It’s just a few games into the 2010-11 season and already we are seeing a lot of senseless fights taking place—fights that the NHL would be wise to punish more severely, fights that prove nothing.
Thursday night, the Edmonton Oilers came out flying in their home opener, clobbering the Calgary Flames by a final score of 4-0.
For the Oilers, it was a great start to the season, for the Flames, an embarrassing effort.
With the Flames getting beat where it counts—on the scoreboard—the Calgary Flames felt it was necessary to “send the Oilers a message,” a message in the form of a good old fashioned butt-kicking.
With the Oilers firmly ahead on the scoreboard the Flames tried to settle the score at 17:40 of the third period by sending out Raitis Ivanans to fight Steve MacIntyre.
There was no big hit prior to the fight (although some may argue Calgary's chippy play throughout the game warranted the fight), no real reason to engage—just an ill advised fight that did nothing to influence the scoresheet and will do nothing to discourage the Oilers from laying a beating on the Flames in the form of a multiple-goal win the next time these two teams meet.
Again, it was Calgary that was looking for a fight, not the Oilers looking to avenge earlier hits and/or chippy play from the Flames.
Fast forward to Saturday night.
The Toronto Maple Leafs are laying a beat-down on the Ottawa Senators to the tune of a 5-0 lead. Toronto has dominated the Sens along the boards, in the slot, and on special teams all night—queue the tough guys.
At the 06:04 mark of the third period, with little to no provocation (other than the Sens getting their heads handed to them on the scoreboard) Sens tough guy Chris Neil is sent over the boards to seek out a little revenge and somehow send a message to the Maple Leafs by taking on Leafs part-time enforcer Mike Brown.
Brown and Neil engage in an entertaining tilt, but once again, there really was no reason for the fight, and there was no message sent other than the fact that the fight was an act of stupidity.
Next up, the Sens send out Matt Carkner to take on Colton Orr—their fifth head-to-head fight of their careers—none of them changed the face or the outcome of the game, this one wouldn’t change a thing either.
Last but not least, Sens forward Mike Fisher and Maple Leafs forward Kris Versteeg dropped the gloves with just under five minutes left in the period. It was the first fight that may have had some legitimacy to it, it was also laughable to watch two non-fighters pound each other—although it was a pretty entertaining tilt.
With all this in mind, isn’t it time that the NHL put an end to the senseless fighting?
With many NHL enforcers looking more like football players and wrestlers than actual hockey players these days the power of said fighters is unbelievable.
Many enforcers participate in boxing, mixed martial arts, and other disciplines in an effort to train for their “hockey careers,” making them more dangerous than ever before.
As a hockey fan, I can say that I can appreciate a good fight from time to time. That said, with so many players being carted off the ice with concussions, seizures, and career ending injuries, the time has come to put the proper punishments in place to discourage coaches and players from sending their gladiators out to fight with nothing to gain, and so much to lose.
Stiffer penalties in the form of suspensions is the only way to stop the insanity that is the senseless fight.
NHL referees are a smart bunch, they know when two players have been going at it all night, they know when a fight it justified and, as such, they should be a good judge of when a fight is not needed.
With that in mind, let the NHL Refs be the judge of whether or not a fight is legitimate, not simply a senseless tilt that only serves to keep the enforcers employed. Punish the combatants accordingly, make them pay for their senseless actions. More suspensions, steeper fines, therein lies part of the answer.
The reality is, if there were no enforcers they would have nobody to fight—while it’s not time to do that just yet, it would be a simple answer to the problem, so let's start seeing the NHL abolish the enforcer, or, on the flip-side, let's start seeing NHL GM's sign legitimate players instead of these part-time gladiators whose purpose it is to keep eachother employed (or so it seems).
As Forest Gump once said, “stupid is as stupid does”, these late game meaningless fights are stupid and it’s time to smarten up.
Until next time,