Remember the old joke: "I went to a boxing match and a hockey game broke out?" Well, if you do ... then you're a bloodthirsty cretin. Or maybe an admirable warrior. I'm not sure yet.
The talk of last week's NHL GM meetings was all about how to stop fighting. Or save it. Ever since minor leaguer Don Sanderson cracked his head on the ice and died after a fight, there's been a big push from some people to finally eliminate this most barbaric and unnecessary practice from the game. However, there's also been a big push from some other people to call that first group of people a bunch of pussies. Fighting is how hockey self-regulates goons and protects its stars and if you don't like it, then go be an ice dancer.
The funny thing is ... they're both right! You shouldn't have to be threatened with reciprocal violence to understand that hitting someone in the head with a stick is wrong. But the looming shadow retaliation is a pretty effective strategy. Plus, it's fun for the fans and players are rarely hurt in any serious way. (Except for the guy who died. Yeah, that's was bad.) Fighting really is gratuitous and stupid, but the fact that it's against the rules doesn't stop it from happening in every other sport.
This recent CBC documentary does a good job of showing how no one wins this argument, but the GMs did suggest two changes to the rules. One would increase the penalty for "staged" fights—which are really just two guys showing off and not a couple of hot heads in the heat of battle—and the other would add a new penalty for guys who retaliate after a legal hit. That one is problematic, I think, because the player's definition of "legal" is usually not the same as the ref's. (That's why they feel the need to retaliate in the first place.) It also seems to encourage fighting dirty fire with dirty fire, which is why we're in this mess to begin with. Of course, if you're an NHL enforcer who makes his living roughing up people, then you're not happy about either change.
These aren't official rules yet and who knows if it will make any difference once they are. These men are still big caged (aquarium'd really) animals with sticks, so you'll have a better chance of eliminating spitting from baseball then you will stamping out fighting.
My proposal? A Slamball-style rink that combines ice with trampolines. Knocked unconscious? Enjoy the warm cushion-y comfort of spring-mounted safety. Fun and effective.
The Code - Full Episode [CBC News]
The Great Fighting In Hockey Debate Continues [My Hog Town]
NHL fighting gets a makeover [NESN]
Dreger: Laraque calls GMs' recommendations 'a joke' [TSN]
BGL thinks the NHL is run by a bunch of fucking pussies [Four Habs Fans]
Fighting May Be Seeing Its Last Days in the NHL [Rumor and Rants]
Scotty Bowman speaks out on fighting in the NHL [Examiner]