The Latest Futile Attempt to Ban Fighting in Hockey

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Hockey Fight 2

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.

Waste Paper Basket

 

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5 thoughts on “The Latest Futile Attempt to Ban Fighting in Hockey

  1. Dave

    As convincing an argument as “Give me a break” is, have you considered there would be fewer “star” players if more star players were involved in fighting? With the number of concussions and injuries related to fighting, it doesn’t make sense to allow the trend to continue without acknowledging the clear harm being done to players of all ages, professional or not. The more young “star” players being harmed, the fewer “star” players in the major leagues in the future.

    If you believe fighting enhances hockey, why not add some other flares to spruce up the game? Rather than penalties, let’s let opposing teams partake in Roshambo with the penalized player. During penalty shots, we’ll set the puck on fire, and pour kerosene on the goalie. It will result in more injuries, but HOLY SHIT HOCKEY YEAH CANADA FIGHTING AWESOME!

    You’ll probably argue those ideas are farfetched and colorfully exaggerate what is a serious element to hockey (fighting) — except that fighting is allowed only because we want it and allow it, and not because it is needed. If your bloodlust rationale is that “some popular injuries weren’t caused by fights,” your argument is pretty weak. The benefits, outside of “I like it,” don’t exist.

    But well-written article. Good job.

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    • Dave. With all due respect, if you had read the piece you would understand why fighting serve a purpose. Calling it “weak” leads me to believe that you follow the mantra that the rule book will protect the player. Even anti-pugilists like Mark Spector of Sportsnet feels that way of thinking is foolish. You may think just because we like fighting doesn’t mean it should stay. Just as because you don’t like it doesn’t mean it should go.

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      • Dave

        Ken. With all due respect, the article did nothing to illustrate the reasons to keep fighting in hockey, save a summary of Don Cherry’s views, and several instances when fighting failed to cause injury. You admit, yourself, Connor McDavid was injured as a result of dropping the gloves, but that you were happy he fought back.

        You were happy. That he fought.

        You then go on to cite an instance where a fight occurred, and one of the fighting players went on to score a hat trick. If you’re going to reference instances where fighting players went on to score goals, there would be far more instances of non-fighting players raking in points. The door swings both ways.

        I don’t follow the mantra the rule book will protect the players. Each case should be treated as individual, but a culture of fighting hurts the integrity of the sport and, most of all, those involved in the fighting. It’s important we avoid a culture of second-class citizens by promoting fighting in a sport that requires as much skill, grace, and intuition as hockey. Fighting cheapens the sport to WWE status.

        And — to your last point — I love a good fight. That’s why I subscribe to boxing. I also love hockey, which is why I don’t want to see this great sport cheapened by a culture that requires players to cannibalism to appease the crowd, teammates, coaches, and commentators. You may as well strap skates on Kurt Angle.

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