By Ken Reed

Fighting is up in the early going of this shortened NHL season. That’s bad.

Staged fighting, in which a couple players — usually hired goons — drop their gloves after just a few seconds of game action to fight each other, is also up this season. That’s worse.

As Paul Busch writes in a blog entry titled, “NHL Cares About Player Safety — Just Don’t Ask Them About Fighting,” the NHL is very proud of their relatively new Department of Player Safety. The league claims to want to reduce the number of head shots in NHL games. But get this: they still allow fighting, the intent of which is to bash another player’s head in!

“It’s pretty straightforward,” writes Busch. “A primary objective of the Department of Player Safety is to reduce illegal blows to the head and reduce concussions. The primary objective of players who drop the gloves is to punch their opponent in the head as often as possible to punish them or send a message to their team. How can league officials and team executives reconcile the obvious inconsistency with those two sentences?”

Even hockey fighting proponents are beginning to question the practice. Joe DeLessio, an NHL fan who continues to support fighting as “part of the game” in hockey (although in reading his commentary it appears his conscience seems to be getting to him), believes staged fighting as no place in hockey.

“We can look at some fights and see the participants as courageous — as good teammates who are willing to sacrifice for the good of the team. (And again, we might only do this because we choose to see things this way.) But it’s harder to cheer on a fight that only exists to put on a show for a bloodthirsty crowd, or to settle an old score that won’t have an impact on that night’s game … I can’t talk myself into staged fighting. Even fight fans have to draw the line somewhere.”

Busch calls for the end of all fighting in hockey — staged or otherwise — in another blog entry.

“There is a growing recognition from many hockey fans that fighting does not fit in the NHL anymore,” says Busch. “Dropping the gloves is a symptom of a game that is loosely enforced and tolerates emotional outbursts of violence. Increase penalties for cheap shots and have referees step in quickly when players congregate after every whistle, and the reasons to fight will be greatly reduced. The beauty of the game is in its speed and hard hitting. The image that the NHL and NHLPA should be promoting is the artistry and skill of those who play one of the hardest professional sports on the planet. Fighting is not part of the game.”

You simply can’t say it any better than that.

Ken Reed, Sports Policy Director, League of Fans


Comments are closed.

Set your Twitter account name in your settings to use the TwitterBar Section.