Friday, March 23, 2007

Fighting In The NHL: A Compromise? Part Deux

Yesterday's post on fighting in the NHL brought a nearly-unprecedented amount of traffic and discussion to this little ol' blog (combine that with a link from the mighty Deadspin on the Jagr-in-drag post and traffic was like the beltway at 4:30 on a Friday afternoon in July). Reading some of the comments here and elsewhere (thanks to whomever seeded it - I like being called a moron in as many fora as possible), I wanted to clarify two apparent misconceptions:
  1. I'm not for banning fighting in the NHL. That's why I wrote "the NHL needs fighting."
  2. I don't think that cheap shots like the Chris Simon two-handed chop and fighting are the same thing. That's why I differentiated amongst three distinct events running the cheapshot-to-fair-fight spectrum and noted how while hockey fans can tell the difference, the mainstream media and casual fans often cannot.
The bottom line to me is that fighting is hockey's "gun control" or "abortion" or "gay marriage" - everyone's got an opinion on it, most people voice an opinion borne of passion and, to an extent, tradition and/or morality, and the vast majority of the public is somewhere in the middle on the issue. Nevertheless, the voices that you hear reverberating through media outlets, chat rooms and message boards come from the extremes - "if you take away my assault rifle, my hand gun will be next" or "keep your laws off of my body," or, in the case of fighting in hockey, you'd think it was a choice between "if you don't like fighting, go watch figure skating" or "if you want to watch fighting, go watch the UFC."

What I did was to take a stab at trying to come up with a middle ground, a compromise that maintains nearly all of the physicality of the game (and its adoring fans) while at the same time protecting players and the game's image, allowing new fans exposure to the game we all know and love.

If ever there was an issue in hockey that was playing out like something straight from Capitol Hill and political talk shows, it's this one. And just like in American politics, the noise machines at either end of the spectrum are drowning out the overwhelming majority of the interested public who occupies a sensible middle ground, a middle ground in which they can enjoy a good scrap that serves a purpose but have less fear that they're going to see someone die right before their eyes.


cd said...

A true hockey fan would not have needed to do a re-cap post. A true hockey fan would have instead noted that "The Cutting Edge" was crap and that Rob Lowe has no place portraying himself as a pro after looking so pretty in "About Last Night." A super real hockey fan would have done an in-depth analysis on who would win in a game of the Simpsons vs. the kids from South Park. Plus, real hockey fans can't make good ribs.

And your mother dresses you funny.

Anonymous said...

How can you write the last sentence knowing full well that one good punch and subsequent fall to the hard ice COULD cause us all to see someone die? It's only a matter of time, my friends.


1) Another good post on the subject. Just a question though; What are the extremes on the fighting issue? On one side there are the anti-fighting folks. People who want no fighting at all. That is clear.
2) What is the other extreme? Haven't read anyone wanting a return of those bench clearing brawls of the 1970's. The 'pro-fighting' folks like ourselves, want fighting to remain a part of the sport, and see a loosening of the restrictions, such as elimination of the instigator rule. Can't see how that could be percieved as an 'extreme' position.

Wensik said...

"Get rid of the instigator" = "let these guys fight whenever they want" = the other extreme. Not surprising that you don't see your point of view as extreme - extremists rarley do.


1) Hey anonymous a slap shot to the throat could do the same. Should they ban shot blocking too? Or just ban slap shots?
2) A careless body check could cripple someone. Should be eliminate body contact? That way no one will have a chance to get seriously hurt. ; )


1) Eliminating the instigator wouldn't necessarily allow them to fight 'whenever they want', though wonder what would be the problem with that?
2) In years past if one 'started' a fight, they usually were assessed an additional 2 minute minor, hurting their team. We feel that's enough of a deterrent. Nothing extreme there.
3) An extreme position from 'No fighting' would be to a) Make bench clearing brawls legal again. b) change the rules to give players bonuses for winning fights. c) Perhaps have a fight-off instead of a shoot out. ; )

Anonymous said...

How about the pro-fighting extremists that say "if you don't love fighting and want more of it in the game, your not a real hockey fan"? you might not make that argument, but alot of people on that side do.

Rage said...

How about the pro-fighting extremists that say "if you don't love fighting and want more of it in the game, your not a real hockey fan"?

Those guys need to learn about contractions.

cd said...

Real hockey fans don't use emoticons.


1) We wouldn't tell anyone else what 'kind of fan' they are based upon their fighting preference, or anything else for that matter
2) We will say that folks who want the complete abolishment of fighting are in the extreme minority. If the opposite were true, fighting would be gone already!
3) The owners know what sells. Don't think so? Look around the arena the next game you go to and watch the reaction of fans to a scrap. How many are turning away in disgust/ hiding the eyes of their kids? LOL

JP said...

My point about the extremes is that each side in the debate seems to fail to see one half of what is perhaps the bigger point - that fighting does sell tickets and at the same time does hurt the League's reputation. Do something about it and you can address the latter without sacrificing the former.

Put another way, to answer Faux - when you look around at the stands during a fight people aren't looking away... but the stands also aren't full. Wouldn't you rather be cheering for a fight in a full house or, perhaps better yet, while watching it at home on a major cable/broadcast television network?

At some point realism needs to enter the equation on both sides of the argument, and if the League doesn't do something to help its image while preserving its tradition, it's just circling the bowl.


1) JP, hope you're not saying that attendance problems stem from the fact that fighting is permissible?
2) Fighting was MUCH more prevalent in the 70/80's, yet attendance then was only an issue in a few select U.S. cities that housed bad teams. Where as now its a problem in some cities that have quality teams(Nashville, Carolina, N. J.)
3) Its probably not a politically correct position, but we believe that interest in hockey has waned as fighting declined.
4) An NHL with Zero fighting, or with a minimal of fighting would be NO more likely to be on a 'major cable/broadcast television network'.

Chumas said...

... And J.P. rests his case.

TG said...

What's the joke? "I went to a boxing match last night and a hockey game broke out?" There's got to be a happy medium somewhere in all this.

I have no problems with teams keeping a Donald Brashear or Darcy Tucker (as much as I may dislike him). A "tough guy" who can actually play the game, pass, play defense, etc.

What there's no use for in the game are the Janssen's, Orr's, Peat's, etc. Players who barely play and when they do, their only purpose is to agitate, fight, etc. When one of these guys who makes his living with his fists does something borderline (or even clearly illegal) and severly injures a Crosby, Ovechkin, Malkin, etc., you're going to see the league and the owners make a decision. There's either going to be a place in the game for the talentless fighters, or there's not. Unfortunately, I think it'll take a serious injury to one of the marquee players for that to happen.

Or, if you want to get the talentless ones off the bench, cut the number of skaters allowed to suit up by one. Think a team would have someone who can play only 3-4 minutes a night and in the box for another 5 if they're already with a short bench? Possibly, but then they'll have to pick up the slack elsewhere. Maybe that'll be the final say on the matter. Force teams to make a decision. Do you want the fighter, or the player?

Anonymous said...

Sorry, still not buying it.
Death by fighting: VOLUNTARY
Death by slapshot to neck or skate blade a la Clint Malarchuk: INVOLUNTARY.
It's only a matter of time.

shayne said...

I think this debate has the wrong focus. Fighting doesn't hurt the game as much as idiotic acts by players that are well outside of the realm of what can be considered sport.

Fighting is sport. Boxing, UFC, Tae Kwon Do, wrestling, virtually every original olympic event was based on a skill needed in military combat.

In hockey, fighing is part of the sport. You can argue for or against fighting, but the sport of hockey developed, and I think needs, the sport of fighting. It's entertainment, pure and simple. It should never be needed to protect star players, referees and the league should take care of that.

The problem with fighting and the negative impact it has on the casual fan is that it gets lumped in with instances of violence that are outside of the sport of fighting. Most people won't remember the fight they saw in the middle of the second period the other night because it was sport fighting. Two guys threw some punches and received penalties What people remember are Simon chopping at the face of Orr, Bertuzzi cheap shotting Moore, Mcsorely hitting Brashear, Tootoo knocking robidas out with a punch when they weren't fighting. These are well outside of the realm of any type of sport.

But what about Fedoryk getting leveled you ask? What boxing matches do people remember wathcing? The one between those two guys where nothing strange happened, or Mike Tyson biting Holyfield's ear? People only remember the fights were something strange happened, and fedoryk getting leveled like that was an anomaly.

My point is this - fighting is violent, but it is not violence. Playing hockey is violent, buts it's also not violence. The league needs to focus on ending violence: the illegal stickwork, cheap shots, checking from behind into the boards, hitting a star player 5 seconds after he plays the puck. Cutting this "outside of the sport" will go a long way to solving the black eye of hockey, and will reduce fighting.