Monday, November 21, 2005

Fighting To Keep Fighting

Talking to some friends of mine I couldn’t help but notice the talk turned to fighting in the NHL. You are probably wondering why the talk went to fighting in Hockey. Well keep wondering.

A girl in our group asked, “Why do they even have fighting in hockey?” I was surprised that most of my friends who were somewhat hockey knowledgeable didn’t have an answer other than it was exciting for the fans.

“What? Do you think there is no point to the fighting in hockey?” I asked them. By the blank stares in my direction, I knew the overwhelming answer was yes.

“There is a point to fighting?” the girl asked a bit surprised.

Of course there is. There are two reasons to drop the gloves and scrum it up some. Fighting helps protect more talented players, and it breaks tension and stagnate play from teammates. I saw a few nods, but I knew it needed more explanation.

First of all, fighting keeps bigger guys on the other team in check. Where would Wayne Gretzky be if he was getting nailed into the boards every night? If there were no Mark Messier or Esa Tikkanen, Gretzky would be a target for bigger players to hurt. Fighting keeps those bigger guys honest. If you hit our guy expect an answer back.

Secondly it breaks tension. For instance if an incident occurred in a previous game the two teams have played, like a late hit or a cheap shot, a fight may break out early in the next game (sometimes even during warm up before the game). It breaks the tension of the players on the ice and the game can continue with out worrying about retribution or retaliation from the other team.

It also breaks the monotony of the game. Sometimes a rhythm is established that players just can’t get out of, without any scoring and little action. It seems that the team just can’t get anything going. The fight breaks that up and pumps a team up.

Guys like Gary Roberts, Ian Laperriere, Darren McCarty, Donald Brashear, Todd Bertuzzi, and more both past and present know of fighting’s place in hockey. There is also something almost honorable about the hockey fight as well.

Hockey is a game played with weapons, hockey sticks. What happens in a fight? The players drop the two things that would help most in a fight, their stick and gloves. Players don’t use their sticks to take a whack at other players (except for McSorley, but his career ended because of it).

Other sports don’t have this type of upstanding conduct. Football players don’t even take their helmets off during a fight (have you tried to punch a football helmet with your bare hands? Not smart). In baseball it’s usually the pitcher throwing the ball at the hitter (seems a cowardly act). And in soccer (or football for all my UK friends, which I have none so it’s soccer and it still sucks) there is more fighting in the stands than between players.

Hockey still needs the fight, maybe not every night, but it has to be there. Especially now that the NHL is looking to strengthen rivalries is fighting more important. Not to mention it’s pretty exciting to watch.

The girl just shook her head at me and told me fighting was still pointless. Knowing I couldn’t win that fight I changed the subject again and stepped away from the soap box I used.

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