Fighting and Violence in Hockey

So JP over at Jappers Rink wrote a good post today about violence, and more specifically fighting, in Hockey.I would say JP is in the "no fighting, but we'll tolerate it" camp. This is a touchy issue, and the boys over at Faux Rumors are definitely in the "pro-fighting" camp.

I, personally, am torn. I don't think fighting is as essential to the game as people like Faux Rumors. Olympic Hockey, and NCAA hockey is fight-free and is also some of the most entertaining hockey around. The Stanley Cup Playoffs don't have any hockey fighting and even the most livid of hockey haters love those games. I think that shows that hockey can be entertaining without fights. It is concerning when a guy goes into a stretcher and might have his career ruined, like the Flyers guy last night.

On the other hand fighting in hockey IS entertaining though. My wife, the most peaceful person I have ever met in my life, loves watching a good hockey fight. I hate to admit it, but I do too. One of my favorite sports moments is the brawl between the Red Wings and Avalanche in '97. I disliked the Red Wings the day before, and hated them since that night. That was good for hockey, and it's hard to argue against it. Whether it's a deterrent for dirty play, or escalator is up to debate. I guess that intimidation will keep a player from backing off making a questionable hit, maybe.

Cam Janssen answered the call for his hit on Tomas Caberle, but I don't see that as over. Toronto lost one of their best defesnse men for multiple games in a playoff crunch, and NJ lost a 3rd or 4th line center for 1/2 a game because he went out and fought. Now we're supposed to believe Toronto players are happy with this because he stood up and fought? I don't buy that.

Here's exhibit A:
Steve Moore answered the call for his perceived cheap shot of Naslund (for the record it was awkward, but not dirty. Many unbiased hockey people have come out and said as much.). He fought a Canuck 2 games later. By the hockey man's rules the matter should be done and over, but it wasn't. We all know what happened next. How did having an enforcer help this? Fighting didn't curb the violence and didn't help at all. If anything it only escalated things further.

To be honest I don't think fighting is the problem. I think it's players making cheap shots on other player. If the NHL would do a better job on punishing cheap shots and dirty plays then fighting will subside and everyone will be happy. Checks to the head carry an automatic $5k-$10k penalty. Knee-to-knee hits carry an automatic $5k penalty. These fines can be increased and suspensions can be assessed if the league deems these were done with intent to injure, or out of maliciousness. make these rule changes and repeal the instigator law.

In my opinion this will reduce fighting, but still keep it part of the entertainment. There will still be the perceived cheap shot that will get the enforcer out on the ice. Cam Janssen would have been fined and suspended a couple games, and then answered for his actions to Belak the other night. But maybe the threat of fine and suspension makes Janssen check Caberle more carefully? Maybe Drury isn't hit from behind in the head because hockey players learn, you don't hit people in the head... it's a no-no. If it happens you will pay with not only your fists, but your money and your playing time.


  1. 1) Hey nice blog and liked your article even if we disagree with this subject.
    2) Yes, fighting is less common in the playoffs but not entirely missing. Playoffs have enough natural intensity that fighting isn't missed when not present, but to artificially eliminate it would be a mistake in our opinion
    3) We don't want hockey to go back to the 1970's Phillie Flyer/bench clearing brawl days, but want the league to allow the players to police themselves and allow the occasional scrap.
    4) We feel the increase in the instigator has made players like Ruutu, Tucker, Avery, Neil, Holweg, Jannson, etc feel invulnerable to answer for their dirty tactics. We feel that since this has occurred it has INCREASED the amount/number of incidents of stick use,etc.

  2. Hey thanks for the comments.

    I agree with you, I don't want to see fighting absolved, i just think there will be less of it if they do more to combat cheap shots. I have no problem with a good old fashioned throw down, but for the NHL to rely solely on Wile West justice seems to be a little out of date.

    A ban on fighting is bad. Putting other rules in place that makes the need for fighting decrease, is good in my opinion

  3. Thanks for the link, and I'd like to clarify my position - I'm not anti-fighting at all. I'm anti-pointless fighting. Really, I'm just pro-middle ground.