The yearly debate has started up again: should the NHL outlaw fighting?
Every year after the All-Star break, the debate on whether or not fighting has a place in the game starts. Some pundits think fighting has always had a place in the game and others question whether or not it endangers players. The question, however, shouldn’t be ‘should fighting be outlawed’ but rather, ‘who should be able to fight?’
Hockey and fighting have always gone hand in hand since the beginning. Fighting is just a natural side effect of the physical and emotional game of hockey. The energy, emotion and excitement have to come out some way and fighting is hockey’s natural release.
Perhaps the most important reason as to why fighting shouldn’t be banned is the tradition of it. Fighting is perhaps one of the most gentlemanly and upstanding parts of the game. When was the last time there was a dirty hit in a fight? When was the last cheap shot in a fair fight? Sure there are a few players like
Cindy Sidney Crosby who will pick a fight while their opponent isn’t looking, but in general, it is a clear affair. The tradition of showing the hometown crowd who is boss shouldn’t ever leave the game. It is hockey’s unique trait.
If fighting is outlawed it could actually take the game of hockey down a dark and scary path, one filled with bounties and cheap shots. With no way to release aggression, some players will engage in less than fair practices in order to get to the other team’s agitator. Look at the NFL for instance; the game of football is just about as physical as hockey, and there is no fighting allowed. The game is filled with cheap shots, players sticking fingers in helmets, and the worst of all, players encouraging other teams to go out of their way to injure a player. No one involved with the NHL would ever want the game to go to that place.
During the Versus telecast of the Rangers vs. Devils game, the commentators brought up an interesting point: why not just limit who can fight? The NHLPA has said that it should be ruled illegal for players to not take their helmets off during a fight. The commentators went on to agree with the union, saying it was a good idea but players with visors shouldn’t be allowed to fight. It seems like the most logical answer to the question, as many of the league’s fighters don’t wear one anyway.
The concern for safety is obvious here, but there is no reason to go overboard. The NHLPA is just looking out for the player’s well being, but is fighting really the place where most players get hurt? The answer is no, actually; it is most likely what happens before the fight that someone is hurt- Kris Draper’s broken face courtesy of Claude Lemiuex and Chris Drury’s head laceration just to name a few. Fighting is perhaps one of the cleanest parts of hockey and one of the most honored traditions. It would be foolish for the NHL to ban it.