Now would be a good time to make it clear that I don’t really have any qualms with fighting. Be it hockey, be it MMA, be it boxing—but really, WhoTF watches boxing? For me it comes down to choices. If a grown-ass man or woman wants to fight within the rules of their sport, well knowing the dangers of fighting (ouch now, and ouch later), then let the grown-ass man or woman fight. Anyone who feigns naiveté to the consequences is lying through their dentures.
As a follower of the Wild, we have been graced with one of the most feared fighters in the game: Derek Boogaard. He did it right. Stuck to the code. Lived with humility and punched with thunder. I was a fan of his hockey fighting school, but mainly that it existed. I would extend my same feelings about fighting in general to that school: choose to punch or get punched at your own risk. And when it hurts to get punched, don’t act like someone owes you a cash settlement because you’re pretending to assume that punching doesn’t hurt.
In any case, teams are handling this hot topic in a variety of ways.
As I think we all do sometimes, the other evening I cuddled up with 1-6 six beers (Alaskan Brewing Co’s Pumpkin Porter) and a riveting NHL pre-season contest between the Red Wings of Detroit and the Leafs of Maple of Toronto. The broadcast team—forgive me if their names elude me (I blame the Pumpkin Porter)—commented on how the Red Wings are giant wusses. That’s my paraphrasing; the broadcast team may have used more elegant words and, ya know, stats or whatever to supplement their diplomatic description. But let’s face it: The Wings’ lack of fighting, grit, and general manliness is no secret. They’re a bunch of wusses. Wussess who fight with goals and wizardry, but wusses nonetheless.
One of the nameless announcers, doubled-by-pumpkin-porter-vision, announced that the Wangs have banned fighting during the pre-season scrimmages. For the record, my extensive research—i.e., if I can’t find it in five minutes, it didn’t happen, bro—yielded no proof of this ban.
Three thoughts tumbled down the back stairway that is my brain:
- How wussy does a team have to be to ban fighting?
- Who actually fights during scrimmages?
- Who drank all my damned Pumpkin Porter?
Recent history has given the Wings good reason to discourage fighting amongst its camp players. In 2013, Nick “Who?” Jensen suffered a shoulder injury in a fight with Mitch “Who?” Callahan during a prospect development camp scrimmage. The injury required surgery, and I don’t know if Jensen’s entire season was forfeited (again: extensive research) but his chance to make the big club that season was certainly forfeited.
Annnnnnd then there’s the always classy Flames of Calgary. It’s been widely publicized how Bob “Forever Hated Ex-Avs Coach” Hartley held “fighting practice” sessions during the Flames’ camp this year. I’ve also got no problems with this in theory.
I have a problem, however, with Hartley’s BS smoke screen. He claimed the sessions were geared towards teaching the Flames’ youths how to defend themselves.
If you want to teach defense against fighting:
- Teach them to keep their gloves on.
- Teach them to retract into the fetal posish.
- Teach them to wrap the other guy up.
- Teach them MFn judo.
- Teach your GM to not hire the likes of Trevor Gillies.
If you’re truly teaching your players how to defend against fighting, teach your commissioner that you don’t think fighting has a place in the NHL anymore.
Hartley is the same jackhole coach who instigated Goongate 2013 between the Flames and the Canucks, which marks the only time I’ve ever respected John “King of Dooshes” Tortorella. And only because he was true to his dooshy nature, taking the fight off the ice and into the hallways.
Hartley hid behind BS smoke screens then too, claiming that he iced his fourth line to start the game because they had been providing offense for the Flames. Sadly, this is true: that’s how bad the Flames were last year. At least Torts was a man about it.
Holy shit. I can’t believe I just typed that.
The NHL cannot phase fighting out. I don’t want an awkward transition and after 30 years fighting is still around but in some ghostlike form. Like the freakin’ goal judge behind the net, as if those assholes serve ANY purpose or tout ANY decision-making power anymore. A guy literally gets paid to turn a light on if he thinks a little rubber thing crossed a line. He even keeps his job if he’s wrong. It’s the same job security as being a weatherman, except no one gives a shit about what he thinks.
Gimme cold turkey, rude awakening, one day fighting is gone; that’s what I want if fighting has to go.
The NHL also has to stop splitting hairs. This debate about “staged” versus “non-staged” fighting is garbage—garbage with a lot of random stuff in it, like coffee grounds, diapers, baby carrots that you don’t even remember buying, etc. Fighting is fighting, and all fighting is staged. At least one person makes a choice to fight.
It’s not like fighting happens by accident.
Sudden cut to RED & BLUE PLAYERS, amidst a hail of right-handed pistons.
DUDE, HOW DID THIS HAPPEN?
BRO, I HAVE NO IDEA!
THIS MUST BE ONE OF THOSE NON-STAGED FIGHTS!
IT’S AMAZING THAT WE’VE SPONTANEOUSLY COMBUSTED INTO PUNCHES—AGAIN!
YEAH, LIKE A VERGENCE IN THE FORCE BUT LIKE THE FORCE IS US PUNCHING EACH OTHER!
FUN FACT: THE FORCE OF AN AVERAGE PUNCH IS 200 POUNDS PER SQUARE INCH!
MAYBE YOURS IS THAT WEAK, PANSY!
SCREW YOU, BRO! NOW I’M PUNCHING YOU ON PURPOSE!
The players cease punching and grapple jerseys.
Aww, dude. When you punch on purpose it becomes a staged fight. Way to go.
Sorry, bro. I... I got carried away.
It’s cool. And I didn’t mean it about your punches. I think you have a very nice, above-average PSI punch.
Thanks, man. You too.
I must say that I have thoroughly enjoyed this exchange.
Samesies. Maybe we can do it again sometime?
I’d like that, man, but you don’t get it. It can’t be on purpose.
Rrriiight... The whole ‘staged’ thing.
No one must know.
YOU just don’t want people to know about your weak punching PSI.
OOOOOH THERE YOU GO AGAIN! NO MORE ACCIDENTAL FIGHTS! WE'RE HAVING A STAGED FIGHT! NOW! DAMN THE CONSEQUENCES!
OF WHICH THERE ARE NONE!
REALLY? NO SUSPENSIONS?
NOPE. FIGHTING IS STILL LEGAL.
THEN WHY ARE WE ARGUING ABOUT STAGED OR NON-STAGED, SPONTANEOUS,
I HAVE NO IDEA. I JUST GET PAID TO PUNCH PANSIES.
To me, the solution has to be simple and clear. The NHL has to decide if fighting is to stay or if it’s to go the way of the boxing dinosaurs. Sadly for boxing, fighting makes up a pretty big part of boxing. If the NHL eventually makes that choice, and if fighting does become some zany grandpa tradition that will amaze and perplex our grandkids, at least those grandkids will have a lot more elements in the game to love or hate.