Friday, March 23, 2007

Ban Fighting in the NHL? I Think Not...

More drivel from TSN. TSN is about as anti-fighting a source as you will find on the net. So this article doesn't really come as a surprise. Dragging on the tails of the Colton Orr KO of Todd Fedoruk, TSN strung together a pathetic attempt at an article aimed at banning fighting in the NHL. The article comes up short from their end, however, as they were unable to get a quote from any of the players saying that they think fighting should be banned. The closest they could get was a couple of quotes from League Disciplinarian, Colin Campbell, saying the NHL should take a look at it.

''I think it's time to ask the question,'' Campbell told The Canadian Press on Thursday. ''I think you have to ask the question because of what's happening out there. It's incumbent on me, because of my position, to ask the question.''
You actually can't blame Campbell for saying this. It is his duty to ask questions like this. And just because you ask a question doesn't mean that the answer is going to turn out like Damien Cox wants it to.

Campbell adds:

''But now I think because of the size of our players, where we're at in sports and in life, I think we have to look at it.''

''This year we've had two players carried out on stretchers because of fair, consenting fights that had taken place. . . . It scares you,'' said Campbell.

Again, he isn't far off on this one either. I myself have asked whether guys like Derek Boogard are good for the league. It's not a fair question though as you can't blame a guy for being too good at his job. But seeing guys getting carted off on stretchers isn't good for the image of hockey. Seeing guys hold their crushed orbital and cheek bones isn't good for the image of hockey either.

''Guys being carried off on stretchers was never a common occurrence,'' he said. ''It's happened too many times already this year. I think we have to ask the question, is the risk worth it? Is this part of the game worth it?''

On the point of stretchers, it was quite clear that Todd Fedoruk didn't want to be carted off the ice the other night. But the Flyers' tough guy had little choice. While I agree that it is best to get guys stabilized that have taken a significant blow to the head, I believe carting them off contributes to the anti-fighting cause. Simply put, it didn't used to be like that. Even Clint Malarchuk, after taking a skate blade to the jugular, was able to skate off on his own. And if you were to cart off every single NFL player that suffered a head blow, the games would be four hours long. So not much has really changed in the NHL when it comes to head injuries; a lot of hit has to do with the image of seeing guys being carted off today instead of skating off in the past.

''I think you're going to lose fans,'' veteran Coyotes centre Jeremy Roenick said. ''As much as I hate to say it - because you'd like to think everybody comes to see the exciting players do their thing - but there's a large amount of people who love the physical, tough aspect of our sport. And fighting is a favourite of a lot of people.
Roenick speaks the truth hear. If you think that fighting will not hurt ticket sales, you are sadly mistaken. Hockey wouldn't even be able to claim the title of "niche sport" if the league was to ban fighting. No chance... not when 24 of 30 teams reside in the United States, the United States that has displayed time and time again that they crave an element of violence in their game. And, no, hitting is not enough. Besides, that is where the majority of head blows have come from this year anyways.

''I worry about what would happen if there wasn't a way to let out the frustration with a fight,'' said Roenick. ''Because let's face it, there is absolutely no respect in the game any more, with the way guys are taking runs at people and with the cheap shots and the late hits. Guys are getting hurt. If you take fighting out all of a sudden these guys are going to take even more liberties because they don't have to be accountable for themselves.
Again Roenick hits the target. There are less occurences of players fighting today just to fight. Hockey players fight for a reason. They do it to swing the momentum of the game toward their team. We have seen it so many times this year. The next day, you read an article that singles out a fight by a player the swung the momentum of the game. Players fight to stick up for teammates. Again, I can't even fathom how many times this has happened this year. I've watched the Washington Capitals stick up for each other all year long. That is one reason they have earned the reputation as a hard working team that never gives up. You see players fight for retribution of a dirty hit. The Senators/Sabres brawl is an example of this.... you know, the brawl that garnered hockey the most attention it has received in two years? Players fight to deter. Let's face it, there are way too many cheap players in the league today. How many times have we heard it that respect is at an all-time low in the game? You have to be able to police the game directly on the ice as soon as an incident occurs. After the fact discipline is certainly a deterence, but not nearly hte deterence of knowing that you could have your butt kicked if you don't knock off the cheap hits.

Folks... fighting isn't going anywhere. The deciding factor is that it would be a disastrous financial decision to ban fighting. And we all know that the owners are most concerned about their pockets being full... why else would Gary Bettman still be the Commissioner of the NHL?

And I have said it before, the players want fighting, the GMs want fighting, the owners want fighting, and most importantly, the fans want fighting.

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