In Defense Of Fighting In Hockey

Some genius once said "violence never solves anything". Nothing could be further from the truth. Of course one of the most insufferable groups of people is the "fighting shouldn't be allowed in hockey" crowd. In all honesty, I am a proponent of fighting in every major sport! Not because I'm some blood-drunk mongoloid who sits in the top row of the Roman Coliseum eagerly awaiting a rabid lion to come and devour some poor chap. But because I am of the mindset that sports should police themselves. Of course, this whole discussion resurfaces every time somebody gets tuned up in a fight. Obviously, I'm talking about the Ovechkin vs Svechnikov tilt from the first round of the NHL playoffs.

A few things worth noting from that fight:

1. It was a fight. In fights people get hurt. The idea that two people should be able to fight without getting hurt is asinine.

2. The fight was mutually agreed upon. Young Svechnikov dropped his mitts and answered the bell. Upon dropping the gloves you are now engaged in mutual combat and all the gritty unpleasantness that comes with it.

3. The color man on the call after the fight happened completely misinterpreted what happened. He made some statements that were in the heat of the moment and were simply not true. Svechnikov did not get hurt because Ovi pounded his head into the ice. Svechnikov got hurt because Ovi's fist landed squarely on the button of Svechnikov's jaw. It was as good a connection on a straight right that you can hope for. Svechnikov was sound asleep before he even came close to being horizontal. Ovi had committed to throwing the follow up punch before Svechnikov started towards the ice. As soon as he was down on the ice, Ovi disengaged.

4. Svechnikov should NEVER have taken this fight. I understand there is a degree of standing up for yourself that one must do in physical sports. Because if you don't you'll get pushed around. The other team will see that and will continue to exploit that to their benefit. Ovi has been playing professional hockey since 2001. Svechnikov? He was born in 2000. He should have had the presence of mind to realize that a man who's been playing in one of the worlds toughest sports since before he was born, would have a little bit of an edge to him.

5. This will be a good learning experience for Svechnikov. He will know next time to better evaluate whom to fight. A 19 year old fighting a 33 year old of equal physical shape and activity level is almost always a mismatch. Unless that 19 year old is Mike Tyson.

On the topic of sports policing themselves. I usually turn to baseball for an example. I prefer the National League model of professional baseball. Not because I am some baseball purist. But because I believe that if a pitcher knows that if he throws the high inside cheese and plunks someone, he will have to step up to the plate and answer for his shenanigans at some point. Its a way of keeping everyone honest. One of the things you see in no fight hockey leagues is an increase in cheap shots and dangerous hits. Why? Because while they may get suspended or fined, they will not be required to be called to task for their dirty play. There will be no physical consequence for what they've done, even though, they've inflicted physical damage on someone else. Pain is the most powerful motivator out there.

On the topic of concussions, you are more likely to get a concussion from getting hit by a puck then you are from fighting, according to a 2013 study titled "Body Checking Rules and Concussions in Elite Hockey". That study found that 8.8 concussions occurred per 100 NHL games. How many of those concussions were attributed to fighting? 0.8 per 100 NHL games. You're more likely to get a head injury from an elbow or a high hit. Fighting in hockey is not whats hurting people. Dirty, cheap hits are. Take your own career and health seriously. The referee is not going to save you. He goes home to his family every night weather you get Kris Draper'd into the boards or not. While on the note of Kris Draper, notice that after Darren McCarty did his handy work on ol' Claude for that dirty hit, oddly enough Lemieux didn't do that again.

Keep fighting in hockey.



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