Look, NHL, we have to talk...

Graphic Comments
October 02 2013 03:32PM

Them's fighting words.

Ok, NHL, it's time we had the talk.

No, not THAT talk, although it is about clearing up some myths about protection.

No, it's time we had a talk about the role of fighting and violence in hockey. As in, why is there one?

There are many reasons trotted out every time the role of fighting in hockey is questioned, and often they sound a lot like the same reasons used to defend gun culture in the United States. Let me paraphrase a few of them:

  • "I feel safer with a gun an enforcer."
  • "If you knew everyone had a gun an enforcer, wouldn't you think twice about attacking a star player."
  • "Having a gun an enforcer creates better shooting opportunities."

Hmmm, ok. Maybe the metaphor doesn't work as well on that last one. But you get my point.

I just don't want to see the day where we start hearing this one:

  • "Fights don't kill hockey players..."

Sure, everyone stands and cheers when there's a fight, but one day, suddenly, the cheering will stop:

Suddenly, the cheering stopped.

Ok, yes. I'm being overly dramatic and making a rather simplistic comparison.

Before you get all uppity, not only do I understand both issues are rather more complex than this, I also realize that the comparison is completely unfair. But I exaggerate for effect.

The point is that the arguments to keep fighting in hockey are absurd. Just as the arguments used to justify a gun culture are absurd.

Let's start with the core idea that the only way to prevent dangerours, violent acts on the ice is to have more dangerous, violent acts on the ice:

We had to destroy the village in order to save it.

Sorry. That doesn't wash. Not only logically, but also empirically (s/t to @67sound for the link).

There is absolutely no logic in the notion that the threat of getting beat up will deter anyone from taking liberties with a star player. At most, it just means your tough guy is going to have to fight the other team's tough guy. At worst, you're going to have to wrestle around with another guy in your weight class at some point down the road. Maybe.

I say "some point down the road" because more than likely, if you've done something really egregious, you've likely also been thrown out of the game and will face a suspension. This very real threat of punishment actually does have some value as a deterrent. Of course, the most effective deterrent would be if these guys actually had a modicum of respect for each other:

Those Christians sure were deterred.

Boy, subjecting those Christians to violent punishment in front of cheering crowds sure deterred them, didn't it?

Oh, and one more thing about suspensions. Coincidentally enough, they often seem to be just long enough that the perpetrator misses the next meeting between the two teams, further diminishing the likelihood of paying any kind of on-ice price for his actions. There is really no credible threat of retribution in most cases.

The other main line of reasoning for those that insist fighting is a necessary part of the game is the quaint notion that these often staged bouts between two guys that get barely more than 5 minutes of ice time can be the difference between winning and losing.

The fact is, that the closer the score and the more important the game, the less fighting there is:

The importance of fighting

Think about it. There is almost no fighting in the playoffs. Especially the deeper you go. Even in the regular season, there is much less fighting during close games.

And this idea that sending your goon out to get into in fight can somehow spark your team is just ludicrous. I mean, doesn't it necessarily imply that the other team also has a guy that got into a fight? So who's team benefits then? The guy that started the fight? The guy that won the fight?

Look, what it comes down to is this: Yes, it's long been a part of the game. Yes, it's exciting for the crowds. And yes, there are sometimes uncessary injuries as a result. I guess at the end of it all, I'm with Don Cherry on this one:

If only Don Cherry took up the cause.

 

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#1 acg5151
October 02 2013, 04:15PM
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Not the same as guns in the USA - guns are actually useful.

When a guy was breaking into my dad's house, when he saw that rifle of his, the burglar started running.

When you see George Parros on the ice, are you going to start skating?

You can use a gun to shoot animals and put food on the table.

Can George Parros put goals on the table?

Big difference.

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#2 Cale
October 02 2013, 05:58PM
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Come for the hockey analysis, stay for political opinions touted as fact?

Unless your politics are directly related to hockey (why should taxpayers be on the hook for privately owned stadiums is fine), please keep them to yourself.

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#3 Cam Charron
October 02 2013, 06:17PM
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I want the next Graphic Comments to be about how it's really a government "slimdown" not a shutdown.

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#4 Matt
October 02 2013, 10:22PM
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Mind = blown.

The arguments might not be the same, but the attitudes of gun nuts and fights-in-hockey nuts are pretty similar.

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#5 Brent
October 03 2013, 01:05AM
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I would like to see the goons gone from hockey (ya sestito I am talking about you). Fights between regular players in the heat of the moment are one thing, but get rid of the knuckle throwers that really bring little else to the game. Because of the instigator rule, they really can do little to protect star players, like they used to do in say the Gretsky era (ys Semenko and McSorely I am talking about you). And, as was graphically indicated above (plus the link), they provide little scoring, are defensive liabilities, and appear to be somewhat counter productive in preventing injuries. Kind of like fu...screwing for virginity. I know people love fighting and are very vocal about keeping it in the game. But similar to all the dire predictions made when pubs became smoke free, maybe it will make the game even more popular? Problem is, like getting rid of nuclear weapons, someone has to do it first.

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#6 Blue Lines
October 03 2013, 02:25AM
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Fighting in a sport that is supposed to invilves skills with a hockey stick and skating is funny to me. Why bother playing hockey if there;s fighting? The only thing fighting is for is to intimidate the opponent or ot do him bodily harm. If that's the case, then why not just forget about hockey and fight on the ice instead? No other supposedly " non fighting sports" employs goons. Do you see basket ball teams, baseball, soccer teams employing mike tyson or a kickboxer to fight on their team? The fact that some ppl can get a job by punching ppl in hockey is hilarius because while most players train their " hockey skills others train for fighting. Not to mention the hockey fight is the most retarded thing one can think of when it comes to fighting. It always favors the bigger guy, and when he comes after a smaller guy well now the smaller guy cant use his feet to defend himself because of his skates, theres no eye gouging, nothing you can do to defend yourself from a goon who's intent is to crush your face in front of thousands of fans. In boxing a pro fighter fights with another pro. both train for that specific purpose of fighting. In hockey, it's just a few goons. That's not hockey, is it? It's funny to watch hockey fights cause that's as close to stupid caveman fighting you can get. I dont even think cavemen fought that stupidly. You grab, me then I grab you, then we try to small each others face.

Some say the goons are there to protect the stars. Bullshat. Do you see fights like the NHL anywhere else in other non fighting sports? No, because their league simply does not allow it. If hockey players want to be fighters than go fight in Pride or boxing or MMA or even on the street. Why have a few goons do it in hockey? Either play hockey or go fight in Pride. The NHL aint fooling no one. Ask any NHL goon to try that grab and punch method in MMA and see how far they get. No wonder some of these goons have unrepairable brain damage, Gee, I wonder why?

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#7 Blue Lines
October 03 2013, 02:26AM
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Fighting in a sport that is supposed to invilves skills with a hockey stick and skating is funny to me. Why bother playing hockey if there;s fighting? The only thing fighting is for is to intimidate the opponent or ot do him bodily harm. If that's the case, then why not just forget about hockey and fight on the ice instead? No other supposedly " non fighting sports" employs goons. Do you see basket ball teams, baseball, soccer teams employing mike tyson or a kickboxer to fight on their team? The fact that some ppl can get a job by punching ppl in hockey is hilarius because while most players train their " hockey skills others train for fighting. Not to mention the hockey fight is the most retarded thing one can think of when it comes to fighting. It always favors the bigger guy, and when he comes after a smaller guy well now the smaller guy cant use his feet to defend himself because of his skates, theres no eye gouging, nothing you can do to defend yourself from a goon who's intent is to crush your face in front of thousands of fans. In boxing a pro fighter fights with another pro. both train for that specific purpose of fighting. In hockey, it's just a few goons. That's not hockey, is it? It's funny to watch hockey fights cause that's as close to stupid caveman fighting you can get. I dont even think cavemen fought that stupidly. You grab, me then I grab you, then we try to small each others face.

Some say the goons are there to protect the stars. Bullshat. Do you see fights like the NHL anywhere else in other non fighting sports? No, because their league simply does not allow it. If hockey players want to be fighters than go fight in Pride or boxing or MMA or even on the street. Why have a few goons do it in hockey? Either play hockey or go fight in Pride. The NHL aint fooling no one. Ask any NHL goon to try that grab and punch method in MMA and see how far they get. No wonder some of these goons have unrepairable brain damage, Gee, I wonder why?

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#8 Blue Lines
October 03 2013, 02:27AM
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Oops. Accidental over posts. PC slowish problems.

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#10 beloch
October 03 2013, 07:47AM
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One way to actually kill goon-fights is to make fighting penalties consider past player history. I thought about an increasing number of game-suspensions based on the number of previous offenses or even banning players from the league once a certain number of fights has been reached, but there's one simple rule that makes all of this unnecessary.

3 strikes.

Players get 3 fights per year, whether as an instigator or not, that earn them the usual 5 minute major that's standard now. After their 3 strikes are up, they earn a 10 minute double-major.

For example, say that team A sends an enforcer out to pick a fight with a regular fourth-liner on team B. They simultaneously drop the gloves and have their bout. If team A's enforcer has had his three strikes, but team B's player hasn't, then team B will receive a 5 minute powerplay.

Obviously, this ensures that no goon will ever pick a fight with a non-goon. That's the important thing. A hard-working fourth liner under his 3 strike limit could take one for the team and pick a fight with an enforcer on the other team, earning himself 5 minutes and a game-suspension, but inflicting a 10 minute penalty on the team that iced an enforcer over the 3-strike limit. This would ensure that teams are motivated to keep their goons off the ice.

The only real problem, and I'm not sure if I have a solution, is that some excellent players could become a liability. For example, Jarome Iginla averages 3 fights per season and has had 4 or more fights in 6 seasons. Under this rule, once he's had his 3 strikes he'd actually become a fight-magnet, since sending a star player off for 10 minutes is a pretty sweet deal. Unfortunately, if you relax the three-strikes rule for non-instigators, teams will just have to make sure their enforcers don't instigate fights with non-enforcers. Perhaps fighting would become less common under this rule, and perhaps players like Iginla can reduce the number of fights they get into with this incentive. Still, it would bear watching, since you would want to minimize the impact on real hockey players.

Does anyone have a better idea for a specific rule?

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#12 Unknown Comic
October 03 2013, 10:50AM
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You get rid of the staged fights and the guys that can only fight by giving suspensions after a certain amount of accumulated majors. Simular to yellow card totals in soccer.

Three fights a year should be enough for guys to fight if/when (debatable) necessary

4th major - auto one game suspension 5th major - auto five game suspension etc...

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#13 Greg
October 03 2013, 05:01PM
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Graphic Comments wrote:

If you forced the refs to actually hand out an instigator penalty on EVERY fight instead of just copping out, I think you would reduce fighting by a good 70-80%. Definitely all the staged goon-goon fights would go away, and that's half right there.

Actually, I think that's a fantastic idea. No coach or player would allow any teammate to risk putting the team down a man in a meaningful game situation for a meaningless fight. Combined with the existing fines to coaches for late game antics already in place, I think staged fighting would indeed disappear, while, ahem, "meaningful" fights would not be barred.

I think that would be a proposal both sides of the debate could live with, and at least keeps moving the needle in the right direction.

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#14 Clutch-fan
October 03 2013, 05:24PM
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I don't want hockey to be soccer, hockey is a sport with fighting in it and that's awesome. I don't feel bad for George Parros, he went to an Ivy League school, the dude had options, and he chose to do this understanding the risk involved.

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#15 Line judge
October 03 2013, 06:24PM
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@Clutch-fan

Parros had 2 choices. Fight or lose his job. The reason he even has a job is because the league hasn't banned fighting. Hockey is a sport with fighting because it's allowed fighting. They can easily ban it. If you want to see real fighting, go on the street and you can see real fighting. If you want sport fighting there are many you can choose from, and they have better fighting skill sets than what I see happening on the ice. 2 grown men grabbing each other and trying to pummel each others heads while on skates and on top of hard ice, throwing punches at helmets? Doesn't sound like hockey to me, just two guys begging for brain damage. If Parros keep it up, someday he won't even remember how to walk home.

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#16 Clutch-fan
October 03 2013, 07:59PM
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@line-judge

Fighting is an integral part of hockey, and I enjoy watching hockey because fighting is a part of it, nothing wrong with a good tilt and sometimes people get hurt, that is a part of it.

Parros didn't have to play hockey, he went to an Ivy league school and could have chosen any number of vocations in life, he chooses to play hockey and I don't blame him or pity him for doing what he really wants to.

Fighting in hockey embodies the spirit of this intensely physical sport, the passion that both you and I enjoy watching.

If hockey players were made up of a disenfranchised group of people I might feel differently, but having played myself, I see it as a fairly eclectic group.

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#17 Line judge
October 03 2013, 10:19PM
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@Clutch-fan

It's a part of hockey because it is allowed. Just like tripping is not allowed. Fighting would be a part of tennis if they allowed it, but they don't. We can say that anything is a part of anything should we choose. But it's a matter of what we choose. Not everything human beings choose is right or even smart. Child abuse or child molestation is a part of every society...but should be allow that too and say it's ok because it's a "part" of society?

I don't pity Parros, I'm sure he's making more money than if he were to lay bricks. But he probably couldn't make the league if fighting wasn't in the game. Which begs the question, "what is hcokey"? Hockey is simple, use a stick and out the puck into the net. Kids train for those skills. Fighting does not put the puck into the net. Saying fighting is a part of the game is like handing a boxer a hockey stick during a fight so he can slash his opponent and calling that a part of boxing. Why not? Because they don't allow it. Because they say it's not a part of boxing. The stuff that goes on during the game with fists and sticks, it's more gruesome than alot of the stuff you see in contact sports.

It's not fair for the majority of the players who train with a tick to put the puck into the net to deal with some goon who is better at using his fists than to play the game. Why not then just throw the skill out altogether and get kick boxers to play the game? No one would watch it because there would be no hockey, cause it's the game. just like fighting on the ice is not the game. It's only a "part" of it because people allow it to be. But make no mistake fighting in hockey is not hockey, it's not the game. It's only a part in it because it is allowed to be.

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#18 Line judge
October 03 2013, 10:25PM
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@Clutch-fan

Don't forget when Tonya Harding's ex bopped Nancy Kerrigan in the knee. Why not make that a part of figure skating. I sure as heck would tune in to watch skaters beating each other up so they won't be able to compete...but the point is, that has nothing to do with figure skating just like fighting has nothing to do with putting a puck into the net.

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#19 clutch-fan
October 04 2013, 01:23AM
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@Line judge

Fighting is a great part of hockey, and I enjoy hockey as much as I do because it is a part of it. It is a fundamental part of the game, and I am happy you don't have the power to pervert the game by removing it.

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