Fighting not the issue in NHL
With one vertebrae-cracking thud to the ice,
the media engines were churning and calling for wholesale changes
to Canada’s national game of hockey.
Since Todd Bertuzzi of the Vancouver Canucks sucker-punched
the Colorado Avalanche’s Steve Moore, media giants like
The Globe and Mail have once again tolled the bell to end fighting.
Fighting in the National Hockey League has long been a part
of the game’s entertainment value and its oft-controversial
brand of on-ice justice, and is a coded way in which players
engage each other in the sport — while it may be violent,
it is a necessary evil in the game.
Without fighting, incidents like the one between Bertuzzi
and Moore would be even more common than they are now. These
instances of violence outside the codes of the game are more
dangerous than fighting; players who fight know what they’re
Today’s talent-poor NHL needs fighting, as the game
has degenerated to a collection of promoted bush-leaguers trying
to catch up to the skilled players by clutching, grabbing and
Fighting will never leave the NHL, and an outright ban would
only allow the violent plays outside the rules to prosper;
with harsher consequences for fighting, the only way to “get
back” at an opposing player for injuring your star would
be not to engage in a “fair” fight, but to sink
to the aggressor’s level and perform an equally brutal
The real crackdown should come not on fighting, but on the
dirty work: high-sticking, slashing, spearing, boarding and
checks from behind.
The amount of dirty play in the NHL today reflects a lack
of respect among the players for each other that has never
been seen before; in the days of a six-team league, most of
the players knew each other and there was a professional respect
among the athletes. Nowadays, there are so many teams in the
league that two players may never meet again, on the ice or
Even Don Cherry may be right this time: the instigator rule
is partially to blame, too. Players won’t take a 10-minute
misconduct for starting a fight, even though the best way to
motivate your team is to send your spark-plug into battle;
and consequently, the dirty little tricks are getting bigger
and bigger, as players find revenge in other ways.
To ban fighting on a moralistic ground is to over-intellectualize
the sport — in life, as mama always said, fighting probably
won’t solve anything, but on the ice it will. Fighting,
like body checking, is allowed within the rules; sure, fighting
carries a major penalty with it, but to entirely outlaw it
is to apply a standard from a rational universe to an irrational,
Plain and simple, the Bertuzzi-Moore incident was not a fight,
it was a senseless act of violence — what would banning
fighting do to stop it?