Part of the game
For as long as there has been hockey, there has been a spot on the roster dedicated – whether the coaches admit it or not – to players who are willing to drop the gloves on the ice.
Due in part to such highly acclaimed hockey players being sidelined because of concussions, some people have said fighting no longer has a place on the ice. But, those people are just plain stupid.
Like many hockey fans, I go to a game expecting to see one fight and hoping to see two.
When two players square off at centre ice – or better yet, when a line brawl breaks out – the energy in the rink is electric. Nearly every fan is on the edge of their seat and no one blinks until one or both players hit the ice. It’s wonderful.
Of course, there will always be at least one fan in the rink that will cower in fear when two players begin to dance, shielding their eyes and covering their face with their jacket until someone tells them that it’s safe to look.
At the beginning of hockey season, that fan was my mom; however, once I showed her the beauty of on-ice fighting, she was yelling, “kill him!” by the end of the year. I couldn’t have been more proud.
Many people – most of whom have never witnessed the joys of a battle on the ice in person – claim that fighting is too violent for hockey and say that it should be removed from the game, suggesting that fans do not want fighting as part of the sport’s resume.
However, fighting is not what makes hockey violent. In the National Hockey League, a fight happens on average less than once a game, while severe hits, cross checks, slashes and spears happen multiple times every period without anyone batting an eye.
Sure, fights will happen more often if two division rivals square off or if a notoriously hated player is on the other bench, but the same goes for the frequency of those physical penalties as well.
Hockey is violent by nature – it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure that out – and fans like it that way. It’s no coincidence that on average the teams that fight more often also sell more tickets.
Yes, fighting is dangerous, but it is no more dangerous than any other elements of the game. When two players go toe-to-toe they will usually still have their helmets on – some leagues have even made rules forbidding the removal of a helmet during a tussle. The players are also wearing a full suit of body armour for protection; essentially, most of the damage during a fight ends up being to a player’s own hand rather than his opponents head.
These players – who often get recognized as enforcers because of their willingness to stick up for their smaller, goal-scoring teammates – often leave a scrap with a few cuts on their hands and maybe a shiner. Meanwhile, other players are expected to stop pucks by any means necessary even if it means taking a slap shot directly to the face if it will prevent the other team from scoring.
This may be pointing out the obvious, but a puck can do a lot more damage to someone than any fist can.
Fighting is part of hockey and hopefully it always will be. It sells more tickets, gets fans excited, rallies a team, and provides everyone with a position on a roster, even a goon.