Don Sanderson (1987-2009): The Hockey World Mourns a Tragic Loss

Derek HarmsworthSenior Writer IJanuary 2, 2009

Think of all the clever phrases.  All those catchy headlines.  Think of them, and throw them away.


Simply put, the hockey world lost a fantastic man today, as Whitby Dunlops rookie defenseman Don Sanderson passed away—three weeks after hitting his head on the ice during a fight.


Sanderson was in a coma for the entire time since the incident occurred, and never recovered.


He was 21 years old.


Hockey stats aside, Sanderson was, by all accounts, a fantastic human being.


Sanderson was a guy who devoted his time to helping out the younger kids in his community practice their hockey skills.  He also represented the Dunlops at the Santa Claus parade this past year, handing out candy, and speaking to parade watchers as he went along.


It will, of course, send shock waves through the world of hockey, including the National Hockey League, as to whether or not there should be action taken in regards to helmets and fighting.


As it has been pointed out, Sanderson did compete in a league where fighting carried an automatic suspension.  So the dialogue would begin as to whether or not fighting should be taken out of the league, or at least a penalty for a helmet that comes off during combat.


As TSN’s Bob McKenzie said in a statement following the USA/Slovakia game, the life, and death of Don Sanderson should not be meaningless.


There needs to be some action taken on how to keep helmets on during fights.  Whether it is tighter chin straps, or players leaving them on instead of taking them off voluntarily. I think it is finally time for someone to put a stop to helmets off during a fight.


I know the argument is that a lot of players take their helmets off before the fight, therefore they are responsible for any damage that may come as a result.


I would tell you, if that is your train of thought, you are not necessarily wrong.


With the exception of a widely unknown rule hidden somewhere in the National Hockey League rule book.


Article 47.6 Face Protection - If a player penalized as an instigator of an altercation is wearing a face shield (including a goalkeeper), he shall be assessed an additional unsportsmanlike conduct penalty.


So fighters with visors who take their helmets off are not being stupid, or macho.  They are simply making sure they do not pick up any additional penalties that may hurt their team in the long run.


Hockey is a high intensity, full contact sport.  And fighting is not mandatory.  It is something the players engage in, usually by their own doing.


Despite that, it still cannot be stated enough.  To take a phrase from Don Cherry, we have lost a "beauty."


Don Sanderson is gone.  Nothing can change that now.  


His death may serve as a wake-up call to the NHL and Major Junior hockey throughout North America, which would mandate rules.  Not to outlaw fighting, but rather to enforce stricter equipment guidelines when it comes to helmets and chin straps.


He was a friend, a teammate, and a son.


And now he is gone.  Taken far too early.


Here is hoping he did not die in vain, and at the very least something good can come from this.


I would like to remind everyone that there is a link you can click to send your thoughts and condolences along to the Sanderson family, as well as the Whitby Dunlops hockey organization.


To view the website and leave your thoughts and prayers, click HERE