In the first game of the 2013-14 NHL season between the Toronto Maple Leafs and Montreal Canadiens, George Parros suffered a serious injury against Colton Orr in a fight. It was inevitable that this would snowball the first debate of the year on whether fighting should be taken out of hockey.
But here’s the thing about the fight, Parros didn’t suffer an injury from his face meeting Orr’s knuckles. He fell to the ice and hit his head against the surface. There is still the argument this injury wouldn’t have occurred if the two didn’t drop the gloves; however, this exact same incident could have happened in a scrum.
Obviously, Parros, along with all tough guys, don’t want to suffer any injuries in a fight. But odds are he’ll fight again if he regains his health. He knows the risk involved in fighting and is willing to take it to play in The Show while making a six-figure salary.
Of course injuries would go down if the NHL took fighting out of hockey. Nonetheless, there are more injuries occurred by receiving/taking hits and blocking shots. So should the NHL take body checking out and start using a tennis ball? Sure, that’s somewhat of an irrational argument, but it goes to show you that taking fighting out of hockey would only put a slight dent into decreasing injuries.
Those who say fighting isn’t a part of hockey fail to realize it has been a part of the game since the beginning. Therefore, they can’t say fighting should be taken out because it’s not a part of the game. The have to say hockey should be changed by taking fighting out of the game.
NHL commissioner Gary Bettman hasn’t said one way or the other whether the NHL is actually looking at removing fighting. While reading between the lines in some of his comments to the media, it seems unlikely the owners and players are going to vote to take out dropping the mitts, though.
“When we make changes, we respect the tradition of the game. You don’t throw a light switch to effectuate change. The game is evolving and we are constantly wrestling with that balance,” Bettman told the CBC.
The bottom is the players, majority of fans and owners want fighting in the game. The players want it to police the pests and some wouldn’t even be in the league if it wasn’t for fights. The fans want it because it is entertaining. It gets them jumping out of their seats and more into the game than a goal. The owners, of course, want it in the game because it sells tickets. If fighting leaves the NHL, so does some of its revenue.
In minor hockey, on the other hand, it’s a totally different story. Minor hockey players aren’t being paid to entertain fans. They aren’t entertainers; they’re teenagers. Therefore, fighting doesn’t have as much of a place in minor hockey as the pros. However, there is still a place for it. When some goon takes a run at a skilled player, he deserves to learn a lesson the hard way by absorbing a couple punches to the face because suspensions and penalty minutes don’t do the trick. If fighting is ever taken out of minor hockey, it’s inevitable that cheap hits and slashes will skyrocket because there won’t be any intimidating repercussions for them.
Minor hockey fights need just punishments, though. And they do right now. A fight in midget, regardless of when it takes place, results in a one-game suspension. Back in 2008, you only received a suspension if it was in the last 10 minutes of the game. This resulted in all of the knuckleheads going wild at the start of a third period. So I give props to the Saskatchewan Hockey Association for confronting this problem without going overboard.
Ultimately, the debate on fighting in hockey will never end. There will always be people wanting to take it out of the game. They, however, won’t succeed in getting their way in the near future because the majority knows fighting has its place in hockey.