Fighting may technically be illegal in the
NHL, but let’s face it, while the league may not actively promote the behaviour
it definitely tolerates it. While those who engage in fisticuffs in other
leagues and sports are thrown out of the game and often suspended, NHL players
simply sit for five minutes in the sin bin. There are many hockey fans who
believe fighting should be banned totally from the world’s best hockey league
while others still believe it’s a part of the game. However, it’s hard to
understand how staged fights between two fourth-line players can affect the
outcome of a contest.
We often see WWE-type fights between a pair
of players who may see the ice a total of five minutes between them per night.
Some of these premeditated bouts take place before the puck has even been
dropped while they’re playing on their first shifts of the game. Those who want
to see fighting banned don’t understand how there can be any animosity built up
between the two combatants at this stage. However, they do understand
spur-of-the-moment rage when somebody is speared or slashed and they settle
their differences by dropping the gloves.
The fact is, hockey fights rarely affect a the
outcome because the majority of them take place late in a game when one team
has a considerable lead and the game has more or less already been decided. At
this point, players who may have a grudge against an opponent feel they can
even the score by trying to pound the daylights out of them. They believe it’s
the perfect time to let their fists fly since the game is out of hand and they
won’t be placing their team in jeopardy. When you see two players from
non-playoff bound teams going at it in a mid-December match with the score 7-1,
there doesn’t seem much point to the exercise.
If we fast forward to the playoffs though,
things are certainly different. There’s definitely something on the line here,
namely the Stanley Cup. If there was ever a time for fighting in the NHL this
is definitely it. For those who believe a fight can spark a team and wake them
out of their doldrums, there’s no better time to start swinging than in the
postseason. If you’re facing a do-or-die, elimination game and find yourself
trailing 3-0 on the scoreboard this could be the perfect time. If nothing else
seems to be working and you’re going home if you don’t win, then why not try to
jumpstart your team at this point with an energizing fight?
But for some reason, that isn’t how things
work in the NHL. Pro-fighting fans have forever stated that a fight can lift a
team and bring it together, but we rarely see one take place when it means the
most. There is an occasional fight during the playoffs, but fans are mostly
“entertained” by players face-washing each other in scrums after each and every
whistle. It’s no wonder an average 60-minute playoff contest takes about three
hours to play. But if these players are willing to risk putting their team a
man short for two or four minutes in scrums, why aren’t they willing to drop
their gloves ?
The logical answer here is because there’s
no need for fighting at all in the league since it doesn’t help decide the
outcome of a game. If the NHL banned fighting altogether and two players were riled
up enough with to ignore the consequences, then perhaps fans would see a legitimate
fight between two angry players, not the staged versions they’re treated to
today. As long as fighting is tolerated by the NHL, players are wasting their
energy on regular-season bouts when the playoffs mean so much more.
Labels: Ian Palmer