There's nothing like the feeling of attending an NHL game, particularly if you've never been before. If you get there 45 minutes before game time, you get to see the two teams warm up at full speed.
This is a practice session to help players get up to full game speed quickly, but watching talented players skate, pass, make moves and shoot can be magical.
Then, as you anticipate the start of the game, the house lights dim, the anthem(s) are performed and the puck is dropped.
But instead of seeing the plays develop and the shots taken, the action stops almost immediately.
The gloves get thrown off, a couple of players square off and the fists start flying.
It may be seconds into the game, one minute, two minutes or three.
They call it hockey justice.
But what justice is there to administer before the players have broken an earnest sweat?
These early fights are a nasty trend that has to come to an end.
Take the action between the New Jersey Devils and the Pittsburgh Penguins Feb. 10. In that game, Ryan Carter of the Devils and Robert Bortuzzo of the Penguins squared off four seconds into the contest.
The day before, George Parros of the Florida Panthers went at it with John Erskine of the Washington Capitals around the five-minute mark of the first period.
Jamal Mayers of the Chicago Blackhawks and Raffi Torres of the Phoenix Coyotes went at it at the 2:35 mark of the first period in the Feb. 7 game in the desert.
In that last game, there was a good reason for that Mayers-Torres fight. The game was Torres' first game back following a suspension after injuring Chicago forward Marian Hossa in last year's playoffs with an illegal blindside hit.
The Blackhawks figured Torres had justice coming.
However, the carrying of grudges—major and minor—has no place in hockey.
It's one thing for two players to go at it during the course of a game after absorbing hard checks or a high stick. That's the way it has been in hockey for decades.
But to start a game for some real, imagined or made up reason has no place in the game.
There's enough hard hitting and violence in the game on its own. Players and coaches don't need to "create energy" by engaging in a fight.
It doesn't matter if it is exciting or one particular bench gets pumped up by a knockout on the ice. It's nearly impossible to defend the practice when comparing it with every other major sport.
But when the fight is contrived or made up, it cheapens and diminishes the game even further.
Critics also get a chance to scoff at the game, not that their opinion should matter all that much. But from a logical point of view, fighting is a practice that makes the game seem Neanderthal.
Get rid of these needless fights at the start of the game and consider getting rid of fighting altogether.
Do it now.
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