Fighting is an important part of the NHL and it should never be removed from the sport, but staged fights have absolutely no place in the game.
There are zero reasons for a fight to happen early in the game when there's no incident from a previous contest that has to be "dealt with."
One example of a fight happening early in a game that was 100 percent OK was when Boston Bruins forward Milan Lucic ran over Buffalo Sabres goaltender Ryan Miller in a game last season. Nobody on the Sabres stood up to Lucic in that game, so when the two teams met again, Buffalo had Paul Gaustad fight Lucic on the Bruins star's first shift of the game.
This is an instance where there's nothing wrong with an early fight, but unless there is a really good reason, such as an incident that happened in a prior game or at the start of the current contest, there's no reason for a fight in the first couple minutes of any NHL matchup.
When we see fights happen off a faceoff or a minute or two into the game, it's usually a staged fight.
That was the case on Wednesday night when Toronto Maple Leafs forward Frazer McLaren and Ottawa Senators forward Dave Dziurzynski (video below).
We had a flat start last game. I was just trying to get us going early (said McLaren). (via Leafs.com).
I asked [Dziurzynski if he wanted to fight] and actually he said no and so I didn’t think we were going to go and then he ended up dropping his stuff when the puck dropped. He’s a big guy and he actually gave me a few good ones early there. It was a lucky punch. It happens sometimes.
It’s not often that’s the intention to fight right off the bat like that, but our team has been flat the last couple of games and we’re just looking for a spark and it’s just too bad that’s the way the fight went.
One way to build momentum in a game is to drop the gloves, and we see this quite a bit in the NHL.
However, there's no reason to spark your team with a fight just 26 seconds into the game, especially when the two clubs involved are hated rivals.
Just because the Leafs didn't have a ton of first period energy in their last few games going into Wednesday night, that doesn't mean McLaren should be looking to fight someone less than 30 seconds into the game. This is a situation where fighting doesn't work in the NHL and also makes the sport look bad.
Another example of why staged fights are awful occurred last year when the New York Rangers and New Jersey Devils engaged in a line brawl. There were three separate fights after the first puck drop, and none of them had anything to with that game or a previous incident.
This isn't hockey, and that's when fighting becomes a problem. Fighting is acceptable when it happens during the normal flow of the game for emotional or hockey reasons. Staged fights are for entertainment purposes only.
One way for players to police themselves is by fighting, because without it, the "rats" of the league would go unpunished for their dirty hits that often cause injuries. If teams did not fight, and they had no enforcers, their skill players would not have as much room to skate on the ice.
Not only do fights make a substantial impact on games, the threat of a fight is also very important because it keeps players in line and prevents even more violence from happening.
If fighting was taken out of the game, more injuries would occur because players that hit opponents illegally wouldn't have to stand up for their actions.
Do we really want Brendan Shanahan and the Department of Player Safety policing the game by themselves?
After watching his inconsistent suspension decisions since he took over as league disciplinarian last season, the answer to the question is a resounding no.
The issue in dealing with staged fights is that it's tough to get rid of them with rule changes, suspensions and fines, especially since the league has to work with the players union if any new rules are made.
It's hard to imagine the NHLPA allowing the league to punish players who engage in a staged fight since so many players approve of fighting, and without it, some guys would lose their jobs because the enforcer role would be much less important.
According to an NHLPA poll done by CBC Sports in 2011, 98 percent of the players asked if fighting should be banned in the NHL said no.
Fighting should never go away, but the NHL and NHLPA must work together to end staged fights because they are an embarrassing part of an otherwise brilliant game.
Nicholas Goss is an NHL Lead Writer at Bleacher Report. Follow him on Twitter. He was a credentialed reporter at the 2011 Stanley Cup Final and 2012 NHL playoffs.
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