Just like every season, a new hot topic has popped up so analysts can talk about the same subject every week. Last year it was head checks, this year it’s fighting in hockey.
Now head checks are a major issue that have to be dealt with. Many players have lost their careers due to severe head injuries (Marc Savard, Eric Lindros to name a few) and many others have had to deal with the symptoms since they were treated improperly for years. The NHL has since cracked down on the issue. Rule 48 is pretty much highlighted and underlined in every rulebook owned by a NHL executive, hefty suspensions are dealt to repeat offenders and awareness has been spread throughout all levels of hockey.
Now fighting is a different story. Fighting is part of the game, it always has been. Jobs are made in the NHL just for that part of the game. What happened to George Perros made me cringe. It was definitely painful to watch someone’s face hit the ice that hard. I have the utmost respect for every tough guy in the league; the enforcer is a tough role to fill in pro hockey. But it happens. Fighters don’t go into a game thinking, “Oh I hope I don’t get hurt this game.” They know their role and they will do whatever it takes to fill it.
The NHL recently did a survey asking general managers if fighting should be killed off. Many said no, but some said yes, including Steve Yzerman. You have to think though, boiling it down, the NHL is a business. A player is an investment, the team invests their money into a player so that they can generate revenue. If a player has a season ending injury, that team’s investment is now worthless. See where I’m getting at? Any way to reduce injury secures a team’s investment, whether it is Alex Ovechkin or George Perros.
If you asked hockey fans if the NHL should eliminate fighting, I would bet money that a vast majority would say no. It is an essential part of the game and it’s more than entertainment for the fans. It keeps some players in check. Imagine if Matt Cooke or Brad Marchand had the ability to poke, beak and lay questionable hits on anyone they wanted. Imagine if a player could take a run at the opponent’s top player without having to worry about some retaliating. Games would get out of hand really quick.
Some teams have also build their roster around tough and mean players (Toronto and Boston). Heck, the whole Atlantic division, save for Detroit, is full of tough guys. Which playoff series’ are the most fun to watch? The L.A. Kings 2-1 wins where they trap the whole game, or a Sens-Habs series where games are 4-3 with multiple fights and high levels of emotion? Fighting is to hockey as a home run is to baseball.
What are your opinions? Do you think fighting is an essential part of the game, or should it be toned down or eliminated altogether? Let me know by commenting below or tweet me @JeffJaisman