You read the title right. And if you've got a problem with it, we can drop the gloves and go at it.
All kidding aside, you'll either completely agree with everything stated in this article, or you'll be vehemently against everything against it.
Before we continue, I'd like to state that I believe "spontaneous" fighting should be a part of the game. I've never condoned staged fights between two goons, and I never will. However, in a sport that promotes the violent contact that it does, it's necessary for players to also be able to protect themselves and their teammates.
Many will argue that fighting should be banned from hockey based on the hypocrisy of the message the NHL is trying to send to it's players: you can drop the gloves and pound an opponent in the temple with a flurry of punches, but you can't drive any part of your body through the head during a body check. So the argument becomes, why not just take fighting out if the whole point is to reduce concussions?
There are plenty of reasons why - which will be delved into below - but above all else, it's become clear that the NHL has no plans to remove fighting from the game anytime soon. It sounds harsh, but at this point it looks like it would have to take a very serious injury, or even a death, for the league to consider removing something that has forever been "part of the game."
We've seen a couple of fights in the past couple of seasons that have ended ugly, and we've seen players like Connor McDavid get injured using their hands for "all the wrong" reasons, but at the end of the day there are still plenty of key factors to make the argument that fighting still has a place in professional hockey, albeit a much smaller place, but an important one nonetheless.
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10 No One Ever Questions A Player Defending a Teammate
This concept applies across all sports, not just in hockey. We've seen offensive linemen yank down defensive players by their helmets for getting a late shot in on their quarterback. We've seen basketball players throw punches in heated exchanges on the court. Baseball players empty from the dugouts and bullpens to get involved after their star player gets beaned. We've even seen soccer players get overly physical with each other after a hard tackle. While the majority of these instances don't lead to full out blows, there's no doubt that the concept of defending one's teammate is accepted throughout sport - hockey is just a lot more lenient about you handle the opponent in question.
9 Fighting is Down...
Across the board, fighting in hockey is down considerably compared to the numbers you'd find during the 20th century. We won't get into the specific numbers here, but it's been proven and is widely accepted as fact. Staged fights have become nearly extinct and referees have gone as far as breaking up fights before they even happen, and players themselves are suddenly refraining from dropping the gloves in situations where, in the past, they might have been swinging before the gloves even came off.
Why is this a reason to keep fighting in the game? Keep reading
8 ...Now It Can Be Truly Considered a Momentum Shifter
For years, proponents of fighting often pointed to the "momentum shift" it might bring to a team when one of their players does battle with an opponent. Coaches often used enforcers for that specific reason - to go onto the ice and stir the pot, wake up the bench, provide a spark...insert whatever cliché you want. With staged fights down and enforcers slowly but surely fading away, the idea of two "regular" or star players going at it has never been so exhilarating or energizing. People still talk about the epic battle between Vincent Lecavalier and Jarome Iginla in the 2004-2005 Stanley Cup Finals to this day.
Speaking of Iginla, he almost went toe-to-toe with Dion Phaneuf a few weeks ago, but the referees did not allow the two to go at it. If you are a regular Twitter user, you would have noticed that the majority of the response to that incident were complaints directed at the officials for ruining what would have likely been a beauty of a tilt. Even those against fighting were clamoring for that showdown.
7 It's Unique to the Sport
While those against fighting will argue that this is the main reason that fighting should be completely abolished from the sport, keep in mind a couple of aspects of this "unique" aspect of the sport. From a "management" or "financial" perspective, hockey will always be competing from a position of weakness south of the border, as the NFL, MLB and NBA are always going to be #1, #2, and #3 in America. One of the few ways hockey can differentiate themselves from the other three is the physicality of the sport. Of course, football is a violent sport in its own right, but you won't go a single Sunday without fans complaining that the physicality and toughness factor that endears so many to the NFL is slowly but surely being fazed out by Roger Goodell and the officials who will throw a flag for practically any big hit dished out. Granted, the NHL is doing the same with headshots and dangerous hits along the boards, but fighting is one way the game can keep the "viciousness" of the sport without necessarily changing the entire way players approach and play the game.
Sounds a bit "brutal," granted, but the NHL is not in the business of comforting people - they're in the business of entertainment, and if fighting represents a way to differentiate themselves from an entertainment standpoint, then fighting isn't going anywhere.
6 The Alternative is Even More Vicious
Let's pretend for a moment that Gary Bettman will wake up tomorrow morning and suddenly decide that it's time for the game to rid itself of it's archaic traditions and finally ban fighting from the game. Supporters of a game without fisticuffs will rejoice, and perhaps - initially - with good reason. I personally have no issue watching a clean, fast, hard-fought hockey game without any gloves hitting the ice or knuckles cracking cheekbones.
What I would have an issue with is a hockey game filled with vicious hacks, dangerous hits and other intents to injure that will no longer be met with retribution or punishment for the guilty player.
Many of you will argue that fighting is irrelevant once the games matter because the fighters and pluggers don't play anyways. You'd be right in saying that, because it's fact - but what about game 32, or 45, or 51? What happens when a fourth-liner who was called up from the AHL comes up and wants to make his mark by taking a run at Steven Stamkos or Claude Giroux? What happens when Matt Cooke or Raffi Torres revert to their former selves and stick a knee out or bring an elbow up high knowing no one will be able to do anything about it?
Are players supposed to stand around if someone decides to imitate Chris Simon and swing a hockey stick right into the face of a teammate?
I don't think so. We'll get into policing the game later on, but keep in mind that the alternative is worse. If dirty players are allowed to run free without the fear of having to answer for their actions, all hell could break loose at any given moment.
5 Players Still Accept It
I could go on, and on, and on as to why players still feel that fighting is still part of the game. One reason is that they still do it (we'll get into that later). Another reason might be that players are subject to the rules of "machoism" and no player would ever come out against fighting for fear of being ridiculed in the media and by fans (even though deep down they probably don't care what any of us think of them).
Instead, we'll let Nazem Kadri handle this argument. Here's what Kadri had to say after Connor McDavid got into a fight last week that left him with a fracture in his hand and keep in mind that Kadri is a star player who is not considered a fighter:
"Obviously it's unfortunate that that happened," Kadri said. "Good for him for standing up for himself. ... You don't like to see it, but there's that compete level, especially in every young star, that enough's enough and you're sick and tired of getting abused."
If I were a betting man, I'd say that the majority of NHL players are happy they can stand up for themselves in this manner when someone is getting under their skin.
4 Protection of Star Players is Imperative
This point relates to a point that will be made later in the article, but they're split up because there are a couple of angles to look at this from: the "star" player angle and the enforcer angle.
Another commonly thrown around term when it comes to fighting in hockey is the notion that players "grow a few inches" or "feel safer" when they know there is someone around who can back them up, or at least keep the other team on notice that any funny stuff won't be tolerated. While the role of the Marty McSorley-type bodyguard might be gone, for the most part, there must be some reason that John Scott still has an NHL roster spot, right?
3 Fans Are Still Entertained by Fighting
Apart from the now viral video of a mother shielding her young daughter's eyes from a fight that was happening right in front of her at an Arizona Coyotes game last week, you'd be hard-pressed to find a hockey fan who doesn't like a good fight while in the arena. I stress this point because the guy watching from his couch at home might be against fighting, and might point it out to his buddy watching with him, or he might Tweet about it, but the NHL isn't necessarily concerned about that individual because he did not pay for a ticket to that particular game.
When a fight ends, what do you hear? Booing and chastising of the fisticuffs that just took place? Or loud, voracious cheering for the battle that ensued? Give the people what they want - and until people stop standing up and cheering through fights, they'll still be a part of the game.
2 Players Are Still Willing and Ready to Drop the Gloves
It can be argued that for some players, fighting is part of their game because it's one of the few ways they can earn the respect of their teammates and the attention of their coaches. For others, it might be a way to keep their job in the National Hockey League. These days, though, the NHL no longer panders to the big brute with ham-like fists, as you've got to be able to play some, and skate well, or you won't even make it through the first week of training camp. Some of the more "reputable" enforcers in today's game are still significant contributors to their teams game-plan; names like Chris Neil, Milan Lucic (to a lesser extent) and Brandon Prust are a few that come to mind.
1 The Game Still Needs to be Policed
No matter how hard the NHL tries to rid the game of headshots, hits from behind and late shots, the game is moving way too fast for it to be completely eliminated from the game. Not only that, some players still just don't give a damn - but them in confined area for sixty minutes with a pest like Brad Marchand running around and common sense might go out the window, and that might lead to a player deciding to take out his frustration. It happens, and still happens fairly frequently, even though the NHL has spent the last several seasons disciplining players with suspensions (and with that comes a lot of lost salary) - but in the heat of the moment, money doesn't matter.
What might matter, though, is a guy like John Scott or Zdeno Chara barreling down on you with the sole intention of caving your face in as retribution for taking out one of their teammates. In the moment, what might seem scarier to you? The fine or the fight?
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