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Bill Maher – yes, I’m opening a piece about why fighting does not need to exist in hockey by referencing something Bill Maher said, but bear with me – once was discussing what it would take to get equal rights in America for the gay community. He quoted a statistic that showed how people who are against gay marriage are very old while people who are for it are very young.

His hypothesis was that eventually gay marriage would be legal in all 50 states, but we would have to wait for all of the old voters and their long-held ignorant beliefs to die first. Once you get past the harshness of the idea, it makes sense. For change to occur, people in power need must be replaced by people who aren’t burdened by the notions of “that’s how it’s always been” in the world.

Before we get to hockey, let’s talk about the NFL. I know, but I assure you this all builds to a point.

On Sunday, the New York Giants were playing a football game against the Carolina Panthers. The Giants were thoroughly dismantled, 38-0, in a game that wasn’t as close as the score indicated. The contest ceased to be in doubt by, at the latest if you’re an optimist, the middle of the third quarter. It was a woodshed beating in which Giants quarterback Eli Manning was sacked seven times.

There was a play that occurred earlier in the game before it got out of hand. Giants defensive back Ryan Mundy delivered a devastating – and legal, although a flag was thrown at first – hit to Panthers wide receiver Brandon LaFell that jarred the ball loose, resulting in an incomplete pass. LaFell was about as defenseless as it gets. It was an extremely violent collision in an extremely violent sport.

At the conclusion of the third-down play, no one on the Panthers ran over to Mundy to challenge him to a fight. Heck, no one on the Panthers had anything to say Mundy in the aftermath of the hit. No one on the Panthers felt the need to “stick up for a teammate” because of the hit. In a game that was over with about 20 minutes left, Panthers coach Ron Rivera did not send out his toughest player to fight Mundy or exact revenge by having a linebacker engage in a fight with a Giants wide receiver.

Suffering one of the more embarrassing losses in team history, no one on the Giants felt the need to “set the tone” for the following week’s game by fighting someone on the Panthers. No one on the Giants felt the need to “fire up the boys” while down 10-0 by starting a fight.

What’s the difference between the NFL and NHL, two extremely violent sports whose players pride themselves on toughness? Quite simply, fighting has always been part of the NHL culture while the NFL does not tolerate it. Fighting in hockey gets you five minutes in the penalty box and the admiration of your teammates and coach. Fighting in the NFL gets you a minimum fine of $26,250 for a first offense and is doubled for a second offense.

If the NHL adopted that policy, Brandon Prust would be filing for bankruptcy by January. Or, more likely, fighting in the NHL would eventually disappear and, after a while, no one would miss it.

There are many reasons why in 2013 hockey is the only sport that tacitly condones fighting, but the biggest reason is the fact that it’s institutional; it’s something that has always been there since skate blade first touched ice. Changing any long-held standard or practice in any institution is always extremely difficult, as it is all anyone around that institution has ever known. It’s been taught and passed down from generation to generation. It’s a systemic problem.

It seems every argument for fighting being necessary in hockey has been gutted like a deer that has been shot with an arrow by David Booth, but we have to go over some of them again for educational purposes.

The argument that always seems the most convincing when it hits your ears is fighting is OK when a player on the other team is playing recklessly and taking liberties with players on your team. By having an enforcer on your team, that reckless, liberty-taking player will be taught a lesson about how to play the game properly and with honor, and that lesson will be taught with fists.

People accept this rationale despite the fact that fighting and reckless, liberty-taking players have co-existed since the beginning of hockey time. Having a fighter to defend a teammate does absolutely nothing to deter that type of thing, as nearly 100 years of hockey has proven.

That bleeds into the deterrent theory, that having a well-known fighter who enjoys bashing faces will prevent players on the other team from throwing hits, dirty or clean, on your star players. This is apparently a belief of the front-office of the Edmonton Oilers, which is lined with men who suited up in the NHL about 30 years ago. They signed Steve MacIntyre, who serves no other purpose than to break faces in battles of fisticuffs, this week in the wake of Sam Gagner having his face broken by the carelessly wielded stick of Canucks forward Zack Kassian.

After Gagner’s injury, a million voices cried out that if the Oilers had a true enforcer, a defender of hockey liberties, Gagner’s face wouldn’t look like one of those walkers in Return of the Jedi that gets crushed by the two Ewok logs. That’s what known, scary enforcers do – they deter violence against others, especially those that can’t defend themselves.

Yet 24 hours later, the brawl between the Leafs and Sabres blew that theory to bits.

The Leafs’ Jamie Devane, a large man, kicked the hell out of the Sabres’ Corey Tropp, a man who is not anywhere nearly as large as Devane. This upset the Sabres because it broke the code, a nebulous idea about fighting that can be used to create an excuse for any fight that occurs later in the game or until the end of time, really. Pick on someone your own size and all that. Devane took a liberty with a smaller player, and he had to pay.

Here’s the problem – the Sabres have John Scott, who is basically a bear on skates. He is not only a bear, but he is a bear who knows how to throw a punch. And skate. There might not be a more intimidating fighter in the NHL than Scott. If you play in the NHL, you are aware of his existence and you know what he will do to you if you step out of line.

Yet Devane took his liberties on Tropp — although Tropp was clearly a willing participant — anyway. Devane didn’t care. Why? Because the idea of fighting as a deterrent is about as silly as the idea of a bear on skates throwing punches.

Consider the death penalty. It’s existence is designed to deter murder. But the problem with murder is that most of them occur in the heat of passion. You’re not thinking straight, which clearly is the case because you are in the process of murdering someone. Your adrenalin is pumping and your emotions are raging and oh look this person is dead and now you’re thinking about the consequences.

It’s the same problem in hockey. Your heart is pumping. You are filled with a mix of fear and excitement, and that same adrenalin is rushing through your veins and oh look you’ve swung your stick violently and broken the jaw of a player who you intended to hit across the chest but you instead severely injured him. The concept of fighting as retribution to that action doesn’t enter your mind because it requires thinking clearly and no one is thinking clearly in the midst of a high-speed, violent sport.

The notion that we should let players “police themselves” is the highest of high comedy, as if Cam Janssen is a modern-day Wyatt Earp, dispensing justice on the hockey frontier when referees can’t get the job done. The people on Reno 911 are more equipped to police illegal activity than hockey players.

Blame for fighting in the NHL doesn’t fall squarely on players and coaches and GMs and front-office types who continue to promote this machismo-fueled need to show one’s toughness and willingness to do anything for a teammate – it falls just as equally on the NHL. If suspensions for dirty hits weren’t comically low and ventured into the 10- or 20- or 30-game range on the regular, there would be fewer dirty hits and fewer reasons for players to fight. If referees weren’t lax in enforcing rules, offering either a wink/nudge or turning a blind eye to vigilante justice, hockey players would feel less compelled to fill the justice void.

Of course, if the NHL moved into the 21st century and outlawed fighting, there would be no fighting at all and no debates over what the intentions of the coach were when he put three bouncers on the ice against actual hockey players. There’d be no discussions about which enforcer has hockey skills and which enforcer is most likely to hold his stick upside-down for an entire shift without realizing it.

Of course, that will never happen as long prehistoric thinkers like Randy Caryle, Brian Burke and Craig MacTavish hold places of power and influence in the NHL.

Consider the NFL again for a second. Just like the NHL, the NFL has a major problem with brain injuries. In both sports, they will always be part of the game, collateral damage and an inevitable outcome of large humans traveling at a high velocity into other large humans.

But to the NFL’s credit, they are at least trying to do something and are willing to go to drastic measures to help minimize the amount of brain injuries, flimsy financial settlements with former players not included.

Leading with the crown of the helmet outside the tackles is now a penalty and fineable offense. Destroying defenseless receivers with your helmet, even if it’s unintentional, is a no-no. If a defender even grazes the helmet of a quarterback, it’s 15 yards. Remember kickoff returns? I barely do. But the NFL recognized that an abundance of injuries were occurring via speeding kickoff coverage teams crashing into wedge blocks. So wedge blocking became a thing of the past and kickoffs were moved up 5 yards, which means just about every kickoff goes out the back of the end zone.

The NFL essentially did away with kickoff returns in an attempt to make the game safer. Kickoff returns!

What’s the NHL doing for player safety? Hey, before you two guys punch the hell out of each other for a minute, do not take your helmets off because we care about your long-term health and if your unconscious head bounced off the ice and you died that’d be bad PR for us.

Dinosaurs and Cro-Magnons that defend fighting will tell you that getting rid of it will result in the game getting soft. “If you don’t like fighting why don’t you go watch tennis with your girlfriend’s box of tampons and then watch One Tree Hill in your skirt with your mom!”

Why can’t toughness exist without fighting? Football players are some of the toughest people around, and they somehow find a way to live with not fighting that linebacker who hit their wide receiver with an illegal hit. Football players reach deep within themselves to swallow their pride and accept the 15-yard penalty and fine that linebacker will receive. Football players choose restraint over the personal satisfaction of punching someone else in order to quash the feelings of “not being man enough,” and isn’t that true toughness? The more you know.

I’m like everyone else with human DNA – I absolutely love watching two other humans beat the life out of each other. It’s in all of us to an extent. Those UFC knockout highlight shows are incredible. A roundhouse kick to the jaw of a guy who is out cold on his feet? Brilliant. Milan Lucic and Joel Rechlicz punching each other for a full 60 seconds? I’ll click that link.

But you know what I love even more? Hockey. Man do I enjoy watching talented people saucer pass a puck over and through three sticks for a back-door goal. I enjoy watching a hockey player one-time a rocket under the crossbar. I enjoy a forward undressing a defenseman in a 1-on-1 situation and stashing a backhander through a goalie’s legs. I enjoy a defenseman catching a forward with his head down and cleaning his clock with a shoulder to the chest.

Two things I don’t enjoy are 1) talentless goons stumbling around the ice for 7 minutes a night, seeking out the other goon for a cranium-destroying session, and 2) the idea that the NHL isn’t willing to ban fighting in an effort to at least minimize the opportunities for preventable head injuries.

If the NHL banned fighting and instituted monster fines and suspensions for fighting and reckless hits, the game would instantly be safer and better as players learned to adjust. Despite all the goons in the NHL, all the codes and all the players “policing themselves,” it took rule changes and threats from the league of lengthy suspensions and perhaps a lifetime ban to get Matt Cooke to change his game.

If Matt Cooke can figure it out, anyone can.

That brings us back to the Bill Maher theory on equal rights for the LGBT community. It’s going to take years for them to be welcomed into modern times and it’s going to take time in hockey too. That’s not to say we need to wait out the deaths of Brian Burke, Randy Caryle and the Oilers front office — but we do need to wait out the exit of their kind from the sport. We need more people to recognize that talent-laden clubs like the Chicago Blackhawks and Detroit Red Wings are winning Cups without trained face-punchers and other teams can do the same, and that will eventually happen.

Will fighting be wiped from hockey before gay marriage is legal in all 50 states?

Only time will tell.

Comments (134)

  1. Lozo, in your first sentence you referenced Bill Maher and then misused ‘bare’ in a really obvious way (‘bare with me’ is an invitation to get naked; the phrase you were looking for is ‘bear with me,’ as in to bear a course). Not sure how many people will read past that sort of beginning.

    • Discrediting a piece with that much sound reasoning because of a grammatical error and reference you don’t like? Defenders of fighting in hockey sound more and more like the people who question the existence of global warming all the time. Nit pick details in order to derail a sound argument. Keep reading Anna.

    • I read past it just fine. I understood what he meant and decided not to tie myself up with useless details.

    • And yet, I think every single one of us read past that mistake of epic proportions. It must have been really tough for you to decide whether to keep reading past the first sentence. For the well being of all of us, i’m glad you did.

    • he edited the bear/bare

    • Anyone who references Bill Maher automatically and irrevocably loses all credibility.

      Fighting is staying. I’d rather not see open season our star players get lit up and targeted because you’re offended and want a happy smiley world where there are only love ins and rainbows and unicorns.

      Here endth the lesson.

      • Well said. This crying about fighting is pathetic. It seems to stem from all the people out there crying about bullies. The problem is not the bullies, its the world breeding w(p)ussies. People like the author want to dance around in their skinny jeans like faeries and still be treated like a man. Sorry, not going to happen.

  2. Or, Anna, you could say bravo on an excellent piece.

    • If it was an excellent piece, yes. Unfortunately it’s closer to a piece of…

    • Excellent piece? Lozo prattles and prattles, mistaking personal invective for logic, all towards the conclusion of “wiping fighting from the game.” We get it Dave, you don’t like fighting. Maybe you got beat up in school. Maybe you’re one of those people who think men who work out for fun are stupid meat heads. I don’t know what your problem is, but this “oh we’re so worried about the poor hockey players” bit is seriously tiresome. You’re not protecting people, you’re a soapboxing pusher who needs to get out of the habit of looking down your nose at everyone you argue against.

      • Look, it seems like a lot of work went into this one but I can’t think of a single positive thing to say about this article.

  3. My favourite is the “old time hockey” line. Eddie Shore and Gordie Howe and how they fought… They could also PLAY THE GAME better than anyone else. There were no goons for the sake of goons in the “golden” days. That’s a recent development that has hurt the game immensely. Tough does not equal fighting and vice versa. Well written article.

    • Eddie Shore ended Ace Bailey’s career with an axe swing to the cranium. Real tough manly behavior that.

      Ironically, that incident created the All Star game, which is a no-hitter.

      As for the article itself, bravo. It will not in itself end fighting, but it is useful – a drop in the bucket of common sense that will ultimately rain into the minds of the NHL.

      Don’t get me wrong, as a Canucks fan, I liked Tiger Williams, Gino Odjick and Donald Brashear, but never so much as when they were scoring goals. As for the toughness part of the game, if I wanted to watch privilaged millionaires menacingly scowling at each other, I would watch the judging panel of American Idol. When I tune into hockey, it is because I want to see, you know, hockey.

      • According to everything I’ve looked at recently, it was a hit from behind that Shore dealt to Bailey, and Bailey’s head hit the ice. (in the interest of accuracy)

    • The fact that “tough” is not the same as “fighting” is not a sufficient imperative to remove fighting. Congratulations on being able to crack open a dictionary, but it doesn’t actually add any persuasiveness to this “wipe fighting from the game” argument

  4. I’ve always thought “The Code” was a load of crap, and the reason why is because I watched the Wild get run constantly with Derek Boogaard in the lineup. Here’s one of the most feared enforcers arguably of all time, and guys are still taking cheap shots. There’s no deterrent.

    Boogaard was in the lineup when Brad May sucker punched Kim Johnsson. He was also in the lineup when Mattias Ohlund lumberjacked Mikko Koivu’s leg. John Scott played for the Wild and was in the lineup when Ed Jovanovski butt ended Andrew Ebbett. Hell, Boogaard and Scott were BOTH in the lineup when Steve Ott boarded Petr Sykora AND when Sergei Gonchar took the flying leap at Cal Clutterbuck.

    Two guys who are 6-foot-8 and whose job is to “deter” and “enforce” and the guys are still getting run all over the ice.

    • I agree with you that the “Code” doesn’t really work. But in those instances, it was against the “Code” for Scott or Boogard to fight against any of those offenders, because they weren’t in the right weight class. It just goes to show how useless enforcers (or at least the “super enforcers,” like Mirtle calls them) really are, unless we are willing to bear watching a guy like Scott go after Kessel because he thinks that way of getting even is part of the Code.

      One issue that Lozo could have discussed more is that too often the offended team isn’t actually satisfied by the revenge fight. What happens when someone fights the offender and gets his lunch handed to him? Or if the offender isn’t sufficiently hurt? People forget that Moore actually fought Matt Cooke to answer for the hit on Naslund, but the Canucks weren’t satisfied, so that piece of garbage Bertuzzi assaulted Moore after he failed to goad him into a fight that would have clearly been against the Code.

  5. Excellent summary. If they eliminated it tomorrow, the league would lose a few neanderthal fans but gain a far bigger potential audience, particularly in the US. As a coach and a hockey dad, I’m tired of having to apologize for my sport.

    • Agreed. Another falsehood used to defend fighting is that it sells the game in America. It doesn’t. They find it amusing sure. But, to them it confirms their suspicions that the whole thing is a weird little side-show not to be taken as seriously as the big three.

      • Yeah, nobody in America tuned into Flyers/Pens game 4 after the game 3 brawl. Lowest ratings in televised history, I believe.

        I did it in Junior, like it, I don’t want it gone. I can see arguments for it being abolished. But I just don’t simply like the idea of slapping people with your gloves on when they do something to piss you off. I like the idea of settling it.

        But I also don’t want John Scott, Colton Orr or George Paros anywhere near the ice (or bench, really). John Scott more than any of them because he takes a valuable roster spot away from the team I root for.

        • Agreed. It offended my sensibilities. Why would I want to watch a game with that kind of hatred and anger?

    • Apologize for your sport? At least hockey culture doesn’t turn its young players into megalomaniacal, sociopathic criminals on the regular. Honestly fighting isn’t that important, but to act like adult men punching each other in the face is such a horrible thing is really, really sad. I get that you guys want to look like intellectually advanced smarty smart people, and talk trash about the “neanderthal” fans and the “idiots” who fight, but seriously, stop acting like fascists and try to be a bit respectful of opposing views.

      • Who does this guy talk to that he’s apologizing for his sport?

        Most of my friends and coworkers who aren’t hockey guys like two things: Fighting and goals.

        • Other parents who have pushed their kids into baseball, or soccer, or just about anything other than hockey for their kids because they don’t like its image. It’s a real thing.

          • Yep all the time… the hockey the average American adult is exposed to consists of a brief video of two guys fighting or slashing each other, and the headlines are about criminal charges being filed or two parents fighting in the stands.
            Meanwhile guys like Pete S and I are trying to recruit the next generation of players.
            Those fans who say “I only watch it for the fighting” don’t really exist.
            The parents who say “I would never let my kid do that!”, do.
            I find a hockey fight entertaining. But the smart thing for the future of the sport is to move past it. Good article.

      • Culture is for yogurt.

        It’s not the culture, it’s the players. Hockey is a rich person’s sport. It’s practically as socioeconomically exclusive as polo.

        Hence, the barbarian tendencies are ameliorated by the context: they weren’t poor people and tend to have a lot longer to fall to the bottom than a lot of other people, and on the way their fall can be broken by therapists, well meaning community, and functional family members.

      • Yeah, we should punch each other in the face about it like scholars and gentlemen. RESPECT.

    • Completely agree. Imagine getting Sharks season tickets instead of baseball tickets would be great. But who wants their kids to see grown men solve their problems like infants?

  6. I love what a hot button issue Fighting in hockey is. If you read these Dave it was an awesome read. Personally, I love fighting. I think super goons like John Scott have no place in the game, but I hope getting rid of fighting all together isn’t the response to them.

    • If we’re going to let them fight, let’s have good fights. Instead of a stick to the knee, Kessel should have dodged to the outside, applied armbar, swept the leg and shoulder-dropped Scott’s face into the ice. While the big man was stunned, then Kessel could have broken the arm at the elbow.

      If that’s still not exciting and fun enough for the fans, then Kessel could have skated over Scott’s carotid.

  7. I know this is the lamest sort of self-promotion but we covered this story over on our website. Obviously, I agree with Lozo’s take and I’m really happy to see more taking the stance that bare-knuckle boxing should be removed from the sport but both sides of the argument are vehemently defended:

    http://www.theroster.ca/#!the-big-fight/c1cuq

  8. Dave – great post. I’ve also referenced the changing of the guard on my blog – that the current owners and executives who grew up in the culture have to retire before we’ll see real change. The problem is the culture is still alive and well at the junior hockey level in Canada. 16 year old players coming into the league are indoctrinated into believing that fighting is necessary, and the larger ones are being advised that it might be their only way into the big leagues. We need progressive thinkers coming up through the ranks – players to coaches to executives. And although some changes have been made (OHL fight limits for example) I’m not convinced there is enough progressive thinking or doing in junior hockey just yet.

  9. Only time will tell… hah!

    The comparison to murder went a bit far and seemed a bit of a stretch, but otherwise, okay. I can live without fighting. It’s there, big deal; it’s not there, big deal.

  10. I agree with your take in general, but your chain of events is wrong.

    The Oilers picked up MacIntyre after the Gagner and Leaf-Sabre incidents. It seems more like a brief over-reaction than any sort of mindset by MacT (who has never really found much use for these kinds of players in the past).

  11. Consider the death penalty. It’s existence is designed to deter murder. But the problem with murder is that most of them occur in the heat of passion. You’re not thinking straight, which clearly is the case because you are in the process of murdering someone. Your adrenalin is pumping and your emotions are raging and oh look this person is dead and now you’re thinking about the consequences

    The above scenario is not a death penalty case. Death penalty is for premeditated or during the commission of another felony(armed robbery, rape, kidnapping, etc.)

    • You know, if just once, someone could write one of these arguments for why fighting should be banned without resorting to the “I think fighting should be banned and anyone who disagrees is just stupid/a Neanderthal,” that’d be great. It’s not that people who disagree with you are necessarily less intelligent than those who want to ban it, it’s that they disagree. I get that the pro-fighting folks have tossed around the “go watch figure skating/stop being a girl” stuff for years, but if that doesn’t make for a compelling argument, neither does the “oh yeah, well you’re just stupid” argument.
      For the record, I think fighting does have a place in the game, the instigator penalty was the wrong solution to the Broad Street Bullies problem (it was a problem, no question about it) and guys like John Scott have no place on the same ice as the Crosby’s, Datsyuk’s, Kane’s and Kessel’s of the league…but when Jarome Iginla fights Vincent Lecavalier in the Final, it is great for the sport. That’s passion, the will to win and battling boiling over. Neither one of those guys should have been tossed after that, neither one of those guys should have been fined.
      Frankly, I’d be fine with a suspension for guys who fight more than a certain number of times in a season, with the suspended players team being forced to play with a shortened roster for the duration of his suspension. I guarantee you the John Scott’s would be gone in a season or two, once a team plays a few games with 17 skaters, but the organic fights would still happen.

    • That was supposed to be its own post. This site is kind of weird here in the comments section.

    • Also, I thought the same thing when I read that part of the article.

  12. As a lifelong proponent of fighting in hockey, I have to say this was a very compelling post.

    I prefer fighting in hockey, but I don’t invent idiotic reasons to justify it. I was raised to appreciate it, and I am selfish. That’s pretty much all there is to it.

    If fighting were banned, I would adapt and continue to watch.

  13. As a European-trained hockey player (currently living in Canada), I cannot but simply echo your thoughts. One could spend countless hours debating whether fighting brings anything to the outcome of a hockey game, but here are some irrefutable facts: 1. Fighting is proven to work against someone’s health (aka as why talented players rarely fight), 2. Fighting is not needed for having good hockey.
    I make an analogy with smoking: its unhealthy and one doesnt need to smoke to live an otherwise satisfactory life. Should smoking be banned? Probably not, just out of public buildings where it affects other people (a la Kessel, he clearly did NOT want to fight).
    Anyone who pays to see two guys fight each other, rather than people scoring goals, will find their money is likely better spent at a boxing match, and I sure hope those are never banned, because there is a market for everything.

  14. Probs your best post to date! I am happy to hear someone else say out loud what is so confusing to me. I love all the skill and creativity in hockey. Best sport in the world. But seeing guys heads bounce off the ice unconscious and fights simply because someone got hit, legally is no fun. On the same token the old days of Avalanche/Wings battles were epic! The Lucic fight was amazing! So where do I stand? Do I like fighting or as you mentioned will all the skill and pageantry of the sport shine through if fighting was removed? Only time will tell indeed.

  15. I loved this whole article, but your most potent point for me is that we watch the sport because we simply love the sport. We want to watch great players be great at a sport they love.

    I’m a relatively new hockey fan, just getting really into it in the last five years, but I’m a lifelong football fan. (I grew up splitting time between Missouri, Iowa and Illinois, so y’know how it is.) Recently I’ve been glad to see the NFL cracking down on violent hits. Don’t get me wrong, I love seeing the other team’s wide receiver get lit up for a fumble just as much as the next girl, I will be on my feet screaming along with everyone else.

    But let’s be real here. Violent hits and, by extension, fighting, leads to injuries. Duh. But injuries to who? It’s not always just goons who fight, sometimes it’s talented players. Sometimes it’s your captain who should never actually fight because they’re terrible at it (I’m looking at you, Jonathan Toews). Hard hits tend to go on talented players, and that talented player may suffer an injury. Maybe they’re out for a week, maybe a month, maybe a season, and maybe it ends their career, and that is absolutely heart wrenching to see. Not only do you feel for the guy, but you, as a fan, are then deprived of someone who is great at the game that you both love living up to their full potential.

    Now say that hit is followed by a fight. A good portion of fights aren’t limited to just two goons going at it. There are top liners that will go at each other, and what happens after that? Sure, the fans and maybe the team get pumped up, but what if that guy breaks his hand? Gets a broken jaw, or nose, or cheek? A concussion, a suspension? Was that one minute of fighting worth that one W, assuming your team even wins in the end? I say no. I would much rather see our guys skate away and win a game on talent and perseverance after a hard hit on a teammate than a bench-clearing brawl in retribution. I feel like some players, knowing that fighting is an option, channel their anger or frustration into that fight instead of into their game and would sooner drop gloves with someone than concentrate on getting a goal.

    I mean, a ban here is essentially trading fighting for a chance to see more quality hockey. How is that a bad thing?

  16. So since fighting does not HAVE to happen, fighting HAS to NOT happen? Is that your reasoning? Or are you just inserting half-ass logical whiffs to try and turn your anti-fighting opinion into an imperative? This is a really, really sad piece of writing man. And pretty polemic, too, especially since you equate civil rights to a particular policy of conduct in a sport. What. The hell. Are you talking about.

    • Pay attention: The connection isn’t between civil rights and fighting in hockey, it’s between politicians and hockey executives, both groups of old people with rigid ideas that are unlikely to change.

      • most of the older executives and GMs in hockey want to change and get rid of fighting in hockey. the key part that everyone is missing it that the last player poll which asked players if they wanted fighting in hockey, the nhl players voted 98% in favour of having fighting in the game. all of us can sit here and debate whether it should be in the game or not, but in reality its up to the players in the NHL and if 98% of them want it, its gonna be in the game.

  17. The bottom line is Pro sports sole purpose on this earth is ENTERTAINMENT, and as long as people are entertained by fighting in hockey it will continue to be in the game. People pay good money to watch NHL games and what gets fans out of their seats faster than a fight? Even goals only get one of the two teams fans up, but everyone stands up and cheers for fights.

  18. “Despite all the goons in the NHL, all the codes and all the players “policing themselves,” it took rule changes and threats from the league of lengthy suspensions and perhaps a lifetime ban to get Matt Cooke to change his game.”

    Thank-you!!!!

    • I think Evander Kane might possibly, just maybe have had something to do with it as well.

      http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MLqpw_uKyds

      • Except, of course, as awesome as that KO was, it happened nearly a full year before the March 2011 suspension that Cooke says changed his perspective on the game. Now, Cooke could be a liar and/or be a very slow learner, but I think that the significant suspension including playoff games had more to do with the change in his game than the KO.

  19. Although I thought it was a well written piece, even if I don’t necessarily agree with the end argument, I do think it is unfair to insinuate that those people that defend fighting in hockey are stupid or low-functioning (“prehistoric thinkers”, “Cro-magnons” etc.) and that they’re all old; it’s not a binary argument that stupid, old people like fighting and smart, young people don’t, it is more nuanced than that and it comes off as lazy to frame the debate like that. I think that you should probably get a game misconduct and maybe escalating suspensions for the more fights you get into, whether the NHLPA would approve that, I don’t know

    • I’m not sure he was framing the argument that way exactly, so much as riffing on Bill Maher’s generalization. And he does admit that he likes fighting, but wishes to see it removed in the interest of seeing better hockey, so I think that would sort of concede that things are more nuanced than old people are dumb and young people are not.

    • I’ll go a step further. It’s not just that some old people like fighting and some young people don’t, it’s that he appears to be wrong about who thinks what. According to the best information we have, young people are more likely than old people to not want to ban fighting. Even if he’s only saying the demographics are similar to gay marriage, he’s completely wrong:

      http://sports.nationalpost.com/2011/02/20/most-canadians-want-hockey-fights-banned-poll/

  20. Boring
    Go was some dishes and fold some laundry

  21. While the concept of a goon who can do nothing more than stumble around until someone else agrees to exchange face smashes with him is an embarrassment of sorts to the league, I do disagree to the notion of ridding hockey of fighting entirely. Not only is it something I think most people enjoy, but it also does serve a role of sorts. Maybe it doesn’t stop acts of violence against the less skilled members, but it does often force someone to be held accountable for their actions. Fighting isn’t around as a preventative matter against cheap shots, but more as a punitive act against the transgressor. As I said earlier, hockey fights are also something loved by the fan base in general, as well as by hockey players themselves. Partly this is due to their enjoyment over seeing someone who they believed wronged their team being forced to pay for their actions, but is also due to the fact that it enhances and ascends the emotions of the game being played. There is a reason why certain games and certain rivalries stick in our minds. It’s the passion and ferocity of these games and the sacrifice of the players that raise these moments above the average on-ice meeting. Whether it’s Lecavalier and Iginla fighting in the finals, Talbot using a fight to motivate his team to victory, or even a slug filled brawl between Montreal and Boston, games with fighting stick with us if the fighting is meaningful. The great 90′s/00′s rivalry between the Avalanche and the Wings reflected this. Fighting raises some games and rivalries to a new level that is not really present in any other sports. Goons may be obsolete and unnecessary, but a player who can actually play fighting for his team is something that I pray they never remove from this game. If we remove the thing passion from our game, than what makes us different from any other sport?

    • You hit the nail on the head. Remove the goons keep the fighting. There is absolutely nothing wrong with you wanting to win so badly that you’re willing to throw/take a few punches to ignite your team.

    • Mind blown. Why have I been wasting my time with all this passing and skating and shooting, when I could have been watching the one true source of passion, boxing?

  22. I like fighting. I hate goons, and I think they are ruining what is still a valuable aspect of the sport. In a world where entire sports are devoted to fighting (boxing, MMA, etc) I find it disingenuous to argue that fighting has no place in hockey because people can get hurt, or that somehow, we are any better or smarter for rising above such barbaric practices. It is in our nature to fight with one another from time to time. We either accept fighting as part of the sport, or we don’t, but I don’t believe either side has a better argument for or against it that boils down to anything more than personal preference. You either want it to stay, or you don’t. Suggesting that removing fighting from hockey produces a better product is incorrect, as you must necessarily trade one for the other. We lose fighting to potentially see better players on the ice. Or we lose better players on the ice to gain fighting.

    Hockey is a culture, and like you said, it will change as new people take over the reigns. So I guess we’ll see where it ends up.

  23. To answer the question about the difference between the NHL and NFL, it’s intensity. In football, each play takes 5-10 seconds or so, then the whistle goes and you start all over. Hits are mostly predictable. In hockey, the action can continue for 5 minutes, hits are happening all over the ice (along with slashes, elbows, crosschecks etc) and over time the intensity and frustration can build leading to escalation and fighting.
    Today we know that 90% of the fights don’t develop that way, but that I believe is the reason we have historically had fighting in hockey but not in other sports.
    I don’t mind the odd scrap now and then, but we need to eliminate the sideshows. Guys who earn a roster spot solely based on their ability to fight is embarrassing.

  24. Isn’t this gradually going from the game anyway? I’ll admit, i like fighting. What I don’t want is teams carrying people who don’t add anything except mutant knuclheadness. Lucic is the prototype. More teams who have players who can handle themselves (and play) in the context of the game the better. For fights with a legit context see Dallas vs Bruins a short while back. Context, thrills, did have a bearing on the game except lunks justifying their existence on an NHL roster.

    • Lucic can play. It’s the rest of the division who loaded up with mutant knuckleheads so they could have someone to beat up Lucic.

  25. Dean BTW 110% agreed

  26. I think Lozo’s a smart cat, and I enjoy the hell out of his hipster hatred (kidding, but it feels like a useful phrase for someone that dislikes seemingly everything).

    But can we please stop mentioning fighting like it’s the real problem when it comes to CTE, and concussions in sports. I can’t think of a dumber justification to banning fighting then saying “concussions are a real problem, so we should decrease those concussions by stopping the 1% of the NHL population that does it on a regular basis”.

    Think about that for a second. No really. Just a second.

    Also, do some research. An athlete’s body is vastly different from the average, Game of Thrones watching couch potato like myself. While head injuries play an obvious role in brain disease associated with concussions, it’s important to consider the elements that exacerbate it, like PED’s, painkillers, depression, etc. Ultimately, how will a quick fist fight in which guys are landing punches on visors and helmets more than heads and eyeballs really impact the head trauma issue?

    • Maybe you should do some research. Repeated impacts to the head do more to cause CTE than less regular larger impacts. A guy getting a single concussion from one huge hit is much less likely to have CTE than a fighter who has sustained countless smaller concussions from years of fighting. It’s why boxing is the worst sport for CTE, football comes in second, and hockey trails behind with most players, fighters being the exception.

      • How many NHL players get concussions from fighting though? Not many compared to other hockey related causes, and I’m willing to bet more damage will occur from sticks being used as weapons going up 500% if fighting were banned than from fighting currently. Don’t believe me? Go to a minor hockey game in a competitive league where fighting (and for that matter hitting people hard) is banned. Think about how many faces would look the same after the game if they didn’t have a full face shield on.

        • Wow good job are not addressing a single thing I actually said. I am only talking about CTE, which was explicitly and erroneously referenced in the comment I was replying to. And again, there is almost no way that anyone will ever experience enough hits to the head with sticks to cause CTE level damage equal to fighting.

          And you don’t need to tell me about stickwork when there is no fighting. I’ve coached and played college hockey. Way more stickwork there than in the junior leagues I played and coached in. But I highly doubt we’ll see a massive uptick in stick-swinging-at-head incidents without fighting, unless everyone is willing to get a few games for it each time (see Kassian, Zach).

      • We know very little in the grand scheme of things when it comes to CTE research. Most researchers predict that a high number of athletes are likely walking around with enough tau protein buildup to kill a small horse. Yet most athletes are not committing suicide, and shooting themselves in the sternum. Any rigorous study accounts for anomalies, and CTE research is still nascent enough, which is why you don’t see academics in Europe discuss it in the same way Americans discuss the CTE problem as a ‘sky is falling’ scenario.

        I’m aware that middling hits are said to be the most damaging (which is why NFL linemen tend to be most at risk), and that full on concussions may just be proxies for the accumulation of blows to the head, but to identify fighting as some sort of culprit for the concussions problem when fighting makes up a small percentage of physical contact engaged by individual players seems just ludicrous.

  27. I just don’t understand why anyone other than players opinion should matter. If the vast majority of players want fighting to remain in the game, why do people take it upon themselves to defend millionaires from something they embrace?
    Should I give a damn if some guy wants to do the equivelant of wrap his kid in bubble wrap and put him in soccer or dance lessons, because fighting (in hockey) sends a bad message? You going to put ear plugs in the kids ears so they never hear swear words or anything else that is inevitably part of being a human on the planet earth? Fighting is everywhere! I love how people don’t want kids to see guys punching each other on TV with skates on (i’m guessing boxing, UFC and all that is not as much of a concern for those who would read this blog) but they don’t mind video games where their kids are entitled to the sheer joy and imagery of killing 1000 people in twenty minutes or lock CNN where you can be privy to adults shooting each other dead (real dead, not just a black eye) off the cable box.
    Using the NFL as an example is just not relevant either, when was the last time you saw two guys take off their helmets and go toe to toe on NFL films? You hit one or more people every ten seconds of play in football, more horrible injuries occur than any other sport on the planet. It is far and away a MUCH more gruesome and violent sport than hockey, however fighting as we know it in hockey does not and has not ever occured in the NFL, but what happens after the whistle in the NFL (biting, heel stomping, head butting and attempts to break limbs) would make your average hockey fight look like a picnic.
    I love how those on the anti fighting side of the fence say those defending it are grasping at straws and taking the arguenment off on tangents irrelevant to the main discussion. No one who fights in NHL hockey games is leading this charge, so to me, that kind of makes people who simply watch the sport and don’t like fighting’s arguements seem like grasping at straws. You’re literally sticking up for people who don’t know who you are, never will, don’t agree and don’t care how you feel. Due to this, neither do I.

    • Well, that’s the opinion of players who are playing because they are willing to be in a sport with fighting in it.

      For a fair comparison, you would also want the opinion of players who gave up playing, because their sport morally obliged them to be willing to be punched in the face as required.

      • Should the medical opinion of non doctors who dropped out of med school because they wanted to avoid no or 2 hours sleep a night (also unhealthy) in order to finish school be taken the same as an actual Doctor? Hockey players are not forced to fight at any level, especially the type you would be describing because they would more than likely be pure skill guys if they hated fighting so much and would never have to fight in Junior when they would have made the bonehead choice to not make multi millions to play a sport. Since the group you have mentioned is likely such a vast minority, even with the quantity who would falsely cite fighting as the reason they gave up a chance to play a sport for millions, I would like to think that would not sway the result very much. Most, if not all, ex junior guys I have ever taken up the topic with don’t have anything wrong with it existing in hockey.

        • Logic answers my grammar sentence confusing was.

          So, I will rephrase, because I think I made you miss my point.

          My point is that youth hockey is this big (opens arms in a large circle) and junior hockey is this big (narrows arms) and NHL hockey is this big (makes pinching motion).

          To get from the big circle to the little circle, players are constantly winnowed out on a variety of factors.

          Ideally, the ones that are left are the best at playing hockey. They will be the fastest, the cleverest, the smartest.

          The punchingest, no. That’s boxing.

          To get to that ideal, my simple brain tells me that, well, probably a number of players who were merely good at scoring are being dropped because they are not physically equipped to be on the ice with players who are great at clobbering you.

          So, my feeling is that players who value punching are in the NHL, because those who can’t handle the punching fell out of the pro track well before then.

    • Thank you, Howedy, for making the only point that matters. It’s not hipster journalists with chips on their shoulders that get to make these decisions, it’s the players

      • You’re half right. Hipster journalists, no doubt thoughtfully scratching their faintly espresso-scented neckbeards while distracted by thoughts of whether to spend their next Latin American studies fellowship check on a trip to Portland to see Portugal:The Man or to get that sweet fixie, do not have control of this issue.

        The league has control of this issue.

        And the league, from time to time, has done things in the players’ best interest that was not of the choosing of the players, not the overt and public choice at least, e.g. helmets.

  28. Other things Dave Lozo enjoys. “Guilty Pleasures’ interview with Greg Wyshysnski, August 16, 2011:
    On his favorite fight or brawl of all-time:
    “It’s cliche and probably obvious for someone my age, but it’s the brawl between the Avalanche and Red Wings in 1997, the year after the Claude Lemieux/Kris Draper incident.Lemieux hadn’t played in the first three games that season, but in that fourth game at the Joe, he dressed and all hell broke loose. The rumble had everything — Patrick Roy and Mike Vernon going at it and even Igor Larionov dropping the gloves against Peter Forsberg. I could watch two goalies fight anywhere, but everything building up to this brawl made it special.”
    http://sports.yahoo.com/nhl/blog/puck_daddy/post/hockey-guilty-pleasures-dave-lozo-nhl-com-writer?urn=nhl,wp10688

  29. Pretty much my exact thoughts, and one of the reasons I don’t really care to watch hockey until post season comes around. As anyone who has competed in something at a top level would understand, when you’re going to spectate a sport you want to see guys who give it their all to take a win. Fighting lowers the odds you are going to win the game, plain and simple, it shouldn’t take a genius to figure it out.

    The NFL has it right, and when you watch those games you know they are 100% focusing on nothing else but winning. If you rough or get a personal foul, it’s a penalty on your stats and you let your team down. Not saying it doesn’t happen, but it lowers your value as an asset to your team and future teams, and typically gets called out pretty well from refs. No coach is going to go praise you in the locker room for losing 15 yards for no reason.

    - 21 from Toronto, not all of us kids are idiots

  30. Why does every writer (I’m using that title loosely) insist that hockey conform to the ideals of other leagues and/or sports fans who don’t even care about it? Last time I checked, the NHL has been around longer than the NBA and NFL (combined? You’ll have to double check that), It has a rich history, and has been policed in a similar fashion since the 20s. There have always been fights, just as there have always been goals and hits saves. It is a part of the fabric that makes the game so intense and so enjoyable. So why do you people insist on changing this historically rich game to suit the ideals of people who don’t like it to begin with? It just makes no sense.

    Also, fighting is and NHL/major junior type thing. You can just as easily watch college or European hockey, where you won’t have to worry about seeing a fight. I just wish you would stop trying to change this great game (‘North American hockey’).

    • Well said. I think most of the writers that jump on this bandwagon must have some sort of inferior-intelligence complex, where they desperately make super-strong normative claims based on comparisons that are nowhere near comparable, trying to push others around in order to demonstrate their rightness, their smartness, and so on. Maybe it’s social media culture’s influence; putting more importance on saying something than actually having something worth saying.

      And not a damn thing in this article was worth saying.

      • Honestly, if a writer is going to call people that defend fighting Cro-Magnum’s and neanderthals this is a fair response. Dave set the level of discourse with his column.

        And it’s premise is poor from the start. Do young fans support taking fighting out of hockey and we’re simply waiting for the older generations idea to wane? Read a poll. The answer is no. Dave’s saying something that isn’t true simply because he’d like to tie his premise to a more popular idea.

        Look, anyone can post an article on a divisive topic and get web hits and comments. That’s fine. But when I tell people they should be reading the Backhand Shelf, this won’t be one of the articles I point to.

    • I don’t think anybody is insisting that the NHL conform to the standards of other leagues/sports, but they have demonstrated that you can have a physical sport, such as the NFL, where guys repeatedly hit each other and use cheap plays to gain a slight advantage from time to time, that do not allow fighting and still deliver a great product. Nobody watches football and claims it is somehow a lesser sport without fighting. The argument isn’t that the NHL should conform to football, the argument is that you don’t need fighting to deliver an excellent, tough, hard hitting sport.

      • You’re going to have to finish thinking on this one. No one’s saying the NHL should conform to football but football doesn’t have fighting and is still an exciting sport so hockey shouldn’t have fighting.

        That’s exactly what conforming to football means.

    • And you can just as easily watch the UFC or boxing a sport with better quality fights.

      The point isnt conforming to other leagues. The point is fighting has literally NOTHING to do with winning a hockey game yet dumb people keep insisting it does because “its a part of the game” when really, it isn’t.

      And euro leagues have fighting but it doesn’t happen as much because they put more of an emphasis on skill. You know, skill. Something that you need to play hockey.

      • Hockey isn’t all about skill. It’s about toughness, intensity, and a certain element of fear. Along with skill. If you want just the skill, go watch a practice. Wait for the All Star game. Hockey isn’t just a bunch of toe drags and saucer passes.

  31. I think Dave’s article could have used a harsh edit for length, to stay on topic. But I agree with his conclusions.

    Fighting might well have a historical context, but I don’t think you can convince me it does anything to protect players. Using the threat of violence to prevent violence is a pretty poor concept.

    Not sure I like the LBGT marriage comparison, but I think gun control works for a societal comp. People who argue for bearing arms are quite akin to those that promote and defend fighting. They are clinging to an old institutional belief about the safety of members of a community, and generally reject any evidence to the contrary in the name of history. Sounds pretty accurate to me.

    • Do we really want to start a gun control debate on a hockey blog? I mean I could go find statistics on (blah, blah, blah).

      How about we talk about things that happened on the ice and don’t try and connect everything to a hot button issue for cheap hits?

  32. Not a bad article. Some typos, whatever. I thought it was well written.

    Enough with the niceties. I don’t know if you play hockey or if you did. I have played for alot of hockey teams. A few of them were pretty good. I was alright. I fought maybe once a year.
    Speaking as a player, I LOVE fighting. It pumps me up. It pumps up the bench. We all loved it. Players everywhere love it even if they don’t fight at all. This is a fact; you will rarely, if ever, hear the actual players in the role of fist-abolitionist. The players are kind of the key, no?

    So now I ask, who are you?

  33. The UFC barely get concussed fighters, I don’t think fighting is the problem in the NHL.

  34. Last week during a Pens/Hawks game, some kid on the Pens whose name I don’t remember, in an attempt to make an impression during an exhibition game, hit Patrick Kane along the boards. A kid on the Hawks whose name I don’t remember, in an attempt to make an impression during an exhibition game, started a fight with the Pens kid.

    When the penalties were sorted out, the Pens ended up with a power play and they immediately scored a goal.

    Tell me how this isn’t the stupidest way ever to win a hockey game. Explain to me how the Hawks objecting to someone “taking liberties” with one of their skill players by starting a fight and ending up in the penalty box so that the other team could score a goal makes any sense whatsoever.

    You can’t, so don’t bother trying.

    I personally find fights boring and eye-rolly. The flow of the game is disrupted while two guys try to prove some point that doesn’t need to be proven. No, really, it doesn’t.

    Not everyone stands up and cheers during a fight. I don’t like watching people hit each other in the head, but if I did, I’d maybe watch boxing or something. When I’m watching hockey, I’m generally watching for the part where they’re actually playing hockey.

    Good piece, Dave. However, not all old guys like fighting, and not everyone liked fighting back in the good old days.

    I like the way Ken Dryden put it thirty years ago in “The Game”:

    “…NHL theory of violence is nothing more than original violence (I left out a bunch of stuff about Freud and original violence here – if you want to know, read the book. It’s good.) tolerated and accepted; in time turned into custom, into spectacle, into tactic, and finally, into theory. For years the League has argued the wrong-headedness of its critics, and for years it has missed the point. Surely it matter little anymore whether hockey fighting is violence or vaudeville, release or just good practice. What matters is that fighting degrades, turning sport to dubious spectacle, bringing into question hockey’s very legitimacy, confining it forever to the fringes of sports respectability.”

    Well said, Ken, especially that last sentence. I really, really does.

    • hear hear. I totally endorse this comment. *applause*

    • Who knew I had more to say on this subject?

      I do understand, that over the course of an 82 game season, especially on a bad or mediocre team, winning can become secondary, lost in the dynamics of individual games, and that the habit of those dynamics can lead to fighting. In that case, it’s not a distraction from the object of the game, which is to win, because those teams aren’t often going to win anyway, so why not? I do get that.

      I just think it’s possible to change those habits, that culture, and that it’s probably time to do so, because on a good team, it is a distraction, and not essential to the cause.

    • Standing ovation Donna. And you just saved a lot of us a lot of typing.

  35. Wade Belak
    Rick Rypien.
    Derek Boogaard.

    But nah, you like watching fights. Pumps up the players, pumps up the fans. It’s part of the game. It’s their choice. It’s fun!

  36. Overall, good article. I don’t agree with this stance on fighting, but hey, you don’t care for it and that’s fine.

    I can’t help but wonder how many viewers this giants-panthers game lost in the third quarter. For the business of the NFL on a sunday, that’s fine, fans can switch to another game.

    In the NHL, the threat of violence in blowout games keeps people in seats and eyeballs on televisions. Granted, some will tune out, because they’re not into fighting, but many will stay. This means higher ratings, increased concession sales, and ultimately higher ad revenues.

    There’s no doubt that the risk of damage from fighting is a financial threat to the NHL, but the gains are tangible.

  37. Wow you mentioned the worst person on the planet other than Obama in Maher and you want fighting banished from hockey. You have definitely lost a reader of this blog.

    • The worst person on the planet other than Obama is Maher.

      The. Worst.

      The… the…snerk…ah … heh, the wor… the wors… heh. he. HE HEH

      AHHHHH HAAAA HAAA HAAAA HAAAA HAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA!

  38. I think that the NFL has gotten soft. I grew up playing football in Virginia, there was a comment on here about “after the whistle… would make a hockey fight look like a picnic” in lower levels of football I think this is absolutely true. As a lineman I was consistently (Really) punched in the balls over and over again in a pile up, or had someones hand inside my facemask grabbing and twisting anything they could, and this was in a highschool setting. 10 years later, I can not stand to watch the NFL, I am disgusted by these gagillionaires who are complaining about kickoff returns being dangerous and concussion concerns. Are you kidding me? I took 3 concussions in my highschool career, no one changed the rules or gave a shit, 2 came in practice with my own team. These “Pro’s” get paid (a lot) to be the toughest, hardest, most well trained athletes that football has ever seen and we are worried about concussions? Call me brutal or prehistoric, but if you make 30million a year, you should have to take the chance of getting a concussion. These are the reasons that I stopped following football 6 years ago and only follow hockey now. Because it is the toughest sport there is.
    As for fighting, I get both sides of the argument. I fully support fighting, and would like to point out that most hockey injuries Do Not occur during or because of a fight. Gagners face did not get shattered in a fight, yet you somehow used that storyline to discourage fighting. People are indeed worried about taking fighting out of hockey because it is one of the many things (tough, hard things) that make hockey different than every other sport. There is the old joke “I watch nascar for the crashes and hockey for the fights” even people who know nothing about hockey respect a millionaire willing to fight for the team aesthetic. If we take fighting away or make it a harsher punishment we take away one of the most well known parts of hockey, like it or not, hockey is known for fighting.
    You can say “look at the restraint of NFL players…” but they don’t give a damn about the other team or restraint, they care about the paycheck. If you ask any pro football player while playing the rival team “if you knew you could fight ____ and only get a 5 minute penalty would you do it?” id bet my next paycheck that they would all say yes, but they don’t want to lose money on the deal.
    Last point. No one in hockey is required to fight. Every game there is at least one example of someone provoking a fight and the other guy walking away shaking his head. Its just not a good argument to say “players leave because they don’t want to play a game where they are required to fight”. I would have loved (LOVED!) to have seen Chara beat the piss out of Crosby in last seasons playoffs, but as many times as Crosby shit talked and stuck his nose in Charas face after a big hit, Chara took a step back and remembered that his team was better. Chose not to fight. Whatever. I think we focus on fighting too much, it makes up a very very small portion of a hockey game (1 to 2 fights a night, maybe 60 seconds?) but for some reason we focus on that as ruining the game? not buying it. If anything it gives a casual fan a reason to come back to hockey until they catch on to the more important parts.

  39. It would be interesting for someone to pull every injury of this preseason, or of the lockout season and see how many were a result of fighting. I would guess 10% or less.

    • OK, so how many young people’s brains getting damaged is enough? More than 10% of the whole, apparently.

      But you’re right – the important thing is that some people enjoy watching young people’s brains getting damaged.

      • You present it as though its a backstreet mugging. If they hit the ice the ref breaks it up, if they stall too long in between punches, its broken up. “Young people getting their brains pounded in” is over dramatic don’t you think? Someone on here brought up MMA, that is people getting their brains pounded in, a hockey fight is 2 grown men, typically of equal size, making a mutual decision to stop shit talking and throw a few punches. I like a 30 second fight a lot more than having players run their mouth for an entire game, or point to the scoreboard everytime the other team gets a plus. Or generally be a smart ass for 60 minutes because they can get away with it. Its obnoxious, and fighting prevents that.
        Again, no one is required to fight, they make a mutual decision to take their anger out on each other, and leave it on the ice. I see no problem with it.

        • “Brains getting damaged” I misquoted.

          • Your MMA comment is irrelevant. If I wanted to watch MMA, I’d watch MMA. MMA guys don’t play hockey, and hockey players aren’t competing in MMA.

            It doesn’t matter if it’s consensual, or justified, or actually limits “obnoxiousness” somehow. Getting punched in the head repeated causes brain damage. Period. Ask a boxer. Ask a neurosurgeon. Ask Belak, or Rypien, or Boogaard. And young men getting brain damage and killing themselves isn’t “overdramatic”, it’s tragic.

            You’re fine with 10%+ of injuries coming from fights, how about telling us how many deaths is too many? For me, it was one. For you, it’s apparently more than three. At what point would YOU say that fighting’s done all the damage it’s going to do?

  40. This article was completely ruined when you, yourself. Even said you enjoy fighting and that it entertains you and you’ll click on any link that has two guys bashing each others brains out. Fighting will never leave the game because humans get heated and that is the end result.

    • Very true! Who doesn’t regularly throw down with their coworkers, because humans get heated and there’s just nothing else you can do about it.

  41. I have one comment. I don’t know how many professional football players you have met but I have met a decent number as well as countless college and highschool players.

    I think the main reason that football players don’t feel the need to defend one another is not some higher moral choice. The fact of the matter is that the vast majority that make it to division 1 college ball and beyond really don’t care at all about their teammates beyond how it affects them. All hockey players I have met at any level show a much larger amount of genuine love for their teammates.
    That linebacker who just destroyed a receiver just opened up more playing time for teh other receivers and the defending linebackers don’t give a crap because they barely even talk to the offensive players. The linemen don’t care they did the job they are paid to do the QB might feel bad for a throw that set his guy up to get crushed but he isn’t going to do anything since he is much more important.

    One sport has a roster of 50+ players half of whom never play with the other half and each ranging from 1 snap to 40 each game, and an entire practice squad the other is a tight nit family of just over 20 players that all contribute to every game and play together in every situation.

  42. I have been a hockey fan for 41 years. It took 40 years for my team to win the Cup. But, for a time, I was away from the game. I was unable to keep up with it (prior to the internet) due to my work schedule, etc. When I came back, I could not believe the foolishness that had grown around hockey fights. My old thought process was, men moving VERY fast on ice with skates will run into each other. Tempers will flare, and there will be fights. But, I never felt there was a place for goons in hockey. Upon my return to the game and the advent of regional sport networks, I saw something that amazed me. A hockey fight started and all the fans cheered! What the heck was that about? It stopped the flow of the game. It, as the article states, didn’t stop any other fights (players policing themselves) nor deter cheap shots.

    Even when I got into hockey video games, I noticed that I didn’t have the time nor the inclination to watch fights. So, I would toggle fighting off.

    I’m a hockey purist. By that, I mean that I want to see skating, passing, shooting, scoring and goaltending. I want to see skills. Yes, there are skills in hip checking (see anything on Drew Doughty or Rob Blake on youtube).

    Bottom line is if I want to see a fight I’d go to a boxing match or see the UFC.

    The most simple way to end fighting is to make players wear full face shields (like they do in college). If the helmet comes off and you fight, you’re gone. These are paid pros, so hit them where it hurts… Take off the helmet and fight and you’re gone AND FINED OR SUSPENDED WITHOUT PAY. They are trying a new “safety” rule this year. You can’t remove your helmet, especially for a fight. So, I saw a video a couple of nights ago… each player removed the OTHER guy’s helmet… negating that penalty.

    Face it, the author of the article is correct. If they REALLY wanted to stop the fighting, they would take serious measures. Truth is, they are NOT interested. Otherwise, the league would make it a serious offense to take that full face-shielded helmet off. Any fight would be an immediate game misconduct and further infractions would be more severe.

    What are we teaching our youth, for goodness sake?

    • You cant fool me, I may be in my 20′s but the NHL vault ruins your story about people cheering for fighting being new. Every game I have ever watched from the 70′s (love me some broad street bullies games, and gretzky, coffey,. messier action) any fight that starts involves, and ends in the fans cheering. What are we teaching our kids? that two guys dancing around on skates and taking a few shots at each other still have to sit in time out, but their differences are settled and the game moves on. I think kids are smarter than to say, “they fight in hockey… so lets fight all the time! get that guy!”

  43. Sounds like the author (and many of you commenters) are having a gender identity crisis. Hockey is a man’s sport and if you dont like fighting it in, go watch figure skating

    • Sounds like you’re an idiot. Hockey is a sport played by both men and women. Plenty of women watch hockey, and plenty of men don’t. Plenty of women like fighting, and plenty of men don’t.

      I have to say, with your critical thinking skills, you could rule the world!

      • I love Hockey, my girlfriend does not. I hate MMA / UFC because it is too senseless and brutal to me. My girlfriend loves it. A Lot of girls like fighting more than men, its like their porn. Be careful, ^ Donna could be able to f*ck you up.

    • The Cirque du Soleil shit women do in figure skating is ballsier than 90% of hockey, let’s be real.

  44. 1. The death penalty does not deter murder because murders are mostly committed in the heat of a moment (as a note, death penalties are only for premeditated murders, rarely for crimes of passion) therefore, threat of violence does not deter liberty taking in hockey because liberty taking is done in the heat of the moment. 2. Fines and suspensions DO prevent liberty taking because….why? people love money more than health…maybe. The line of reasoning is not consistent here. Not an argument for or against anything, just something to think about.

    I like fighting in hockey but I don’t like players who can barely skate on the ice just because they can fight and I HATE fighting after EVERY big hit, legal or not. Just play the game! and sometimes when something is actually happening, have a fight if you feel like it. Nothing wrong with a fight between two real players who have an issue but to have to blow down the play because someone throws a legitimate big hit is embarrassing.

    I think everyone can agree that there is no place for “goons” but no place for fighting? I’m not sold. Fights should be more rare of a beast than they are now.

  45. I will say that I had this article in mind while watching the Caps Flyers preseason game last night. There was an annoying amount of fighting. It seemed like every solid hit on the flyers led to an attempted fight. I also watched the Kings Rangers game last night and saw the Kings Nolan being shaken by his collar after a solid, legit hit, and walk away from a potential fight, drawing a double minor on the Rangers. Players do not have to fight, proof. and not only do they not have to, but sometimes its better to walk away, and as long as it is a mutual decision made by the players, on the ice, that we are paying to see, when they have the option to walk away, I don’t think they will ever take fighting away.

    I do love seeing two heavy hitters drop gloves after a face off, slide out to center ice and square off. Even if its a lame fight, the drama and the tension leading up to it is impossible not to watch.

    And remember, its all about ratings. No matter what we say on here, or what the GM’s decide, or what dept of player safety says, if the ratings go up because of it, it stays. Plain and simple.

  46. Prehistoric or not – it’s natural and genetic. This is what sport is for, to let it in a controlled area.

    • Sorry if that sounds harsh, but that’s dumb. What other team sport doesn’t come down like a ton of bricks on a player for fighting?

      You MIGHT be able to make the case that sport is about aggression in “a controlled area”, but no one here is complaining about aggression in hockey. No one’s against checking or trash-talking. We’re talking about fighting here. And if you can’t tell the difference between head-punching and a controlled release of aggression in the form of sport, then you must be under 3 years old.

  47. Day damn one and the fighting debate is all the rage. i enjoy the game the way it is played
    now if changes happen then unless i become a governor in the NHL there isn’t a whole lot i can do about it. All i would say is this take fighting out….checking will be next…..it never ends
    We over scrutinize the NHL. The largest sport in the world is Soccer what large scale rule amendments have they made in the past 30 years? or even closer to home look at MLB
    i get the violence issue but once fighting is gone it will be something else next, instead of just sitting back and enjoying the game we over critique it and one day it will no longer be the game i know and love.

    • That is a ridiculous thought process. Fighting should not be in hockey because it is not a part of the game. It’s present, and it happens, but it’s really not part of the game. Lets for one second imagine that fighting was never allowed in the sport from the beginning… do you think we would change the sport to add it in today? No, it would be a ridiculous idea, no less so than adding fighting to basketball right now.

      Day one and this kid suffers a concussion because he decided to fight instead of try to win the game. Players actually don’t always know what’s best for them. The NHL has changed many rules in the last 10 years, the good sports are always changing and adapting to improve. Soccer doesn’t change and the sport basically blows, it’s not gaining relative popularity, it’s losing respect on a competitive level if anything. Obviously it’s still the most competitive sport in the world, but the sport is a joke in so many ways because they are failing to update it. If you don’t think soccer and baseball can be improved, then you’re out of your mind because they have so many public issues.

      Checking is _actually_ part of the game. Fighting isn’t, it’s just some random thing players are allowed to do that stops the game for a second to waste everyone’s time. As soon as the real games (olympics, playoffs) come around, hardly anyone fights anyways because it’s just stupid.

  48. Fighting is apart of hockey the same way checking and poke checking are apart of the game. You reference football and how they don’t need to send out a big guy to fight the opposing player, but you fail to realize that they take the number of that person and usually that player will get their just desserts in another manner of speaking. Fighting does deter stupid behavior but no it doesn’t cease it from existence. Similar to going to jail is a deterrence but it doesn’t stop the stupid from being stupid.
    People are talking about how the argument to keep fighting in the game seems to be old fashioned and almost cooky but we seem to have different outlooks because taking fighting out of the game is what seems misguided and foolish to us. Using the point that other professional sports don’t permit fighting is a bit ridiculous because other professional sports are not hockey, they all have different rules and manner of conduct.

    Since we are referencing people who have nothing to do with hockey, I think of Whoopi Goldberg and others who say “If you don’t like gay marriage, don’t marry a gay person”

    Don’t like fighting in hockey? don’t fight in hockey, change the channel or watch the women’s team at your local arena. Don’t take something out of the game because you don’t understand why it’s there, the players want it, the coaches want it and the fans want it.

    • Rubbish. Fighting is part of hockey the way that boarding, cross-checking, and delay of game are part of hockey. They are infractions.

      There may well be a subset of fans that really enjoy watching abuse of officials or slew-foots too, but we don’t give their views any credence.

      If you like fighting, don’t watch hockey. Watch fighting.

      • Rubbish, like everything after rubbish is rubbish? seems that way. Fighting is an infraction, and it is penalized and on we go. It is in the rule book, and it is part of the game. If you want to watch soccer, nfl, or baseball, watch that. If you want to watch Hockey than there will be fighting, as well as checking, boarding, cross-checking and other infractions. Same as their will be off-sides and icing.

        • I’m not disputing that fighting is part of the tradition of hockey, at all. What I am suggesting is, that like other infractions such as face washing, illegal curves (damn, I should have used that for my pool team name), it is not actually part of the game itself, which is the passing, shooting, hitting and stuff that do not get penalties. I am for less penalties in hockey, therefore allowing me to watch more hockey and less, you know, penalties.

          That’s all. I am not disagreeing that it is synonymous with hockey, unfortunately.

  49. I completely disagree with the opinions expressed in this article. Clearly the author expresses a very limited understanding of the game of hockey, its culture and its history. Fighting is an integral part of the game and always has been.

    • Boss, I think the author has an excellent understanding of the game and has articulated his argument extremely well. Maybe you should try to refute his logic with a well laid out argument of your own.

  50. Not mentioned but a big reason to ban fighting at the NHL are the DROVES of parents who keep their kids from playing/starting the game because they incorrectly associate fighting with all hockey. These anti-hockey folks also stay away from ALL hockey, not just as participants but as fans.

  51. 2,394 words for this?

  52. You couldn’t think of someone better than Brandon Prust as an example of a player that wouldn’t make it in the league without fighting? He brings a lot more to the table than just that and anyone who’s watched him play would know that.

  53. Excellent artlicle. Bravo.

  54. This is an excellent piece and totally true. I can’t understand the commenters who claim the author doesn’t like fighting or is a wuss. The author admits to loving watching a good fight. Unfortunately, fighting during hockey just interferes with this most excellent sport – it takes away from the level of skill and puck-handling and incredible skating that we could be watching and replaces it with a lot of unnecessary brawling. To paraphrase George Carlin, if I want to watch two people bet the crap out of each other, that’s boxing. Well, I want to watch hockey.

    Some people will argue that fighting in hockey adds elements of strategy to the game. I can’t disagree, that is totally true. When you have a game where fighting is accepted, you have to factor that in to your strategy. But so fucking what? I’d rather have no fighting and teams concentrate on strategies that involve what to do with the puck, not what to do with your fists.

    It would be very easy to remove fighting from the game too. If instead of being generally accepted, fighting and reckless hits were simply given much larger penalties and fines, it would remove this aspect from the game in short order (because it would no longer be good strategy to do it) and raise the level of actual play, making the game more exciting to watch (for someone who likes to watch hockey and not fighting, that is). Sure, fights are fun to watch – but if you really want to watch a fight, then watch a damned fight, not a hockey game.

    Fighting is not condoned and kept around in hockey because of history or whatever – it’s all about money. It’s because there are apparently so many fans who would rather see brawling than skill on the ice. Whether true or not, the owners believe removing fighting from the game would decrease their bottom line, and so it is kept. Sadly, those of us that would rather see more skillful play will have to wait.

  55. One slight amendment. What really bugs me is not if two players get tired of trash-talking and mutually decide they want to beat the crap out of each other – you know, whatever, as long as I get to see my 60 minutes of hockey.

    The real problem is that It’s that it’s an acceptable strategy to try to “take out” a good player on the other team – which leads to the need for enforcers and goons for protection. That it’s an acceptable strategy to try and win by using thuggery to bring your opponents level of play below yours instead of bringing your level of play up. One-on-one fighting resulting from trash-talking or whatever (if mutual) is an annoyance. Reckless hits, cheap shots and intent to injure another player or take him out of the game, or starting a fight that is not mutual – that shit should be a mandatory suspension and HUGE fine for the team – something so drastic that it’s just not worth it. The slap on the wrist you get now for such behavior just lowers the level of play.

    If the fans really want to see blood, maybe the NHL should just hire some goons to come out on the ice between periods to hit each other for a while. Let the hockey players play hockey during the actual game. Then everyone would be happy.

  56. Everyone always compares football and hockey when arguing about fighting. They are two copletely different sports. Football has breaks after every play while hockey is constant back and forth. Sometimes you need a fight to change the momentum of the game. Plus fighting can potentially make the game safer. Without enforcers protecting their players there would be a lot more cheap shots in the game.

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