By Matt Robinson
“It looks like we are going to have a scrap behind the play.” That is often the line that is heard from the play-by-play announcer as the referee blows the whistle and two opposing players drop their gloves, sometimes even taking off their helmets.
Fighting in hockey in most hockey circles is thought to be part of the game. Many current and former NHL players and executives say it is a way for players to police the game in a way the referees cannot. Others like Hockey News Writer Adam Proteau say “Fighting can change the momentum of a game.”
Many fans of the game in non-traditional hockey markets like California and Florida have often been heard saying the only reason they go to hockey is for the fighting.
That still does not answer the question that has been a hot button topic around the hockey world as of late. Is fighting really worth the risk to be kept in the game?
It’s no secret that hockey is a physical, fast paced game that can produce an injury at any time. With all that in mind, do leagues need to subject their players to further injury with something that quite honestly, has no place in today’s game.
In the last number of years there have been horrifying injuries and even deaths, both on and off the ice, because of fighting. The most recent one came on the opening night of the 2013-2014 NHL season when so called “enforcers” George Parros and Colton Orr squared off in a game in front of arguably the most intelligent hockey fans in the world, le Canadiens de Montreal.
Parros, a graduate of Princeton with a Degree in Economics, was attempting to hit Orr, who had fallen down, when he was accidentally pulled down by Orr, crashing chin first into the ice. Orr immediately jumped up off the ice and waived for a trainer, abiding by the unwritten enforcers code, knowing that his fellow fighter was hurt. Parros was taken off the ice on a stretcher with a neck brace and a noticeable cut on his chin. He was later released from the hospital with a concussion and stitches.
Now don’t get me wrong, when I say Parros and Orr are fighters, I don’t mean that simply their only job is to fight. Both are actually well respected players in their own right, each with skill enough to score goals and help their team win without dropping the mitts. They are a different breed of fighter, long removed from the likes of Tie Dome or Bob Probert.
This begs the question, do we still need fighters. Isn’t it more important in today’s game to have 18 players that can help you’re team win by putting the puck in the back of the other team’s goal? I say yes, I would rather have 18 skaters that actually have the skill to play the game at the highest level to give my team a better chance to win.
There is no proof that fighting changes momentum. There is no reason why the game needs to be secretly policed by the players when we have four officials on the ice. There is no reason this great game cannot be entertaining enough for fans in non-traditional markets without fighting. It is the fastest, hardest hitting, most skillful game on earth. It’s time to finally get rid of the knuckle dragging, Neanderthal part of the game that the current NHL leaders cling to so tightly as “an entertaining part of the game”