Creative Response: The Place for Fighting in the NHL

Hello everyone,

For the past few years the debate has been heating up over whether fighting in hockey needs to be eliminate. From the sudden death of former NHL tough guys like Wade Belak and Bob Probert, to the increase in concussions and studies surrounding brain injuries, numerous events have unfolded that have led to the skepticism over whether there truly is a place for fighting in the NHL. Recently, NHL legend, Bobby Orr, was asked in an interview if he believed fighting should be banned form hockey. Orr responded by saying that there is a place for fighting in the game, but only a certain type of fighting.

In the NHL players are often brought in as tough guys that solely make their paycheck based of defending their teammates. They aren’t elite hockey players, but rather big strong guys who have the guts and the physicality to take and deliver punches night after night. Over time though, these players have developed their roles into a form in which they not only fight to defend, but also to excite. Stage fighting happens when two players have preplanned a fight, whether before a whistle or even prior to the game. It is this type of fighting that both Orr and myself believe needs to be eliminated from hockey. There is no need for this type of fighting, as the way I see it, if I wish to watch staged fights I can go watch a UFC event or professional wrestling match.

If the NHL is to ban all fighting from the sport, the repercussions could be even worse than the injuries that are resulting from fighting. Players will show little respect for one another and star players will become targets of vicious physicality that is beyond what is allowed. As a result, the sport will change drastically much like any other sport would if a major component were to be banned. Personally, I believe that at the moment is tackling injuries as a result of fighting with the right approach. Creating new rules to reduce fighting and limit injuries by imposing new equipment standards during fights.

Where do you believe the place for fighting is in the NHL, and what approaches can be taken to get it there?

Have a great week

Jamie Taverner

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3 Responses to Creative Response: The Place for Fighting in the NHL

  1. ak08ty says:

    The thing is with fighting is that the role of the enforcer, the player that everyone is in a huff about, is designed to protect the smaller players, not instigate. The player most recently making everyone question fighting is John Scott of the Buffalo Sabres. In this young season, he has gone after smaller and more skilled players like Phil Kessel and Loui Eriksson, which has only fueled the argument for the nay sayers.

    I would say that he is the exception rather than the rule because his actions end up doing exactly the opposite of what his role is. As I mentioned is his job is to protect guys like Cody Hodgson and Matt Moulson (Formerly Thomas Vanek). By targeting the skill guys on the other team, he’s put a target on the back of his own stars which leads to the messes like the Bertuzzi incident.

    There are two lines of thinking in regards to Scott. 1. Is he good enough to play, even as an enforcer? or 2. Is he getting enough playing time?

    Based on the first line of thought, the answer is no. This guy is there for one reason and one reason only, that is to fight someone at the drop of the puck. Based on the way the Sabres use him, they don’t trust him enough to actually play the game at all, so why is he there?

    The second thing is what Don Cherry said on last Saturday’s Coaches Corner. He said that because he doesn’t play much, when he gets a chance he feels pressure to make something happen. Thus he forces hits like the Eriksson hit. This is what gets him into trouble. It’s harder to buy that but I can understand his point.

    There is a place for fighting but it has to be done the right and honourable way.

  2. steveun says:

    I like where you stand on fighting in the NHL and I agree that we are seeing far too many fights that shouldn’t occur in the first place. I think there has to be a “time and a place” and that it shouldn’t be consuming the game. I’m no hockey expert by any means, but this pre planned fighting should never take place, as it takes away from the game, and hurts the reputation of the sport in my opinion. Although I know they are completely different games, we don’t see basketball players coming to games and planning to fight an opposing player midway through the 2nd quarter. We don’t see it happen it football, and if a pitcher throws intentionally at a batter in baseball, you can bet he will suffer the consequences.

    In the end, I would like to see less of these type of fights in the NHL, even though some of the enforcers literally make a living by fighting with opposing players. I suppose only time will tell with this one, but I doubt things will change all that much. After all, this is what fans LOVE to watch.

  3. pa10dd says:

    The case of John Scott is the perfect example of how it always come down to the individual player(s) involved. Some players are capable of carrying themselves with class. To me there should be only 2 types of fights in the NHL

    1.) Mutually Agreed to, nearly planned fights between 2 consenting enforcers. If each player can look the other in the eye and say “let’s go” I am 100% ok with that, whether the fight means anything or not.

    2.) Fights that are the product of defending a teammate after a malicious, over the line hit or play.

    John Scott created a 3rd category with kessel, attacking players that have no interest in fighting. In addition, much like AK08ty commented previously, Don Cherry’s assertion that Scott is trying to do too much when he’s on the ice is bang on; he doesn’t play that much so when he’s on he over compensates and lays the type of hit he did on Louis Erikkson.

    These enforcers are not difficult to replace, and many enforcers can carry themselves with class and play the game the right way. It should be the responsibility of NHL teams to know when a player has no place in this league. Just like it is off the ice, some people are just thugs.

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