Super prospect and presumptive No. 1 pick in the 2015 NHL Draft Connor McDavid broke his hand in a fight Tuesday night, prompting another round of commentary about the place of fighting in the NHL from those keyboard warriors that can only imagine what it's like to play in the NHL today.
That's what made AHL employee and NHL washout Paul Bissonnette taking to Twitter to voice his opinions in what historians will surely see as the turning the point in the fighting debate so important and newsworthy. Here's what he had to say.
I'm with you, Paul. I'm tired of people who have never played a competitive sport talking about how it should be played. It's like when someone who has earned every dollar in their lives by punching people in the face telling writers what they should be writing, or when someone who isn't good enough to play in the NHL talks about the way the game should be played in the NHL.
Just thinking about all the nerds using their calculators to show how important McDavid is to his team's success when he's on the ice and ignoring how important it is to fight when someone is checking you infuriates me.
It's frustrating to be sure, Paul, but you've really opened the eyes of society, Paul. And sure, Paul is a man on an AHL roster with opinions on the NHL, which is like a .220 hitter at Triple-A Tacoma talking about the way major leaguers should be playing the game, but I'll respect and analyze the man's thoughts despite the fact he's never played the game (in the NHL in 2014-15).
Paul makes an excellent point that hockey is a sport of conflict, a sport of emotion, and it's only natural that conflict and emotion lead to fighting. Everyone knows that any time you are participating emotionally in a conflict, fighting has to become part of the equation. It's why I'm not allowed back at the Battleship National Championships. My opponent had hit four of five pegs in my aircraft carrier and I just lost it. It happens.
But that emotion and conflict are what set the NHL apart from the other major sports. Sure, the NFL is the most popular sport in the United States and prints its own money, but how many times have we seen a receiver get rocked going over the middle numerous times only to never fight the linebacker or safety that's "in his hip pocket" all night?
Does that wide receiver not care as much as the average hockey player? Or is that wide receiver aware of the fact that he signed up to play a contact sport and that repeated contact isn't a reason to fight someone? It probably explains why NFL ratings are declining over…oh, they're not declining? Record highs again this year? OK, fine, but if Julio Jones fought Brent Grimes, can you prove the ratings wouldn't be higher? I didn't think so.
If I can read Paul's mind, and I think I can, he must believe hockey players are just more emotional and tougher.
Paul makes another excellent point: let the players wearing the equipment decide what they want to do. Genius idea, I think. That's how it works in every facet of life. If there's anything we have learned during 2014, it's letting athletes playing violent sports decide for themselves exactly how violent they should be is a wonderful notion. I don't see any way that plan could backfire.
I say ban referees, who are almost always people who have never played the game, skating around in their striped shirts telling players to stop fighting. Referees are just writers on skates. Let the players fight, call their own penalties and do whatever they want because they are wearing equipment, referees.
And we all know how important fighting is for setting the tone and firing up the boys. If tones can't be set and boys can't fired up, are we even playing hockey? What about momentum?
We all remember when Matt Cooke blindsided Marc Savard, essentially ending the latter's career with a legal, yet dirty hit. Eleven days later, the Penguins and Bruins would play again, in Boston, and there surely would be some passionate, emotional conflict resolution involving Cooke.
And there was. Thornton quickly pounded the tar out of Cooke less than two minutes into the game.
Retribution. Momentum. Conflict.
Maybe there was too much emotion and it caused the momentum that has never been proven to exist after a fight yet feels like something that's real to push so hard it inverted upon itself and thrusted the Penguins to a victory.
But as people who are not in the NHL, Paul and I can never truly understand what we're talking about. If only there was a way for someone like myself to better understand why someone of McDavid's caliber would ever punch someone in the face just because a defender was doing his job against him.
Hmmm. Another dynamite point, Paul, and one that has really brought this debate home for me. I now see it from your side.
You see, just last night, I was writing in the Madison Square Garden press room. I was wearing earbuds, transcribing an interview, and Andrew Gross of the Bergen Record was doing the "I'm not touching you" game to me. He wouldn't stop. You see, I was way closer to finishing my story than he was, so he tried to get under my skin, get me off my game, use the conflict and emotion that comes with the territory that is my job against me.
And it worked. We dropped our laptops and began swinging wildly until arena security separated us to the wild cheers of the other writers in the press room. Sure, we both spent the night in jail, but that's only because those security guards and legislators, the writers of the law enforcement world, felt sitting alone for five minutes in a box filled with Gatorade wasn't a stiff enough punishment.
If the people watching loved it, how can we ever take fighting out of competitive writing?
So Paul, thank you for raising awareness about how the NHL needs fighting, about how necessary it is in a sport with conflict and emotion. Sure, this could be seen as yet another ex-NHL player with no tangible hockey skills other than fighting desperately attempting to make fighting seem relevant because, at its core, it's about making themselves feel relevant, but I'm not a psychologist.
It's almost as if since the world has never known the NHL without fighting, they can't possibly imagine a sport excelling and being fun without it. If only a sport like football could be seen by more people to help give them an understanding that hockey can maintain the physical nature people have come to love without the wholly unnecessary fighting aspect.
Yes, fighting is down 20 percent this season over last season while attendance and ratings are unaffected, but if Paul, who has played the game as recently as last year, says fighting is necessary, who are we to argue?
Clearly, Paul knows what's best for the NHL, which is why he's currently in the AHL.
All statistics via NHL.com.
Dave Lozo covers the NHL for Bleacher Report. You can follow him on Twitter: @DaveLozo.