|LeBlanc vs. Ponich, 2009|
By ArtBrom [CC BY-SA 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons
|O'Brien, Chipchura drop gloves, 2009|
By Matt Boulton [CC BY-SA 2.0], via Flickr
Now to discuss the positive aspects of fighting in hockey. One of the advantages of a well timed fight is that it can and often does serve to energize a team who has been falling a little flat during a given period of play. I have many times seen a team who is trailing by or more points rally and come back to win a game after having a fight occur. Fighting can and has intensified the level of play on both sides making for a more competitive and exciting game both to play and watch. I don't think that a majority of hockey fans or players see having an all out line brawl during a game as being a highlight or a desirable part of the hockey experience. However, seeing players who are passionate about the game and feel strongly enough about their line-mates to defend or protect them makes for a very fun and exciting hockey experience. An inevitable part of that passion is the occasional fight that breaks out between two players who feel strongly about their team and their sport. Hockey is a contact sport, even if fighting were to some how be eliminated players would still get injured. Last season the Sharks Logan Couture broke his leg at practice and was out for more than 2 months. At the beginning of this season the Penguins Sidney Crosby suffered a concussion during practice and was out for a significant portion of the early season. A trip, a fall from being a bit off balanced while going for the puck, a defenseman throwing himself across the ice to stop a shot, all of these things can and have led to injury. Also, possibly the most important factor, the players all know that these events are likely to happen to them at some point during any given season and accept that risk as being just a part of the sport. As long as the fighting remains on relatively equal grounds between two players who are equally capable of fighting and defending themselves I believe that fighting adds more to the game than it costs. The majority of fighting that we see in the NHL these days does fall within those parameters.
|Orr vs. Thornton, 2011|
By Dan4th Nicolas [CC BY-SA 2.0], via Flickr
While there will likely always be some controversy surrounding fighting in the NHL it seems clear to me that the majority of players, fans, owners, and general managers all feel that fighting has a place in the sport of hockey and in the NHL. I believe that player safety is a concern for all as well, and that rules will continue to change and evolve to provide the safest environment possible. However, I also believe that it would be near impossible to eliminate fighting entirely from the sport, nor do I think it would be desirable to do so. I for one look forward to continuing to watch hockey played as the full contact sport that it is with all the drive and passion that entails along with the occasional dropping of the gloves.