If eliminating fighting in junior isn't at the very top of USA Hockey and Hockey Canada's agendas, then it's about to be after a scary scene in a United States Hockey League game on Saturday night.
Some would say that it's too soon to put Dubuque Fighting Saints defenceman Dylan Chanter suffering a "full-body seizure" after the 18-year-old bare head struck the ice during a tussle into the context of whether it's appropriate for teenagers to fight. The riposte is obvious: if you're not willing to pick up the conversation after a player was hurt so gravely that it felt wrong to make 40 young men keep playing, then when are you?
It's not something that can be taken in isolation. In early 2012, both governing bodies talked about taking strong steps to reduce fighting. The major junior Ontario Hockey League and several Junior A circuits cap how many fights a player can have per season.
Here's the disturbing scene:
(Chanter's helmet fell off his head on its own. Making sure chinstraps are adjusted properly and aren't worn 'loosely' is a safety issue, not to blame the victim.)
First and foremost, Chanter is doing well. What happened on the ice in Cedar Rapids, not too long after Hockey Night In Canada's Don Cherry had just finishing saying shaddup, shaddup, shaddup" when Ron MacLean cited powerful medical arguments against fighting in hockey, won't be forgotten.
Wanted to let everyone know I'm awake and okay. Thank you so much for all your thoughts prayers. Nothing compares to the hockey community.
— Dylan Chanter (@dylanchanter) October 13, 2013
Dubuque Telegraph-Herald reporting Dylan Chanter was airlifted to U of I hospitals for further evaluation by a neurologist. #ushl
— Jeffrey Johnson (@jeje66) October 13, 2013
Seen people get knocked out before in athletics events I've covered, but nothing approaching what I saw tonight. Best wishes, Dylan Chanter.
— Jeffrey Johnson (@jeje66) October 13, 2013
From Jeffrey Johnson:
Chanter scrapped with Corey Petrash of the RoughRiders in the corner behind the Dubuque net. The 18-year-old from Armstrong, British Columbia, lost his balance and fell backward, hitting his helmetless head on the ice (dyed pink for a cancer promotion) and dislocating his left shoulder.
The crowd cheered until seeing Chanter begin to severely convulse. His full-body seizure lasted at least two minutes, as team trainers and the RoughRiders' team doctor rushed to him.
He remained on the ice until paramedics arrived on the scene roughly 15 minutes later.
... After Chanter was taken from the ice, [Cedar Rapids coach Mark] Carlson, [Dubuque assistant coach Oliver] David and RoughRiders’ CEO Jeff Jauch conferred with the United States Hockey League, and the decision was made to suspend the game. Fans can exchange their tickets from Saturday night for any future RoughRiders’ game.
“At this point, the game is absolutely 100-percent secondary,” Carlson said. “I don’t think this decision was hard. I think all the people here understand that it was a very difficult situation. We all love sports, but there are lots and lots of things that are way more important than sports.”
“I think the decision was easy,” Jauch said. “Dubuque obviously would have had a hard time continuing playing, our kids are shaken. So at this time we are going to not play the game.” (Cedar Rapids Gazette)
Again, apologies if this is an importune time to ask ... but if it was "easy" to realize the game could not be completed, then how hard can it be to keep working to curb fighting among teenage players? And how hard can it be for junior fans who see a good scrap as part of the entertainment package to accept that it will have to become a rarer and rarer sight, since science and the insurance industry always win?
As many observers pointed out on Twitter, the USHL is primarily a feeder league to the NCAA, where fighting is a non-factor, so it's often seemed contradictory that players aren't ejected for brawling. Chanter, who's from Armstrong, B.C., and spent last season with the Merritt Centennials, is committed to join the University of New Hampshire in the fall of 2014, so dropping the gloves never had to be an essential tool for him.
Point being, Chanter's stricken state could have some stickiness. Data can be abstract, but the scene in Cedar Rapids is one scary convenience sample, especially as the powers that be push to limit fighting's place in the North American junior as much as realistically possible.
Neate Sager is a writer for Yahoo! Canada Sports. Follow him on Twitter @neatebuzzthenet. Please address any questions, comments or concerns to firstname.lastname@example.org.