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Hockey Wilderness
  • Can't we all just get along?


    Fighting and the NHL have gone hand in hand for a long time. It makes sense. It's a fast-paced game where players are regularly smashing into each other in an effort to dislodge one from possession of the puck. On occasion, you see hits coming late, or a player taking some liberties out there that draw the ire of fans and a glare from a would-be enforcer, looking to make his mark on the game.

    Yet, what is the purpose? There are plenty of fans who watch NASCAR strictly for the crashes, and there plenty of NHL fans who watch the game strictly for the big hits and dropped gloves. I'd like to believe they are still fans of the game itself, but it's tough to take someone seriously when they are constantly screaming for blood.

    Through the opening 10 games of the season, the Wild managed to sport a record of 7-2-1, and all that without dropping the gloves, despite playing games against the Avalanche, who's rivalry has grown over the past few seasons, or the Jets, the Blues and the Ducks, all notorious heavy-hitting-teams on the ice. It couldn't last forever.

    I'm not going to sit here and tell you all that the Wild are a worse team when they fight. This season they're 2-2 in games with fights, you can't win that argument either way. Yet fighting in hockey is a double-edged sword, for any team. On the one hand it can ignite the play of your squad. On the other, it really is just an indicator of sloppy play and poor discipline.

    Throughout the NHL's history there have been countless players who have run the gambit, and come out OK on the other side. Plenty of enforcers who have found a way to make money by dropping the gloves, and been fine. There have also been many who have not, and countless others who's symptoms were never diagnosed or have gone unreported. As the game has evolved, players have gotten bigger, they've gotten faster, and the damage you can inflict on another person has grown as well. It's obviously not just from fights. Yet, fights are completely unnecessary in any sport. Unless you're a boxer, or an MMA fighter, your sport is not to pound the skull of your opponent until one of your two drops.

    Players have spoken out in favor of enforcers in hockey as well as against it. Fans tend to go on and on about how there's not enough "toughness" or "grit" for this Wild squad. Any time this issue crops it's head up you can be sure Gary Bettman will have his earplugs handy. But with research in CTE's (Chronic traumatic encephalopathy) painting a very dark picture on what repeated blows to the head can do, it's really time to walk away from the old school of thought about fighting in hockey. Sometimes, you need to do what's best for the person the elimination of fighting would protect, and stop listening mob standing outside the gates. Fighting serves no tangible purpose in hockey, and at the highest level should be eliminated from the game.

    Mike Yeo and General Manager Chuck Fletcher have done a good job of bringing in some high-talent and role guys to the roster and not been swayed by players with fists of fury. Players who have a role on the team that isn't punching faces, and they are arguably a better team than they have ever been in their history. An enforcer in the lineup would not have prevented what happened to Parise. James Neal, while goonish at times, does have some skill out there besides just running players. He's not a goon in the conventional sense. If you're one of those types that needs revenge, I offer you this. The best way to get revenge is always on the scoreboard, and the Wild are more often than not finding ways to win, with or without fighting.

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