Real Sports Will Air a Piece on Fighting Tonight

From the great Chris Botta, who now writes the essential “Metro Pucks” at the New York Times, on tonight’s Real Sports on HBO (10 p.m. ET) doing a piece on fighting:

In the aftermath of the deaths this summer of three N.H.L. players, HBO’s “Real Sports” produced a segment that does not shine a positive light on fighting in the game.

The piece does not answer the question whether the deaths of Derek Boogaard, Rick Rypien and Wade Belak were directly connected to their roles as fighters. N.H.L. Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly tells the reporter, Bernard Goldberg, there is no concrete medical evidence that proves there is a link.

Goldberg, however, receives testimony from former enforcers about the toll of knowing they had to engage in fights, starting with the first day of training camp.

“I was this fun-loving boy who loved hockey, and all of a sudden I became a monster,” said Jim Thomson, a former enforcer with Los Angeles. A frequent fighter, Thomson racked up 162 penalty minutes in just 45 games with the Kings in the 1991-92 season. “I was afraid, 24-7. I was shivering every night, curled up in a ball, knowing I had to go in and fight.” Thomson recalls a conversation he had with Belak: “I asked him, ‘Do you like (fighting).” Thomson said Belak responded, “I hate it.”