February 26, 2014

An Olympic-sized case against fighting in ice hockey

by Dan Bilicki In: Ice Hockey, Olympics

Now that even the biggest supporters of Canadian ice hockey have weathered their hangovers after Sunday’s big gold-medal win over Sweden, it’s time to get back to one of the hottest debates in the sport that just won’t go away: Fighting.

I’m not sure if you noticed but there was a supposed element of the great winter game missing from the biggest tournament of the sport: Fighting. Makes it seem hardly “necessary” as some pundits and players say it is.

You could see it coming before the Games even began. The fact that each country was opting to forget about the goons of the NHL and picking entirely skill players ensured that we wouldn’t see much, if any, of the hooliganism that plagues the NHL.

Throughout the entire tournament, there were no fighting majors. Even in heated rivalry games like Canada-US, Finland-Sweden and Czech Republic-Slovakia, nobody saw the need to drop the gloves. Even in blowouts, when teams tend to get most frustrated and start playing dirty, there were no fights.

This doesn’t even sound like the same sport as NHL ice hockey, but it is, but with one simple twist: If you fight, you’re out of the game. So, in other words, you better make it worth it.

Even with two extra spots on the bench and therefore a roving forward and defenceman, no player saw the need to get pugilistic.

It’s not like these guys haven’t ever been in a fight, but there weren’t any of the Colton Orr or Frazer McLaren types, whose roles seem to strictly be to go out there and mix things up.

So, if the Olympic Games can stage a great series of games like these, why can’t the NHL make this adaption? It has already been proving that fighting in ice hockey is unsafe and can lead to long-term brain injuries and even scary incidents like when George Parros was knocked out when hitting the ice with his chin earlier this season.

With the games trending towards an emphasis on the sport is supposed to be, we had a legit concentration on the seeing the best and brightest skill players out there – which is what makes the Winter Games such a good advertising tool for the NHL. If you were tuning into a league game after that fantastic two weeks, you are going to see a much different type of game. If anything Sochi was false advertisement for the NHL.

And for those that say that fighting is needed for players to police each other on the ice, how many cheapshots were there in Sochi? Players weren’t taking liberties because they knew that there wouldn’t be any repercussions.

While many would scoff at the prospect of a fight-less NHL, why can’t the league at least make a half measure? Let’s eliminate that stupid staged fighting.

How about have that Olympic-style match penalty for staged fighting instead of all fighting? That would crack down on guys chucking knuckles right off the draw, but allow for legit beefs to “discussed” on the ice.

While I may have been against NHLers going to Sochi – and will still be against in when the South Korean Games come around in the 2018 – at least we saw a great, civilized version of the sport that all Canadians love.

Follow me on Twitter @danbilicki

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