One of my favorite sayings goes something like this: "I went to a fight, and a hockey game broke out."
It describes the utter hard-nosed mentality of the NHL and the players who strap on skates for their teams.
Ever since hockey was created, before any of us were even born, fights became a common occurrence. Some of the most intense games are ones where your favorite player throws down his stick and gloves, and gives an old-fashioned back yard whoopin' to a player on the other team.
Nothing says rivalry like some good punches back and forth. But when does fighting in hockey become a detriment to the flow of the game? When does it go from a little healthy competition to a complete disregard to fundamental hockey?
Some will agree with the questions asked. Although most die-hard hockey fans will say that fighting in hockey is a historical part of the game that should not be taken from the game.
Hockey enthusiast Cameron Kuspis, in response to the matter, says "Fighting has been a part of hockey for as long as I've watched it...Fighting needs to be in hockey."
Vincent Tarquinio, a hockey player at Penn State Behrend, also adds to the matter saying, "It (Fighting) has created the toughness factor and the grit that separates the sport of hockey from other sports."
There have been theories that fighting became a part of hockey in the beginning, when there were very few rules. Others simply state that it is natural to have fighting in a physical game played in such close quarters.
Whenever it started, there is no doubt that fighting has added a fire in leagues like the National Hockey League.
While players will not be suspended or ejected for a single fight, there are certain rules that keep it from getting out of hand.
Each fighting player receives a major penalty (five minutes). If a player fights three times in one game, he is automatically removed from the game. Players will be ejected, and could be suspended, for leaving the bench to participate in a fight.
Coaches can also be suspended for allowing players to leave the bench during an on-ice altercation.
Players also receive harsh punishment for using a weapon during a fight. (stick, skate, etc.)
In the increased popularity of fighting (or the increased conversation of it), enforcers have risen to the occasion.
Enforcers serve as intimidating on ice presence. An enforcer is a player who's role is to keep the punishment off of a star player, and to rough up other players in the process.
Players like Georges Laraque have made a living off of being an enforcer. He was brought to the Pittsburgh Penguins during the 2006-2007 season to provide a physical presence for a young Penguins team.
Since referees are the ones with the whistles, they have the power to stop a fight. Enforcers and other players that fight usually have an informal respect for each other.
More often than not, once one of the players is knocked down the fight will be called to a halt, and both players will be taken to the penalty box.
This control allows the the NHL to keep fighting, while still regulating it.
Fighting is a part of hockey and its history, just like Wayne Gretzky is a part of hockey's history.
Those who want to take fighting out of hockey need to realize that they would be stripping hockey of its original roots, and would further distance the hockey of today from hockey in its infancy.
For players and fans, fighting needs to be a part of the game. It isn't a barbaric show, it is a showing that a player will do anything for the guys wearing the same jersey as he is.
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