Monday, October 07, 2013

NHL players insist fighting still has a place in hockey

Here’s a really good article on fighting and the players wanting it to remain in the game. I think the point by the writer about Steve Yzerman and having Bob Probert protecting him, is another good point. The writer is right, he did enjoy one of the toughest players to ever play in the NHL protecting his backside.
Mark Lazerus, Chicago Sun Times – An NHLPA/CBC poll conducted in 2011-12 found that 98 percent of players were against banishing fighting. Ninety-eight percent. Some of that has to do with protecting the jobs of the likes of John Scott and Parros. But most of that’s simply the ingrained culture of the sport. To players, fighting is as much a part of the game as faceoffs. You can’t change that overnight. It’s going to take generations to get past that.

Yzerman’s concerns ring particularly hollow, given how glad he was to have legendary enforcer Bob Probert watching his back in Detroit. Yzerman rarely had to worry about being touched, because Probert was always lurking. At the very least, opponents would think twice before taking a run at him.

“That’s where fighting comes in, where you want to stick up for your teammates and you want to have tough guys who protect you so you’re not getting run out of the building every night,” Hawks star Patrick Kane said. “If you take it completely out of the game, and they don’t have to think twice about hitting skilled guys because they know they won’t have to fight someone, there’s no [price] for a cheap hit.”

There’s no easy answer. Yzerman proposed game-misconduct penalties (ejections) for all fights, but all that would do is embolden and encourage goons to try to goad star players into fights to take them out of the game. Full-blown suspensions for simple fights would effectively end fighting, but would lead to vigilante justice and serious injuries caused by guys hell-bent on defending their teammates in other ways. What the NHL needs to do is get rid of the useless fights — the staged ones at face-offs, the forced ones during blowouts, the ones where all a guy is trying to do is wake up a sleepy bench or a bored crowd. Players and fans might like those — as Kane put it, “From a fan’s perspective, there are probably three things you love in hockey: scoring goals, big hits, and the fights” — but they serve no real purpose. They police nothing, they solve nothing.

So do what the Ontario Hockey League did last year — create a quota system. Each player in the OHL now is allowed 10 fights, with the 11th and each one thereafter earning a two-game suspension. This forces players to pick their spots. Someone levels your teammate with a dirty hit? Fight him. Trailing 6-0 at the end of a game and just want to send a message? Not worth it.
I will have to admit that I like the staged fights too. I mean think about this, people go to MMA bouts or pay big money to watch them on pay-per-view and it’s one of the most popular sports on the blogsphere, but we have people that are offended about a bout between two hockey players on the ice. Why is that? Here’s my advice, don’t like fighting, don’t watch hockey. I am more grossed out about the pukes that won’t fight and skate all over the ice hammering people into the boards from behind.
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