Friday, September 30, 2011

NHL to Scrap Fighting?

Is fighting about to go the way of the red line in the National Hockey League?

With all the talk about headshots and concussions around pro sports these days, we all knew the topic was going to at least come up a few times. Add to that the fact that the league lost three ‘enforcer’ type players over the summer, and it became a perfect storm of sorts for the discussion to be had.

On one side of the debate, you’ve got the people who will argue that fighting is a part of the game and taking it out would just make the sport soft. Others will point out that the role of the enforcer is quickly evaporating and a lot of fights are pre-arranged and have little to no effect on the momentum of a game.

Both sides are right, to a certain extent: fighting is a pretty big part of the game, and has been for ages, but the game would probably be just fine without it.

The other layer to the argument is the one that the NHL is now looking into, and that is the injury side of the equation.

Brendan Shanahan, the NHL’s senior vice president of player safety, confirmed to the CBC on Thursday that they’ll be examining whether or not fighting still has a place in the game.

He says they’re serious about studying blows to the head, which obviously leads them down that path. The league is doing a lot to try and change the behavior of players who target the head in open play, so it makes sense that they might cringe when they see something like this:

Let’s go right to the extreme here – if the league did decide to do away with fighting, what would happen?

I think the biggest thing would be that a lot of guys would be out of work. It would start in the NHL, but the same thing would happen in the AHL, the ECHL and the rest of the semi-pro ranks. That’s a tough pill to swallow, but it frees up roster spots for more skilled guys I suppose.

Another one you hear often is that players would just start dishing out cheap shots all the time, knowing that they wouldn’t have to step up and fight. That already happens in the NHL – guys like Sean Avery and Matt Cooke get away with dirty stuff out there all the time and rarely have to answer for it!

What the league could do is try to limit the number of times a guy fights by bring in a system like they have in the NBA with technical fouls – hand out a one game suspension for every X number of fighting majors a guy racks up.

It’s nothing huge, but it might help stop those “fights for the sake of fighting,” which are usually just a waste of time anyway. I personally love that the option to fight is there in hockey, but I’d rather see two captains go toe to toe in the third period of a 2-1 game than two heavyweights throw down just because they’re supposed to.

Will the NHL end up banning fighting? I strongly doubt it. Would it be that bad for the game if they did? I don’t think so.

What do you think: Would it be a mistake for the NHL to get rid of fighting, or has the time come?

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