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 gunan enforcer."
- "If you knew everyone had
a gunan enforcer, wouldn’t you think twice about attacking a star player."
a gunan 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:
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:
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:
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:
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:
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