Art of the hockey fight

March 1st, 2007

In light of the recent Buffalo Sabres-Ottawa Senators series, I’ve been contemplating fighting in the NHL.

A lot of people misunderstand fighting and ice hockey. Regardless of the fact that the NHL has dropped out of the limelight, there seems to be a lot of support for the NHL on the campus of John Carroll University. I’m not just talking about my fellow Sabres fans either.

Throughout his tenure NHL commissioner Gary Bettman has worked to rid the NHL of fighting.

Last week’s Sabres-Senators games were old time hockey, like Eddie Shore played.

For those of you who missed the game and haven’t seen it on YouTube, I’ll run through the stats. In two games there were twelve fights, 190 total penalty minutes, a goalie fight, a letter to the comissioner and a $10,000 fine given to Sabres coach Lindy Ruff for telling his enforcers, “Go out and run ‘em.”

The raucous began after Senator Chris Neil knocked out Sabres captain Chris Drury with a bodycheck.

The fights that broke out were in defense of Drury. Not all fights are in defense of a teammate. Quite often players drop the gloves because they want to punch each other for a minute or two.

Fighting has been part of hockey for years, even today most teams carry an enforcer. This yearning for recreational fighting is due to the dying breed of the fighter in the NHL. For example, Pittsburgh Penguins enforcer Georges Laraque was mic’d up for a game in which he fought. Before the fight, Laraque turned to his counterpart and asked if he wanted to go, and then wished him good luck.

I’m pretty sure Brandon Meriweather didn’t wish any Florida Atlantic University players good luck before swinging his University of Miami issued lid like a purse in their direction.

Aside from pro lacrosse, there is no other sport that allows players to drop their gloves and bare knuckle box. While there is a five minute penalty involved, there are no suspensions given out to players involved in fights.

This is exactly why many casual fans and TV hosts (Skip Bayless) do not understand hockey. There aren’t sucker punches (Carmelo Anthony) in hockey brawls, everyone pairs off and there aren’t any two on one fights.

A hockey fight isn’t a bar fight on skates — it is a strategic battle between two competitors.

Even with the attempt to reduce fighting I feel that it will never really die. One day the role of the enforcer will be gone. However, when a player gets roughed up, teammates will always stand up and fight for their teammates.

Fighting is to hockey like the rouge is to Canadian football, maybe not exactly the same.

As useless as a non-fielded kick may be it is part of the game, and it makes Canadian football unique.

Fighting is part of the history of the NHL, it’s a reason people go to games. Fighting is a unique and wonderfully entertaining heritage of an oustanding sport.

Many people don’t get the NHL. Take the time to appreciate a NHL game. You will see a sport with a rich and colorful heritage that catches a bad wrap because of poor administration, maybe you’ll see a fight or two as well.