Standing up publicly against the act of a head-hunting teammate, as athlete Andrew Ference did in professional hockey, is an act of courage. Hockey, like the police or other closed environments, has its "thin blue line." Mr. Ference dared to cross that line. He may yet pay a price within his locker room, or be traded from the team. But he did the brave and right thing.
Mr. Ference stood up against a hockey culture whose hypocrisy and resistance to change on the concussion issue have rarely been so blatant. His team, the Boston Bruins, announced on Monday that its best offensive player, Marc Savard, will not play the rest of the season, because of a repeat concussion. In truth, he may have to retire. He is the poster boy for the dangers of so-called "blindside hits." Another teammate, Patrice Bergeron, spent much of one season in a dark room unable to handle conversations above a whisper, because of his concussion. Yet when a Boston teammate, Daniel Paille, threw the exact kind of hit that first hurt Mr. Savard, and was suspended four games for it, Boston's general manager, Peter Chiarelli, called that wrist slap "a little stiff" and offered a mealy-mouthed excuse: Mr. Paille's hit was "probably" from the blindside but "we felt he tried to square up and circle around."
This is a culture whose leaders and shapers are brazen in their two-facedness. The National Hockey League's Rule 48 banning blindside hits to the head was written largely because of the dangerous hit that caused Mr. Savard's first concussion last March. You could call it the Savard Law. And it's no secret. The NHL sent around a video to all 30 teams before the season, showing the sort of hits that are illegal. The hit on Savard is shown three times on that video. Yet Mr. Chiarelli appears oblivious to the dangers of a blindside hit delivered by his own player.
Mr. Ference, who is from Edmonton, spoke the plain truth. It was a "bad hit," he said. "You can't be hypocritical about it when it happens to you, then say it's fine when your teammate does it."
For that he was pilloried by Canadian cultural icon Don Cherry on Hockey Night in Canada on the weekend. He said the Bruins "don't need a guy like Ference" who speaks against teammates to the news media.
Hey kids, here's a lesson Don Cherry didn't mention: Sometimes you just have to speak up for what's right. Like Andrew Ference did.