Hockey & Fighting…An Outsiders Take

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Let’s face it, it’s ridiculous.

Thinking back to a time when I didn’t understand the reasons behind it, fighting was easily the first thing that came to mind when I thought of Hockey. It was like the headline that grabbed my attention to a story I would be barely interested in ready. Why would I bother? Unlike the game of Hockey, I understood how fighting worked. The rest of rules, beyond hitting the puck in to the net, didn’t make any sense to me or anyone else who watched the game. Punching somebody in the face? That I can understand! Why were they fighting? I’d no idea. Why didn’t the referee’s even attempt to stop them? I’d no clue. Why were these guys simply taken off the ice briefly only to be allowed to return again without any sort of suspension or serious repercussions? Beats me!

The mere fact that a game allowed fighting as a matter of course and accepted it as part of story, that was something to be respected for a lot of sports fans that fancied themselves as tough. Where I came from, we all saw the grins of toothless Canadians skate away after getting in a scuffle with an opponent, blood streaming from their face as the crowd cheered and teammates tapped their sticks against the boards. We saw that, and we knew we were watching some tough S.o.B’s.

Contrast that against the divers and cheats of soccer that we watched every weekend, rolling around the grass in agony after the slightest nip on the heels from their pursuers? There was something to be said for the valor shown by a couple of goon’s exchanging blows when you compared it to that crap.

It was only when I came to Canada and watched the game with any sort of regularity that I began to understand why people fought. It was easy for the casual observer to view it and perhaps giggle, or be shocked, by the barbaric nature of what they were witnessing in a hockey fight, but over the months of watching Don Cherry, the Hot Stove and other analysts discuss it’s merits did I become a believer.

While I don’t proclaim to fully understand “The Code” when it comes to hockey and fighting, I sure as hell respect it. And if I am to read it correctly, this is how I would describe it for those of you who don’t understand it: you do something that you shouldn’t have done, be prepared to face the consequences. You’re a brave man if you do it again.

There is an honour in accepting your punishment. Mistakes are made in the heat of the moment, always. On the ice, if you do something that you shouldn’t, whether it be take a cheap shot at an opponent, or pick on a star player just because, you better believe you’re going to have to face the consequences of your actions. There is no place people that carry on like that in hockey. There is no place for diving, cheating, or tasteless behavior that could deliberately injure an opponent. The players will deal with that. They will self-police. They will make sure you will think twice before you do that again. Who does not respect that?

Of course, to focus on fighting in hockey now is almost a tired subject. Yes, it’s barbaric and a little bit crazy, but it’s part of the fabric of the game, and it allows for self-officiating on the ice. But concussions and head-trauma! But it protects your stars!

Blah, Blah, Blah.

I don’t want to come off as a complete defender of fighting in hockey, because I am not. I understand that it is a dangerous situation that can, and has, result in the worst possible scenario you can imagine for a game. But what I also can’t stand is the rat-like behavior of those trying to get an edge by cheating and injuring opponents deliberately for individual gain. Perhaps it’s old-school, barbaric teaching, but perhaps sometimes delivering someone their comeuppance with a bit of a beating might make them think twice about doing the same a second time.

The reality is, whether you like it or not, is that fighting will be phased out of hockey. Once glorified as a calling-card of the game globally, now is frowned upon in a politically-correct society that understands more about the dangers of head-trauma’s and concussions, as well as the bad examples it sets. How can anyone really disagree with that?

A sport as magnificently skillful and fast as hockey should not be characterized by something as needless as two goons punching the be-jesus out of each other. Hockey has a lot more to offer than that. The Stanley Cup play-off’s and the Olympic Games are prime examples of that. But the next time you watch a basketball player flop, or a soccer player dive, or a hockey place try to break your favourite player’s knee cap…look me in the eye and tell me you don’t mind him getting away with it.

 

 

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