puck at high speeds and in limited space. Struggles and collisions as players establish positions increase chances of aggression that ultimately leads to violence. The society places high expectation on the youths. The coaches add pressure with their somewhat crazy demands. This expectation can undermine a player&rsquuo;s self-confidence (Omli & Lavoi, 2009). In their bid to deliver the expected results for their teams, the young players fail to observe the rules, and in most cases, violence arises. The NHL has a less stringent penalty for offenders, a five minutes penalty. No doubt, this encourages fights as players can easily wait for the five minutes to elapse before resuming the game.

Most traditional hockey players and fans view fighting as a significant and inherent part of the game (Sharp & Sharp, 2011). There is a lack of control and statesmanship in hockey. Those people, who defend hockey fighting, assert that it helps to build the required thrill and makes the game more enjoyable. In hockey, fighting is used as a strategy to intimidate another team, and give an opponent a psychological edge; the research shows that such teams have always gone ahead to win. Fighting swings momentum in favor of the intimidated team (Omli & Lavoi, 2009). Pundits view fighting in hockey as creating offensive and defensive strategies. For instance, it increases chances of a penalty that gives the defending team a winning advantage.

Fighting in hockey is widely recognized; it is almost like a ritual (Sharp & Sharp, 2011). This makes hockey different from other sports with established rules and tougher penalties. The team that can sustain a fight is viewed as the stronger one. It boosts morale of the players and makes them feel more masculine. It is almost like a social reward. Violence in sports always begins with aggression and can be fueled by the fans, who just like the coaches, expect the best from their favorite teams (Omli & Lavoi, 2009). Youthful players often tend to be aggressive due to the societal demands and high expectations; in hockey, for instance, there are no well laid down rules and regulations. There are lenient penalties, making it perhaps the most violent sport in the world.

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