Tuesday, March 8, 2011

The pros and cons of fighting in the NHL

Kill him! But, uh, you know, don't hurt him.
The debate over fighting has returned to NHL circles. And if you're a fan of the occasional scrap, you probably didn't have a very good week.

Players like Rick DiPietro, Colton Orr and Derek Boogaard are still on the sidelines due to serious injuries suffered in fights. Then word came last week that the late Bob Probert was suffering from a degenerative brain disease believed to be caused by repeated head trauma. Before fans could fully absorb that news, Edmonton Oilers' number one overall draft pick Taylor Hall had his rookie season ended by an ankle injury suffered in his first career fight.

So here we go again. It seems that the fighting debate has been raging for decades. And while it's lead to hours of heated rhetoric, there's little evidence of anyone ever actually changing their mind.

But maybe that can change. I've spoken to experts on both sides of the issue, and I've captured their best arguments below. For the first time, here are both sides of hockey's greatest debate presented side-by-side. Maybe, just maybe, we can settle this once and for all.

Pro-fighting: Banning fighting would eliminate the chance of a fight between Matt Cooke and Sean Avery that the linesmen could just "forget" to break up.

Anti-fighting: Fights are nothing more than quasi-exciting but ultimately demeaning sideshows that don't showcase any actual hockey skills and have no place in the game, and these days we have the shootout for that.

Pro-fighting: Without the threat of fighting, noble enforcers like Jody Shelley and Trevor Gillies would be unable to protect their teammates from despicable cheap-shot artists like Jody Shelley and Trevor Gillies.

Anti-fighting: Let's face it, nobody really likes having fighting in the game except for ignorant know-nothings like fans, most general managers and coaches, and virtually every single player.

Pro-fighting: Getting rid of fighting would just result in every episode of Coach's Corner being nothing more than a seven-minute diatribe about no-touch icing,

Anti-fighting: If punching somebody in the face at a hockey game is outlawed, only outlaws will punch somebody in the face at a hockey game. And Flyer fans. Actually, mostly Flyer fans.

Pro-fighting: If we just hold off on doing anything to address the rapidly growing list of players lost to concussions for another year or two, all of us will eventually get to play in the NHL for a few games.

Anti-fighting: Mike Milbury has historically been pro-fighting.

Pro-fighting: Wait, Mike Milbury is now apparently anti-fighting.

Anti-fighting: Fighting is an outdated concept that may have made sense for previous generations but has no place in the modern game, like goalies playing without masks or an NHL team in Winnipeg.

Pro-fighting: The inability to regularly write simplistic and condescending anti-fighting columns could spell the end of the already struggling newspaper industry.

Anti-fighting: Studies have shown that a total ban on fighting would increase hockey viewership by 20% in the southern United States, because Tom says he's pretty sure he'd start watching.

Pro-fighting: Hey, remember when they had fighting in NHL 93 and then they took it out for NHL 94? Which one did you like better? Exactly.

Anti-fighting: In addition to being overpaid and overrated based on last year's Cup run, Niemi is known to snore loudly on team flights and often plays bad Finnish pop music on the Sharks' team stereo. (Editor's note: Wait, sorry, this should have been listed as an "Antti fighting" argument.)

Pro-fighting: Players engaging in fights face the possibility of devastating injury and even long-term disability, which is a risk that I as a fan sitting in my easy chair have decided I am willing to accept.

Anti-fighting: Eliminating fighting would send a strong message to impressionable children that settling a dispute by knocking somebody unconscious with your fists is unacceptable; instead, use your rock solid shoulder pad like a gentleman would.




25 comments:

  1. "Fights are nothing more than quasi-exciting but ultimately demeaning sideshows that don't showcase any actual hockey skills and have no place in the game, and these days we have the shootout for that."

    Boom, headshot! Err, maybe I should have picked a better expression.

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  2. i was kind of hoping for a Kypreos line ... something like,

    Anti Fighting: Kypreos never has his 4 minutes/game career ended with one punch, and fans are spared from listening to his "insights" into the game on Sportsnet.

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  3. Loved it. I think the scariest thing is that none of these are really any worse than most of the arguments people who get passionate about this debate present from either side of it.

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  4. I just thought of a great way to make fighting safer! First we'll lock everyone's helmet on like when you were a little kid and couldn't get the stap off yourself. THEN...here's the best part...switch everyone in hockey to the new JerseryGloves(tm) system. The gloves are sown into the jersey so you can't actually drop them anymore. There, problem solved.

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  5. @DGB So which joke is the one in which only you would get as you stated on Twitter yesterday?

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  6. Yeah, which joke was the only one you would find funny?

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  7. quite an enjoyable post, but I lol'd so hard at the "Antti fighting" editor's note.

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  8. It was the "Antti-fighting" joke. I find it so stupid that it wraps all the way back around to being funny.

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  9. As much as I love and support fighting in hockey, a world void of Damien Cox sure is tempting.

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  10. "Pro-fighting: Hey, remember when they had fighting in NHL 93 and then they took it out for NHL 94? Which one did you like better? Exactly."

    Win.

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  11. Loved it! I lol'd so hard I scared a student.

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  12. dagger comment towards winnipeg getting an nhl team

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  13. I laughed so hard. You honestly make my day. THANK YOU. :)

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  14. Great post.

    I think I heard somewhere that attendance at Nassau Colliseum has gone up about 15% since the Pens/Isles brawls.

    Stick that in your pipe Cox.

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  15. ... that's probably just because there was another road trip from Quebec.

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  16. 9:40 AM. It's SEWN, not sown.

    DERP!

    I hated fighting in NHL Hockey on my Sega. I always played without it. And without icing. Forking wastes of time.

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  17. ...this is the part where Howard Berger points out there are STILL starving children in Africa.

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  18. I laughed pretty hard at the NHLPA 93/NHL 94 comment. I was a '93 guy all the way.

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  19. "I think I heard somewhere that attendance at Nassau Coliseum has gone up about 15% since the Pens/Isles brawls."

    That's probably Tom's brother Stan.

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  20. Interesting...

    And here I thought that I preferred NHL '93 because the North Stars were still in it...

    You've given me much to think about...

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  21. "Without the threat of fighting, noble enforcers like Jody Shelley and Trevor Gillies would be unable to protect their teammates from despicable cheap-shot artists like Jody Shelley and Trevor Gillies."

    LOL - so true!

    I think a lot of people like to mix the head shots debate with the fighting debate. There's a difference in the two. Head shots are illegal according to the rules and players never expect to get hit in the head. Fighting is acceptable according to the rules BUT any player who doesn't want to be involved in a fight can easily opt out. 99% of Fights only occur between two willing participants. That last 1% are just as illegal as head shots and are irrelevant.

    c_gee

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  22. To c_gee

    If fighting is allowed, why do they give major penalties for it?

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  23. Max Pacioretty called for disciplinary hearing on role in hit to Zdeno Chara’s reputation

    Montreal, QC- And in one moment, Zdeno Chara’s career changed. Hustling for the puck against reputed Montreal Canadiens diver, Max Pacioretty, Chara attempted a routine check on the streaking forward to separate him from the puck- which vanished from all replays- when Pacioretty attempted to sell an interference call by flinging himself face first into the stanchion, silencing the Bell Centre and forcing the referees to eject Chara from a close divisional rivalry game with seeding implications.



    Pacioretty knocked himself unconscious on the play and lay prone on the ice for several minutes as students from the National Theatre School of Canada dressed up as doctors loaded him onto a stretcher before sending him to the hospital for tests. The spectators were so taken in by Pacioretty’s performance, that they immediately booed the Bruins captain, even though according to Chara’s coach and teammates, he is not “that kind of guy”.



    Said Chara on the hit:

    “I was riding him out and unfortunately, I leaned and he jumped a bit and he hit the extension," said Chara. "Obviously it wasn't my intention to push him into the partition. Things happen fast. That's not my style. I play hard, physical, but I never try to hurt someone."



    Jacques Martin, the director of the Lord Chamberlin’s Men, did not drop the act even after the referee incorrectly awarded the Canadiens a 5 minute major for interference:

    "It's serious when you see an injury like that," said Montreal coach Jacques Martin. "The league has to deal with those issues. It's not the first time. It seems to be getting worse and worse. It was a dangerous hit."



    Following the hit, journalists rushed to the defence of Chara, pointing out that, upon watching replays of the hit, there was clearly no intent on the part of Chara to build the Bell Centre’s arena to include the middle stanchion that Pacioretty jumped into. Equally absurd is the claim coming from certain corners of the French press that Chara’s actions were clearly premeditated as evidenced by his degree in Architecture earned from the Technical University of KoŇ°ice before undertaking his hockey career.



    When reached for comment in the Bruins dressing room, rookie Brad Marchand, clearly disgusted with what he sees as a lack of respect for the game, commented that “The Oscar’s were last week”.



    Pacioretty’s act was so convincing that doctors at the Montreal General wasted valuable public resources in submitting Pacioretty to a battery of tests that, perhaps inevitably, came back negative. Obviously also supporters of the Montreal Canadiens, the doctors kept Pacioretty overnight in the hopes of the NHL’s head office suspending Chara.



    Only time will tell if the league office will finally put its collective foot down and suspend Pacioretty for hurting Chara’s feelings and causing him to hide in the team bus until a PR executive convinced him to meet the media post-game.

    Either way, this rivalry continues to heat up and bear out the prophetic words of Marchand: “They like to get in and shoot their mouths of and then when you hit them they’ll dive down and fall easy.” Anticipation for the rematch in Boston at the end of the month is already drawing interest from various corners of the acting community, as Al Pacino and Anthony Hopkins have been rumoured to have bought tickets immediately after hearing of the controversy.

    With files from Associated Press.

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  24. Nice. Then, at the same time, they can bring in people like OJ Simpson from jail, because OJ never INTENDED to kill his wife or anything. And, since he had never killed her before, there were clearly no wife-killing precedents, so he should definitely be released. Plus, just look at the way she extended her neck into that knife. It's unfortunate she did that, but it's not his fault.

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  25. Without the threat of fighting, noble enforcers like Jody Shelley and Trevor Gillies would be unable to protect their teammates from despicable cheap-shot artists like Jody Shelley and Trevor Gillies.
    this is the greatest line in the post. they protect their teams from themselves

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