After a week that saw three goalie fights and a number of bench clearing brawls in the NHL, there’s now been an outcry for something to be done about the violence in the NHL. As always, the cry starts with “what about the children?”
With this latest surge of hockey fights, the NHL has found itself in a position to debate on whether to take fighting out of the game, everyone seems to have an opinion, so I’ll offer mine.
Firstly, let me begin by saying that if it wasn’t for the latest bout of fights in the NHL, as far as big sporting news is concerned, the NHL would be the last on the list. Even though the NFL Super Bowl is over, there’s more chatter about the impending CBA or lockout than there is about the current NHL season. Most Americans know more about the Cleveland Cavaliers and their epic 26 game losing streak than they do about the NHL. The average person couldn’t tell you which team is the best team in the NHL or which player has the most points, unless they were Canadian and unless they lived in Vancouver. Fighting has made the NHL relevant in the news again, and now there’s talk about taking it out of the game? Not sure how that equates.
Taking fighting out of the NHL is like taking hard hits out of the NFL. Actually, it’s worse. The very nature of hockey calls for fighting to be permitted. In hockey, the skilled players, the talented forwards and the goalies on the team don’t have an offensive line protecting them from attacks from opposing players. What they do have are 200 plus lbs enforcers that are trained fighters. That is the deterrent for taking a shot a guy like Crosby, or at least it used to be. If you take the enforcer out of the game, you leave the stars and skilled players open to attack without recourse.
That’s the simple part of the argument for keeping fighting in the game. These days, the more popular argument that fighting is good for the fans is losing credibility. Let’s face it, our society is getting soft. When in the last 20 years was a hockey fight or hockey brawl too violent for children to watch? This is not along the same lines as hitting to the head in the NFL or dangerous hits in hockey, this is fighting, and it used to be honourable. There are fans of the game who love the fighting in hockey, and there’s American fans who understand so little about the game of hockey that fighting is the most exciting part of the game for them. Either way, if the NHL were to take the fisticuffs out of the game they would be running the risk of losing more of their fan base.
How popular are NHL fights? They’re popular enough to have an entire website hockeyfights.com, devoted solely to them.
Gordie Howe is one of the most celebrated hockey players to ever lace up a pair of skates. What’s a Gordie Howe hat-trick? A Gordie Howe hat-trick is a goal, an assist, and yes, you guessed it, a fight. Remember the days of the late Bob Probert and Tie Domi? This type of talk would be heresy.
Fighting used to be a badge of honor, in my mind it still is.