Guest Author - Kevin Thorburn
Does fighting have a place in the game of hockey? This must be one of the most debated topics concerning the sport. Cases have been made for and against, but hockey would not be hockey if it were ever eliminated.
Violence breeds violence. This is often heard when those opposed to fighting in hockey speak. The problem with this is that the assumption that a hockey fight is, in itself, a form of violence. If this is the case, then a check or a push can be construed as violence too. In fact, by the same definition, pretty much any contact sport has its foundation on violence. And hockey is, and should always be, very much a contact sport.
At a time in the history of the game when fighting is down, some teams have even done away with the obligatory policeman or goon. These same teams have struggled. When you think of a tough NHL team the Philadelphia Flyers have to be one of the first that come to mind. They are off to a horrendous start to the season which has lead to the firing of their head coach and the resignation of the general manager. This culminated with a humiliating loss in Buffalo to the Sabres, but what was most glaring was the presence of any toughness when the Sabres tough guy started taking shots at the Flyers best player. This is normally unheard of because it is a given that the offending player would be dealt with by the other teamís tough guy. If you donít have one, as was the case with the Flyers, some serious problems can occur. The result: the next day brought call-ups from the minor league team, including some muscle.
If someone decides to take a cheap shot at your star players, you need to be able to retaliate and you donít want these same star players having to do it. This is where the role of the policeman comes in on the team and the elimination of fighting from hockey would only elevate the real violence: the stick-work Ö the use of the hockey stick as a weapon. The worst cases of violence in the game involve the illegal use of the stick. Many still have a difficult time understanding that fighting makes the game safer.
A new study by the University of Colorado that looked at the NHL from the 1999-2000 season through the 2003-2004 season showed teams with more major penalties Ė fighting makes up the majority of these Ė had more total points and fewer goals against. Fighting gets the players going. The adrenaline acts and the whole team gets involved in the competition at hand.
Eliminating fighting from the game of hockey would change the sport forever Ė and not for the better. Incidents of real violence would increase, as would injuries. In addition, as professional hockey is a business, the fans may want to see more scoring and finesse, but the occasional fight hasnít dampened attendance either.