Keep Fighting In Hockey

Possessing a desire to understand the thoughts and opinions of others is a terrific thing, and is an endless quarry for fascinating discussion.  Having had enumerable dialogues with hockey men and women, it seems that there are generally two types of hockey fans.

One, is drawn to the game because of the aggressive, physical and brutish side of the sport.  These fans would prefer to witness a great fight, instead of a great play.  Their favorite players are the pugilists of the sport; those who rely more on ferocity in place of finesse.

The other breed of fan, is almost the polar opposite of the former.  This is a person who is mesmerized by the speed, skill and precision that certain players bring to the rink.  The skaters they admire are often European, and while many are capable of defending themselves, these players are generally disinterested in on-ice violence.

I proudly fall into this second class of fan.

A player can learn to crush, but not create.

And a quick side note; the insults between these two factions in fandom seem to be largely one sided, with the physical fans throwing out the tiresome labels of “soft” or “weak”.  This is what we should expect from those with less brains than brawn, which is why we often recuse ourselves from this debate, and let our players, and Stanley Cups, do the talking for us.  

After reading my opening remarks, the title of this piece will seem out of place.

I made some general statements about people, and about hockey, which was difficult because I always prefer specificity to generalization.

Of course, we have power forwards, defensive defenseman, playmakers, puck rushers, etc.  There are fans who admire all facets of the game, not equally but approximately.

So while I still prefer skill to strength, I absolutely enjoy seeing hostility manifest between players.  With the exception of the Arron Asham-Jay Beagle knock out last night, fights are tedious in today’s NHL.

On the flip side, scrums before, during and after a play are a blast to watch.  And beholding a frame-collapsing hit at center ice or along the boards, is a sinister delight of mine and many others.

There have been some barely audible whispers by an anonymous few, that banning fighting in the NHL would be a wise decision.  It would not.

Not only does fighting make hockey uniquely incomparable to other sports, it also keeps the goons honest, can shift the momentum of a game radically, and it’s elimination from hockey would not, by most accounts, have a significant impact on the depression question made salient this summer.

I’m often tempted to ask physical fans how many Cups Detroit would have won without the “soft” and “weak” influence of our European players?  It would be an almost terminal question, to the point of it being rhetorical, so I’ve yet to ask it.  I’m not a traditionalist, or a purist even.  Yet there are some traditions worth preserving, and the dropping of gloves for some fisticuffs is one of them.


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