Friday, March 23, 2007

Two cents or $1.85 US on NHL fighting

Remember the days when you could see Ron Duguay’s hair flowing in the wind, as he skated down the wing? When Bobby Clarke ruled the corners? When a Boston-Montreal contest was sure to break out in a bench-clearing brawl?

You didn’t see many checks from behind. Concussions were not being handed out like candy at a children’s festival. And except for the very rare ugly incident (Dave Forbes, Wayne Maki), fighting controlled the frustrations of the game.

There are two issues impacting the respect of the game today:

a.) Helmets
Players see a helmet but not what’s underneath it. It provides a sense of invincibility. Until players’ chinstraps no longer dangle beneath their Adams Apple and until the hockey helmet offers as much protection as the football helmet, heads will continue to be vulnerable.

b.) Fighting
Like it or not, fighting relieves the tension of the game. Yes, players can still get hurt, but much fewer than those who have been impaled, high elbowed, or received checks from behind.

Fighting also sells, particularly in the U.S., where most centers’ newspapers barely put the line score in the back of the section. Who wasn’t talking about the Ottawa-Buffalo game earlier this season? Heck, Ottawa goalie Ray Emery even made CNN news!

The instigator rule, which was initially the answer to eliminating the bench-clearing brawl, actually started the downfall of respect. Frustrated players began using different avenues to relieve tension, other than their fists. Combine that with mandatory helmets and you have Bertuzzi-Moore/Suter-Kariya/McSorley-Brashear, and many more like incidents.

Give me fighting any time over watching a player being hauled off the ice on a stretcher.


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