Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Fighting In Hockey, A Not So Necessary Evil

Let me premise this by saying I grew up in SoCal in the 70s and 80s, so I never got a chance to play hockey, but I was a huge fan of the Marcel Dione (Triple Crown line) teams and later the Gretzky team. I don't follow the day to day NHL grind too closely any more, more or less my hockey viewing is saved for the team my 6 year old plays on.

The other day in a post (at The Book Blog) about certain aspects of baseball games that cause delays and games to drag on needlessly, the following exchange took place.

I’ll bet you could cut down on wasted time in hockey games by outlawing fighting. Scrum or no scrum, ready or not ready, the linesman will drop the puck on the faceoff spot 15 seconds after any stoppage of play.

There, I solved a “problem"…

As you may or may not know, Chief Operator of The Book Blog, Tom Tango is a huge hockey fan, who often holds hockey up as the "gold standard" for the way other leagues should be ran. When Mr. Tango got a whiff of the above comment, he quickly retorted.

Fighting serves a purpose, so that’s not a valid comparison.

This quote set off a red flag for me. I wondered "what purpose" he was referring to. I'm sure it served a purpose, but wanted to hear from a hockey subject matter expert how this was going to be likely explained as a "good" purpose. After being called an asshole and a drunk fool for asking in a sarcastic yet friendly manner Tango had this response.

The argument for fighting is that the players can self-police better than the officials. In a regular season game, if you remove fighting, you risk increasing stick fouls.
It’s a fair argument that it’s a necessary evil.

So basically, we have here that Mr. Tango believes that fighting in hockey serves a necessary purpose as a way for players to self police the game. Adults getting in to violent fist fights, trying to punch each other in the face with their bare fists, all the while trying to pull their opponents jersey over their heads in such a way that they cannot defend themselves from the punches to the head serves a necessary purpose. That's some high horse you have to be riding to think that hockey fights serve a necessary purpose or are "just part of the game". This from the same person who went to extremes (some good, some bad) about rule changes baseball needed to outlaw collisions at home plate. Baseball needs commit lines, forces at home plate on tag plays, red zone creases etc.., but violent fist fights in hockey are needed.

I really enjoyed a few of the other comments that pointed out the ridiculousness of this comment.

Yea, great purpose. It serves in stopping me from bringing my son to any NHL game.

Exactly! I will never turn on a hockey game in my house or take my kid to an NHL game. Never!!

But I think the next quote takes the cake and is spot on!

How does fighting serve a purpose in hockey? That’s like saying bench clearing brawls serve a purpose in baseball. No, they do not server a purpose. They appease the fans who enjoy violence with their entertainment. They appease themselves with childish acts of seeing which one has a bigger d*ck. It’s quite honestly shocking that you’d argue that fighting serves a purpose when you spent days arguing that baserunners shouldn’t be allowed to bowl over catchers. Very inconsistent.

I’ll admit I don’t watch hockey and have no intention of doing so, but I don’t need to watch it to know that fighting serves no purpose whatsoever. It doesn’t serve a purpose on the playground. It doesn’t serve one on basketball courts, baseball fields or football fields either. It also doesn’t serve a purpose in the office, between husband and wife, or between nations.

That is poster material right there. That is something that should be engrained into the heart and minds of any young child, teenager, or adult. Fighting serves no purpose. Self defense from bodily harm yes. Fighting no.

Mr. Tango then had the gall to ignore and write this off due to the assumed risks of playing hockey. And that if asked, (Summary opinion with no evidence) most if not all hockey players in the NHL would be against ejecting players for fighting. To which we get another great response from the peanut gallery.

Why do we have to ask the players what they think about fighting? Is fighting wrong? Are there better ways to accomplish your intended goal than through fighting? Do we expect adults to behave as adults, which means they do not get into fights.

I don’t care what the players think. We could ask 30 catchers and 25 of them are going to say a collision is fine. So why is it OK for one and not the other? Neither has a place in either game. Neither makes the game more exciting except for those fans who enjoy the violence of which there are far too many. Those are the fans these leagues should be going out of their way to make unhappy.

Look, I am not a square - I know that fights are going to take place from time to time in sports. I know there are sports where fighting is the sport (ie - boxing, MMA, kick boxing etc...). In those sports you win or lose through your fighting skills. In hockey the purpose of the game is to score more goals than your opponent through team work, stick skills, skating skills and goal tending. You do not get points for punching someone in the face with your bare knuckles. Fights may occur from time to time, like they do in baseball, basketball and soccer (rare), but it is NOT a necessary evil. It is an evil. An evil through and through and there is no rationale for saying that fighting is a necessary part of hockey. It does not matter if stick hits will be up or down without fighting. Just doesn't matter. Fighting should not be allowed in hockey and the "golden god" sport should be overhauled in such a manner that leading analysts aren't passing along nonsensical statements that the fighting is with merits.

Our society is too violent. People accepting punching someone in the face as a form of self policing is part of the problem. Violence in our society is very serious. Kids are bullied at school. Husbands beat up wives. Is it ok for bullies to beat up kids at schools as a means of self policing? Is it ok for husbands to beat wives as a means of self policing? No, and it is not ok in hockey either. I am not saying Mr. Tango advocates these things. But they are all related. Young children are impressionable, as are teenagers and unfortunately some adults who have yet to grow up. Mr. Tango should sit down and talk with some of the (anti) domestic violence advocacy groups and hear their take on violence and self policing via the clinched fist to the face. I wonder if they think that fighting in hockey is a necessary evil.