Over the passed few seasons fighting has become a very controversial topic in the world of hockey. The NHL has taken drastic steps to crack down on fighting, and it has seen results as fighting is at an all time low in the NHL. You can read more on the current state of fighting here.Does eliminating fighting make the NHL a safer place? Lets decide.
Staged fights rarely occur in todays NHL. Even less now that the league has cracked down more on the enforcer rule in specific. More often than not the reason that a fight occurs in the NHL is because a bad hit was made, or because a player had been talking a little too much smack. Often times when a fight like that occurs, the dust is settled then and there. Every now and then a good old fashioned rivalry will be created by a physical game that includes a couple of fights. Or for instance, The Boston Bruins and Montreal Canadians might be playing and the rivalry will be set in stone for the rest of the franchises existence. Those games that include the most fights also happen to be the games that the NHL makes their prime time games on national television.
The NHL isn’t doing a very good job of trying to shift away from fighting if they’re bringing the most attention to the games that include the most fights.
Cons of fighting
Obviously the number one con, and the reason that the league is cracking down on fighting, is player safety. Injuries sometimes occur when the gloves are dropped. Not only player injury, but also losing players to suspension. If a player is suspended for a fight, whether is be because he has fought enough times to earn a suspension, or because the fight was planned, losing players is never good for the league. Especially if it was just a fight that resulted in no serious injury. But how often does a player receive a serious injury after dropping the gloves? How dangerous is fighting compared to the blind sided open ice hits, or the hits from behind on the boards?
The NHL is being a bit hypocritical when they say they are trying to ban fighting due to safety, but then they let players like Nazem Kadri get away with a history that includes suspensions and or fines for an illegal hit to the head (twice) an “inappropriate throat slash gesture” (once) a boarding call (once) and a cross check to the face (once) JUST TO NAME A FEW. With a track record like that, Kadri then cross checked Jake DeBrusk in the 2019 NHL playoffs. This resulted in essentially only a four game suspension as he was suspended the rest of the series against the Bruins.
Pros of fighting
Some of the most exciting games in NHL history, and even still in the NHL today, consist of fighting and hard hits. Playoff hockey is the most watched hockey, and it is far more physical than regular season hockey. Is this a coincidence? Do fans tend to flock towards the more physical hockey games? I think it shows. Hockey fans love hockey fights. Fighting is a way to settle old scores, or even make players own up to cheap hits, or hits on star players. If star players are protected, star players can make more plays and bring in more viewers.
If fighting isn’t allowed, Team A takes out the star player for team B. Team B then responds by taking out the star player for team A. Now the star player for both team A and team B are injured, and you’ve now lost two star players. If you let players fight, Team B responds by dropping the gloves with whoever on Team A put the cheap hit on the star player for Team B and all is well.
Fighting is also used as something to get the crowd back into the game for the home team. A good fight at the end of a game can change the whole outcome of a game. Not only for the crowd, but to get players back into the game and pump them up as well.
Fighting makes the game cleaner, and enables players to police the game themselves without putting bounties on other players. A lot of players will even say that the league is more safe with fighting. Business can be settled in a rather controlled manner by dropping of the gloves.
Who’s at fault?
Fighting is indeed dangerous. Lets not forget though, that most fights end up finishing with at least one of the players involved with his helmet still on. No player is protected when he’s hit by a guy who doesn’t even see before the hit. Or when his body is crushed between the boards and an opposing player from behind. Fighting might bring an edge to the game. But it is not near as dangerous as an illegal hit. Hopefully the NHL can figure that out someday soon.