Professional hockey player Derek Boogaard has opened the Boogaard Fighting Camp, a day camp devoted to teaching youth hockey players how to fight properly. The purpose of the camp is to teach the attendees, who range in age from 12 to 18, to learn how to effectively handle the inevitable on-ice fight. If the camp stays true to its cause, which is self defense, then it's not entirely a bad idea.
Since the inception of the camp it has drawn a mix of reviews from the public, including a good amount of outrage. Critics of the camp say that it is encouraging youth hockey players to engage in fighting, a practice that has made professional hockey popular with fans. Boogaard says it's just the opposite, that he's not urging them to fight but teaching them how to protect themselves. One could argue that it is similar to the purpose of teaching a child martial arts, which is widely used for the purpose of self defense. While the discipline of ice hockey is much different than martial arts, there is still a need to defend oneself in a fight. Learning how to do so decreases the chance of a player having to eat through a straw for four months.
If parents are taking issue with camps such as this, they need to look to a higher authority to direct their ire. Young athletes ultimately don't look to their coaches or parents to model themselves after. They look to the professionals of their sport. The struggling NHL has relied on fighting to keep their dwindling fan base interested. As long as the professional players continue to fight, the youth hockey players will follow suit.
You could argue that the youth organizations should ban the practice of fighting in hockey and that would solve the problem. However, should a young athlete want to be successful in the sport, whether in college, minor league, or professional, they need to learn how to survive all aspects of it. Currently, that includes fighting. A player who is not exposed to it at a young age is at a disadvantage later on in their athletic career.
Whether or not fighting should be tolerated in hockey is a separate issue. As long as it continues to be an accepted part of the game, we need to teach our youth players how to deal with it properly.