My take on the current state of Fighting in Hockey

The great game of hockey is very unique, like no other. You could even fight a player on the other team at the expense of sitting in the sin bin for 5 minutes. Fighting in hockey draws a lot of casual viewership. Once you see it once, you want to see it again and again. There’s nothing like two men wanting to duke it out to give their respective teams a shot of energy. Who doesn’t love fighting in this sport?

 

Apparently the NHL doesn’t anymore.

 

At Tuesday night’s game between the Boston Bruins and Columbus Blue Jackets, Josh Anderson of the Jackets shoved Bruins defenseman Adam McQuaid and of course you knew McQuaid wasn’t going to take it. These guys’ are true heavyweights. Anderson weighs 221 pounds and stands at 6’3 and McQuaid comes in at 212 pounds with a height of 6’4. To say this would be good fight to watch would be an understatement. They both dropped their gloves signifying it was go time.

 

However the linesman closest to the action stopped the two from even starting to fight. Instead we saw both men draw 2 minute roughing minors for legit nothing. My initial reaction when I was watching this was “why?” In what was a drama filled game I decided to give the refs a pass for this one.

 

Fast forward to Thursday night’s heated matchup between the Bruins and Buffalo Sabres. William Carrier of the Sabres and once again Adam McQuaid went for blows on each other. When the fight started, the linesmen immediately broke it up. Carrier and McQuaid still traded shots on one another even when the referees were in the middle of it. They should’ve stayed out of their business and let them duke it out because I really thought one of the referees was going to eat shot to the jaw. Hasn’t been the first time that’s happened. The NHL should be embarrassed with the way they’re handling this situation.

 

Fight totals have been going down season by season. That’s natural as the NHL wants to implement more talent in the league, but if you were to tell me in 2009 that fights were going to drop from 734 to 344 7 years later I would’ve laughed in your face. Sure enough it did and that’s mind blowing.

 

Currently the team that sits as the fighting major leader is the Anaheim Ducks with 25 fights, which aren’t too low 37 games into the season. Let’s look at the bottom of those standings. Capitals are last with 3 and the Blackhawks, Rangers and Hurricanes are tied for 2nd to last with 4. Even in the lockout-shortened year in 2013, the last place team in fights was the Oilers with 13 fights. God that’s pathetic. Goes to show how much fighting has dipped in just a few short seasons.

 

Fighting being banned would turn a lot of the old time hockey fans away. Taking out fights would be a big mistake from a business standpoint as well in viewership, ticket sales departments. The league doesn’t need that, as the NHL doesn’t get as much attention as the other leagues such as the NBA, NFL and MLB. Fighting is still kind of there but only half-heartedly as they’re really trying to prevent more head injuries.

 

Rules over the years have changed like not allowing players to take off their own helmets while fighting. Another one was how all players must wear visors unless you were grandfathered in before the new rule became official in June of 2013. With the way the league handled concussions and brain trauma back in the day, the league knew they had to do something before more lawsuits crept in. Even more so with the deaths of NHL enforcers Wade Belak, Derek Boogaard and Rick Rypien.

 

Whatever the NHL decides to do in the long run with fights really doesn’t matter to me. I still love the sport and everything it stands for. The speed and skill at the level these players play at is incredible and a joy to watch. It’s the NHL’s choice on whether or not to cut fighting out altogether. If they do ever decide to pull the trigger and ban fighting, they just better prepare for the backlash that comes along with it.

Photo credit: Fred Squillante of the Columbus Dispatch

 

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