Look, I love violence as much as the next guy. I will also admit right off the bat that I do not know too much about hockey. In fact, I will start to actively follow hockey (and the Minnesota Wild – random, I know) next season. However, for as long as I can remember, I’ve always wondered how the hell the NHL allows fighting. I understand that fans want to see it, and players don’t want to stop doing it, but these are not valid reasons for fighting to continue. I’m sure Kobe Bryant wanted to knock Dahntay Jones’s lights out after he blatantly tripped him, but he didn’t.
Many argue that the fighting attracts fans, and helps to fill seats every night. I disagree. Why, then, is fighting outlawed in leagues around the world? Why is it outlawed at every other level? And finally, why is outlawed at the Olympics? The ratings for Olympic Hockey ratings are consistently through the roof. Those people tune in for hockey, not boxing. This is why the ‘it’s part of the game’ argument doesn’t fly.
Also, if fighting was outlawed, do people really think less fans would turn up? That would mean people buy tickets (not like they are on the cheap side) for the small chance that a fight breaks out. “Hey let’s go to the game and hopefully a fight will break out that lasts more than 3 seconds and good punch will actually be thrown”. More often than not, it doesn’t happen. I suggest that these ‘fans’ (if people like this actually exist) purchase tickets to UFC 100 or whatever it is, and their violent fantasies can be realized. Oh, and during Playoffs, when the stadiums are filled to the brim and the games really matter, do fights break out? No – at least not nearly to the extent they do in the regular season.
The other main argument for those who advocate fighting is that the players like to police themselves, and protect their star players. Well, I have a couple of problems with this. When Brian Dawkins performs one of his many illegal hits, I’m sure guys on the other team are ready and willing to go at him with their fists. This is their idea of ‘policing themselves’ and they would love to be able to do it. But they don’t because they would be fined, suspended and their team would be punished by a loss of yards. That’s what referees are for anyway, right? Policing the game? And why should star players receive special treatment? Shouldn’t players have just as much right to deliver a hard hit on Sidney Crosby than they do on others? That’s what star players have to deal with – special treatment. It’s how they rise above this treatment what makes them great.
I would go as far as to say that the allowance of fighting may actually deter potential fans from the sport. As long as it is continues, fans of other sports will always look on hockey as part novelty, part sport. They look at the fighting as stupid, childish and dangerous; as something that should not be allowed in this day and age. Unfortunately, it’s going to take a serious career-ending injury or a death for this to be appropriately addressed.