A Look Into: Why Fighting Will NEVER Be Removed from the NHL

Louis PisanoAnalyst IFebruary 3, 2017

Justin K. Aller/Getty Images

Yes, we’ve seen that players can be injured when being involved in the fist-a-cuffs that occur nightly in the NHL.

We’ve read about the tragic death of Don Sanderson, again tragic.

But fighting is a part of hockey and it is in the nature of the game.

The heat of the moment and that human trait called revenge can both bring about a fight, one animal instinct, one premeditated.

There is also the most controversial of all—the "staged fight."

These fights all have their place in modern hockey, believe it or not.

What’s ridiculous is fighting in baseball, people aren’t up in arms against that, and it’s mostly a non-contact sport aside from a play at the plate or sliding into second to break up the double play.

Not to mention the whole team gets involved in it, even the pitchers from the bullpens run out onto the field during a bench-clearing brawl, which every baseball fight turns into.

If a pitcher throws at a batters head, why the batter rushes the mound is beyond me, it’s the manger who put in the call, rush the dugout and take a swing at him.

And for that matter, fighting in basketball which occurs from time to time shouldn’t happen, though it is usually a funny slap-fest.

Mind you, tempers can get heated in the NBA because there is a lot of contact and it is a physical game with a lot of dirty little nuances that the untrained eye might miss.

I’m not saying it's right, but it happens.

In football, every down is a fight, just watch the interior linemen.

Ever hear of a hockey player shooting himself in the leg at a nightclub or having a gun in the dressing room?

No? Me neither.

Fighting is in every major sport, but hockey because it’s just a penalty rather than a fine or suspension and is accepted as part of the game, gets all the flack.

And please don’t play the "it’s not good for kids to see violence" card, just check out any video game they are playing, thank you come again.

Let’s for a minute adjust the game in our minds and see it without fighting…

Would it be the incredible Olympic hockey we were treated to from Vancouver?

No, it wouldn’t be because the league is diluted with many mediocre players that should be in the AHL or KHL so let us not hallucinate.

Would it be a free flowing wide-open pretty game that would make NHL commish Gary Bettman beam with pride?

No, there would still be plenty of extra curricular shoving and pushing along with contact and hitting, after all it is a physical game.

What about the animal instinct that tells one to defend oneself when threatened or injured to a degree?

What happens when a crosscheck to the spleen/back/neck/ribs happens in front of the net and nothing is called?

Does the player just take it and say to himself, "Well that’s dirty, but oh well, its just part of the game" and skate off happily back into the game?

Sorry, not happening.

How about when the smaller skilled star player on the team that fills the seats for the owner ends up with a concussion because he was run in to the boards by a big opposing player or crosschecked in the head and nothing can be done?

Should revenge be exacted through money paid by the team who hit the star player in an amount that would compensate fairly.

Good luck with that!

Wait, why not run the other team's star players?

So the offender gets five minutes and a game misconduct, perhaps a fine of some sort, but has knocked out their divisional rivals best player for a week, a month or perhaps the season?

Which in turn could be the difference maker of who gets in the postseason, again a huge money-grab for the owners.

Side Note: Everything comes back to money and filling the seats and selling the television rights. The enforcer role is there to protect investment.

Of course someone would like to get their hands on that guy who ran the star or the star himself would want to drop the gloves and stand up for himself.

But if he does he gets the boot, possibly a double whammy (lost player to injury and suspension), why not just swing the stick he has in his hands at the head or body of the other player?

Perhaps not a conscious act, but say just out of instinct and frustration, and in our little experiment in an NHL without fighting he has no other form of retribution so he does.

We’ve seen it before.

As a result of having no fighting in the game, it could actually create a more violent sport with a lot more stick work and more injured stars.

Thus, leading to fewer fans in the stands, less money and a failing league.

Slipping back to the NHL of today we still see, though rare, the extremes of stick swinging. We see the cheap slashes, jabs, spears, hacks or butt ends players slip past the watchful eyes of even the two referee system.

But there is an answer to these unseen dirty plays and a way to protect that bread winner each team needs to fill the seats and sell those $12 hot dogs, yes and it is "The Enforcer".

Mind you, what happened during the St. Louis Anaheim game yesterday afternoon, was a little over the edge, but it wasn’t only "goons" involved.

But hey, it was Thanksgiving, at least here in Canada and the players were just giving thanks in their own special way.

There were no serious injuries and no stick swinging incidents.

The men settled their business like men.

I’ll take a few fights whether staged, spur of the moment or revenge-based that protect stars over watching a bunch of second-rate players playing a grinding game similar to that of any in an industrial league.

These obviously aren’t the only reasons that fighting will never be removed from the game but removing the enforcer roll will not eliminate fighting.

Hopefully I have sparked a few reasons in your mind that clarify why fighting will ALWAYS be a part of hockey, feel free to shout them out in the comments.

And by the way, the instigator rule created the venue for the "staged fights" more than anything else, and perhaps has instigated more fights than deterred, but that’s another story.



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