Has decreased fighting helped the game?
Growing up in Chicago, and following the home team Blackhawks, you can call me an old-school hockey fan. I’m talking the kind of fan who expected brawls, and invariably was witness to them on a regular basis.
Proponents of decreasing fighting in the NHL have brought up the injury factor as a key reason to stop all the fisticuffs. This adds merit to that argument when injuries are caused from fighting.
Take the Arizona Coyotes’ promising young forward Max Domi. Domi broke a bone in his right hand from a fight with Calgary Flames’ Garnet Hathway on December 8, 2016. He missed 24 games, which really affected the performance of his team. The Coyotes went 8-15-1 during the span, including a nine-game losing streak.
Domi has stated after he returned from his injury, that he would probably pick his battles better so as to not chance another costly injury. For him, it may just be in his upbringing, seeing that his father Tie Domi was a prolific fighter in the NHL for years.
Proponents of fighting say otherwise
It can be noticed that when a player sticks up for a teammate it inspires the team in some way. It shows the opposing team that they are not given free will to bully or intimidate a player just because they think they can.
Let’s face it, NHL hockey is a brutally physical sport. There is not other sport including NFL football, where players are flying down an iced surface at increased speeds causing collisions and flared tempers.
If one player feels he was hit illegally, he’s going after him with ruthless abandon. Adding a third official has helped a bit to see infractions before it comes to fisticuffs. But, every team still has an ‘enforcer’ who will protect top scorers and stars from bodily injury. And, that more times than not, will mean the gloves are dropping.
For this reason, fighting has been allowed to some degree. You don’t see as many fights as years ago. To my memory watching the WHL Phoenix Roadrunners, there were donnybrooks which delayed the game for up to 45 minutes. The old joke “I went to a fight and a hockey game broke out” was true to form.
Fighting won’t be completely banned
If you’ve ever attended a NHL game, fans still love to see two players square up and let the fists fly. It pumps up the crowd, and gets them excited. Are some of the fights staged? Perhaps, but let’s just say when two players don’t like each other a fight is bound to transpire. It does affect play in that one team could go short-handed from fighting penalties. Adding the ‘third man in’ penalty has decreased bench clearing brawls to a minimum.
Fighting in the NHL is here to stay, in its present capacity. The rules may be massaged to protect players from injury, but make no mistake it still is an integral part of the game.