I’ve lost count the number of times there have been calls to eliminate fighting from hockey whether it is in the NHL, AHL, or Major Junior. I can tell you there were calls after Steve Moore was sucker punched by Todd Bertuzzi in 2004, after George Parros hit his head on the ice during a fight in 2013, and when Don Sanderson died after a fight in 2009. Those are just 3 examples and there are plenty more. Did any of them resulted in a ban on fighting in hockey? Not even close.
The recent news of the injury to Erie Otters forward Connor McDavid has renewed calls for a ban on fighting in hockey. Now let’s look at this objectively, McDavid was the first to drop his gloves and engage in a fight with Mississauga’s Bryson Cianfrone. The fact that he broke his hand as a result should not mean fighting should be banned. McDavid is going to be a target and, until OHL Commissioner David Branch implements no contact rules, he is going to continue to be in the crosshairs of opponents. But before you accuse me of blaming the victim, I will say that I was glad that McDavid fought back. We need more players, especially star players, doing that rather than turning the other cheek.
Vladmir Tarasenko of the St. Louis Blues is arguably one of their best scorers on the team and in the NHL but one night he confronted a player after being blind-sided by an open-ice hit during a game. The threat of being ejected from the game didn’t stop Tarasenko from fighting. In fact, he finished the game with the Gordie Howe hat trick and seemed really proud of that accomplishment, much to the chagrin of the anti-fighting crowd.
I read where one broadcaster felt hockey can exist without fights. But he also suggested that leagues should eliminate all actions that lead up to fights in order to make it work. Twitter limitations prevented him from explaining his idea in more detail but I would hazard to guess that eliminating all actions means body checks, crashing the net, pretty much any physical contact that makes hockey the exciting game that it is. Yeah, it will put fans to sleep but at least no one will get hurt from fighting. Give me a break. When that happens, say goodbye to hockey, not just the NHL. I can tell you there are leagues that have outlawed fighting but also have teams that are struggling to hold their heads above water. Teams end up folding but at least there’s a league where there is no fighting, right? By the way, going back to Sanderson, he played in a league that prohibits fighting. So tell me how well the ban did to save his life?
Some newspaper writer said the debate from the pro-fighting crowd has been lost a long time ago. Really? Then why are we still talking about it? Because fighting in hockey, like rock and roll, is not dead. Don Cherry is not a lone wolf in this argument. Players, fans, and yours truly, believe it keeps them honest when they are on the ice. In fact, the anti-fighting side is becoming so desperate that they have resorted to using incidents that were NOT caused by fighting in order to make their case (i.e. Zdeno Chara’s hit on Max Pacioretty during a playoff game).
Don’t hold your breath if you think fighting in hockey will be gone soon. But I won’t do the same expecting pacifists to surrender, even though it is in their nature to do so. So carry on with your fight to ban fighting in hockey. I’ll just throw your next argument in the pile with the rest of them.