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Hockey Wilderness
  • Why Do We Fight?


    Much has been made over fighting at the NHL level in recent years. On one side of the argument you have the old school traditionalists clamoring to keep the game as it is, fighting is a necessity which helps players police themselves and prevents goons from taking runs at a teams star players. The other side of the argument makes their case by calling upon player safety, and a lack of fighting in international play as well as many lower tier professional leagues as well as the college ranks.

    Fighting in the NHL has long been governed by a series of unwritten rules known as "The Code". (Read the link if you haven't before. It's fantastic.) Enforcers in hockey over the years have been like the jelly to your peanut butter. Sure a peanut butter sandwich is good, but it is almost always made better by jelly. (pro tip, grilled PB&J is amazing). As the years have progressed the game of hockey has evolved, and to a lesser extent, so has the fighting.

    This kind of behavior certainly doesn't drive fans in the arena nuts. In fact they seem to like it. That is not so much the case with the rest of the civilized world. The AHL has recently installed a rule in an attempt to mitigate this kind of behavior. 2 fights and goodnight, you can go home now. As we all know, the AHL has become a sort of "testing ground" for rule changes being discussed in the NHL. This may be the first step to proposing new rule changes for the league.

    The NHL has their limit on fights in a game currently set to 3 for any given player in a game before the player is awarded a game-misconduct where he gets to "punch out" early. I have yet to see this rule in action though, so it may as well not exist. The AHL's new rule reduces the number of fights a player may be involved in by 1, and while this is a fine idea in theory, it has some flaws.

    While the rule has the right idea, this flaw will be exposed and utilized. And now you have got yourself into a bit of trouble as well. Assuming you have 2 different players pick fights with 1 guy from the other team, you now have 2 guys on the cusp of an early exit from a game and a coach on the other team looking for payback. It becomes a vicious cycle in a tactical game of

    to try and shorten your opponents bench through fighting.

    If the NHL is going to make any rules in an attempt to curb fighting, they should really go for the total elimination of fighting from the league, or leave it as is. One could make a case for handing out game-misconducts for players dropping the gloves right off a faceoff or any other form of a staged fight you see today, but this leaves more up to the interpretation of the officials to determine what actually happened.

    Like all aspects of the game, I would just assume the referees get it right the first time. A fight is a fight, you don't need much more evidence than the action to prove that it happened. If you're going to try to eliminate fighting, I say fights earn you an automatic game misconduct plus a 1 game suspension. Hit the players where it hurts, ice time and their paycheck. It may sound a bit extreme, but it will get players attention real fast.

    Think you could write a story like this? Hockey Wilderness wants you to develop your voice, find an audience, and we'll pay you to do it. Just fill out this form.

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