The debate has been raging of whether or not fighting has to be removed from hockey after 21-year-old Don Sanderson of the storied Whitby Dunlops tragically passed away as a result of an on-ice fight. His helmet was removed during the fight and he fell to the ice, landing on his head. He lapsed into a coma and passed away few weeks later. It's truly a heartbreaking story.
Last night during an AHL game with the Philadelphia Phantoms playing the Manchester Monarchs, Phantoms player Garrett Klotz had a seizure on the ice after a fight with forward Kevin Westcott. The two players decided to drop the gloves right off the opening face off and square off, both removing their helmets. Klotz didn't hit his head on the ice and is supposed to be released from the hospital today.
The practice of taking your helmet off during a fight has already been banned by the CHL in response to Don Sanderson's tragic death, but in the AHL all players are required to wear visors which makes fighting difficult. This incident will surely only add more fuel to the fire on the topic of fighting in hockey and the NHL.
It needs to be stated though that these are two isolated incidents and are an extremely rare occurrence. The NHL cannot have a knee jerk reaction and take fighting away from the sport, in fact I think they need to get rid of the instigator rule, but that's for another time.
Fighting protects players. One would be hard pressed to find a hockey player who thinks fighting needs be removed from the sport. The Whitby Dunlops who would have the biggest reason not to continue fighting, received fighting majors in 5 of their 8 games following their teammate's death.
The majority of the people who are going to get on their respective soap boxes and call for fighting's removal from the sport most likely have never played any serious hockey in their day. Fighting keeps players in line and polices the game in a way referees cannot. What's more likely to keep a player cheap-shotting his opponent with a dangerous hit from behind or a stick to the face, a penalty or the guarantee that the other team's big guy is going to drop the gloves with him as a result?
Or how about the skill players in the game who for the sake of all those involved including the fans just should never fight (I'm looking at you Alexander Semin). A few games ago Phil Kessel was being chased down by some goon on the Panthers, being slashed up and down the ice trying to instigate a fight with, so as a good teammate and captain should Zdeno Chara stepped in and taught the guy a lesson.
Not only that, a fight is a cheap way to swing the momentum in a hockey game. Players like Colton Orr, Mitch Fritz, Donald Brashear, George Laraque and Derek Boogard have made a career out of this. Here's an interesting question, what happens to these players if fighting is removed? If fighting is taken out of the sport, your basically taking away these players jobs and their livelihoods.
Fighting needs to stay in the sport and most importantly in the NHL. Those for removing it would point to international competition where fighting is banned. I would say that their is a different mentality in those games, especially since European countries are involved because fighting is more popular among North American players and isn't generally practiced by European players.
Don't take fighting out of the sport. It's what makes hockey unique, it serves a purpose and it's been apart of the sport since it was created, there's no need to take it away now.
This article is also featured on The Manic Ranger.