Saturday, October 16, 2010

Hey! No Fighting!

If only it were that easy.

In the 90+ years of the National Hockey League's existence, fighting has become a common sight on the ice. Did someone give you a cheap shot against the boards? Well then...knock his teeth in!! Ah yes, when it comes to sweet revenge, there's nothing like an all-out brawl on skates. However, people will bring up this argument: "Weren't we told at a young age that fighting isn't the answer to everything?" Of course, that statement is correct, but things go much deeper than that. In order to save face and make the game more "family-friendly," sporting officials and assorted activists have been pushing to ban the concept of fighting in the NHL. Fighting in hockey isn't exactly "glorified," as there are penalties that branch from it. However, some people are looking to end the "man's way of solving things" for good.

One of the biggest arguments suggesting the ban of fighting is the growth of the players in size. When you watch hockey, you're not seeing these scrawny guys that just look big because they're wearing layers on layers of pads anymore. You're actually looking at heftier guys that can take hits and dish harder ones out while still having pads on. Looking at the hard hits during the games, heaven help you if you meet one of these guys in a dark alley. The whole outlook of the game is much more physical and becoming more of a test of strength than skill. When you think about it, these guys didn't wear pads when the game was first played. Heck, helmets didn't even become mandatory until about 30-35 years ago. Scary, right?
Another argument is a hot topic today (again, it's on the blog somewhere too). Because of the increase of physicality in the game, many are afraid of the [BOOM] head shots that the players take; if a punch or check is hard enough, the player could earn a nice concussion for picking a fight with an opposing player. Then we go into the whole fiasco on how this affects the players in the future and how it can mess up their lives after their careers are long over.
The third and final argument (albeit cheesy) is that if fighting is banned, the product will be able to gain more sponsorships due to it's more "PG-rated" atmosphere and the organization will gain more revenue and money due to the increase in partnerships. In my humble opinion....that's a poor excuse of an argument. I'm sorry.

There are several arguments for the ban, but let's be honest, there is a huge upside to the use of fighting in hockey. Since it's a fast-paced game with several options to use against your opponent, you can sneak a cheap shot or hit (or slice...ouch). If fighting was taken out of the equation, you can get away with sneak shots whenever you want and the opponent couldn't do a thing about it unless if they flew themselves in front of the referee and complained and cried about it like it was pee-wee hockey again.
I remember when I was in grade school and for a class incentive-like trip we went to see an AHL game (it was the Philadelphia Phantoms versus some other team that I can't remember the name of) and the players were told that since it was an arena filled with grade school kids they were not allowed to start fights. Guess what happened two minutes in. Believe me, I have a pretty stellar memory of the olden days, and it wouldn't be the same sport if scuffling wasn't allowed anymore after this season or the season after that. Fighting is one of the few things men would like to see "on ice." Fighting is a natural thing. Men complain and try to solve things with their egos and their fists [No offense guys, you really do that.] and sometimes it can be fun to watch--especially if you lose your balance and fall down.

Aside from these arguments, there has been one concern that could change the face of the game. The big question is: "What if someone died on the ice while fighting or taking a hit?" Obviously, a man dying on the ice has never happened before, but it's still a question that lies in the back of every official's mind. There was one case in which a hit did take the life of a player after a game, but before I tell the story I'll have to remind you that this is back in the era when helmets weren't mandatory. In 1968, Bill Masterton took a hit during a game and slammed the back of his head on the ice (yes, there was blood) and died from a severe and inoperable brain injury two days later. Also, there have been several incidents in the more modern era such as one incident with goaltender Clint Malarchuk getting his throat slashed in 1989 and living to tell the tale [Side Note: There's footage of it on YouTube, but I'm not posting it here because it's incredibly gruesome and even I of all people have a hard time watching it.] and another incident with Richard Zednik with almost the same case as Malarchuk's in 2008.
Due to these horrific instances, advances have been made such as wearing helmets, face guards, throat guards, and just about every type of durable pad you can think of to make sure that each and every player is protected and safe from freak accidents and possible death.

But as for right now, everyone is civilized and concerned about having safety first. Let them eat cake, guys. Would you rather see dirty play in cheap shots, or would you rather see them handle it in a more manly manner? I choose the latter, thanks. I just hope it doesn't get anybody into any serious trouble in the long run.


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