I hate to harp on fighting in hockey. I know it has been addressed by many throughout the hockey world, including myself. And I know many of you are sick of the debate. But two recent incidents have me leaning further to the anti-fighting side of the argument.
The first happened last Tuesday when Chicago first-rounder Kyle Beach’s delayed empty-net breakaway touched-off a Western League brawl. The second was a staged American League fight over the weekend that left one combatant suffering a seizure.
Both are just the latest examples of the ugly side of hockey. The side that turns fans into Roman plebs on one hand and shocks them into horrified silence on the other.
It’s not that I don’t enjoy a good hockey fight or that I think there’s absolutely no place for it in the NHL. But at some point, maybe you should throw out the baby with the bath water, when it’s the baby that’s the problem.
So how about a compromise? Legislate fighting out of junior and the American League.
The world’s best players know when and how to fight. And they normally do so under controlled circumstances; as adults governed by a historical code of ethics. But I wouldn’t want my son getting punched-out - or worse - because another kid thought he deserved it. And I don’t enjoy seeing kids turn violent. But it’s happening. Because of a top-down hockey culture that encourages fighting.
And since when do adults trust teenagers and testosterone-filled young men to decide anything of life-and-death importance? Hockey isn’t war. Many of these players can’t legally drink or vote, but they’re allowed to decide right and wrong during the heat of battle? C’mon.
Legislating fighting out of the game at the lower levels would mean fewer players make the NHL based on their fisticuff abilities. And the ones who do will be more like Jarome Iginla than Derek Boogaard. I’ll take the former over the latter anytime.
Fans who champion fighting as a necessary release for players who play a physical game, carry metal sticks and skate up to 30 miles-per-hour would still get their fix with NHL fights. Those who say fighting is merely a hangover from a baser time in hockey’s history would have something to build upon. And the NHL would still be able to market fighting.
So flip the script hockey fans. Legislate fighting out of hockey at lower levels and see what a trickle-up effect can affect.
And now for some happier thoughts from my first all-star weekend experience…
If Tim Thomas’ performance didn’t prove he’s the best goalie in the world right now, I don’t know what else can. Whether it was the skills competition or the big game, he was awesome…
Speaking of goalies, Jason Maggio has to feel good about his all-star performance as well. The 21-year-old from the junior double-A Dollard Vipers (Montreal) stopped 29 of 34 shots during the Fan Fav Breakaway Challenge on Saturday…
Zdeno Chara has a big shot. Really big. But he’s also big. Really, really big. At 5-foot-8, when I get out of bed in the morning, I’m used to looking up at people. But when the-still-in-full-equipment-Chara parted the forest of people in the East dressing room after the skills I was awestruck. I literally stepped out of his way for fear he wouldn’t see me…
Alex Ovechkin’s performance brought smiles to the faces of those of us watching from the press box, the most jaded of hockey fans. And he’s a crowd-pleaser off the ice, too. The NHL needs many more like him. I know they’re out there.
John Grigg is a copy editor with The Hockey News and a regular contributor to THN.com with his blog and the Top 10.
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