Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Fighting Words

I've been wanting to write a post about fighting in hockey for a while now, but I needed an extra little bit of motivation to put finger to keyboard. Thankfully, there's been a couple scenarios over the past few weeks that have given me that motivation.

The conventional wisdom from the pro-fighting bloc has always been about how fighting actually cleans up the game, and makes it safer for the skill players. Personally, I think it's completely unnecessary.

Example 1: Derek Boogard fights D.J. King

D.J. King tries a wraparound against the Minnesota Wild and takes a couple jabs at the puck before the whistle play. Derek Boogard who, not surprisingly, was out of the play, comes flying in and picks a fight with King.

I know the argument here. "But, if Boogard doesn't fight King, the Blues will keep whacking at Josh Harding all night!" Ok, so King hacks at Harding's pads a little bit there. Maybe next time he hits him a little harder. Maybe the next time he hits him too hard, and is called for a penalty.

It's nice of Boogard to try and police the game, but there's already like four guys out there on the ice to do that. What King did wasn't worthy of being called an infraction by the officials, so it wasn't.

It's also no coincidence that the guy Boogard just happened to pick was St. Louis' biggest fighter, who Boogard had just happened to fight two other times in the last year. That fight had nothing to do with policing the game and everything to do with a guy trying to justify his NHL paycheck.

Example 2: Junior Hockey Brawl

Boy, it's a good thing that Halifax had those enforcers or things might have gotten out of hand.

Example 3: Boulerice Cheap Shots Kesler

Of course the argument is that having a bunch of goons out on the ice is supposed to stop this type of stuff. But would this type of stuff even happen if there weren't a bunch of goons out on the ice?

Boulerice's NHL statline reads like this: 162 games, 8 goals, 2 assists, 319 PIMs. He's not in the NHL for his skill. Of course we don't know the whole story. Maybe Kesler had done something earlier in the game to provoke the attack, but I can guarantee you that whatever he did, getting cross-checked in the face was a disproportionate response. Again, that's why there are officials out on the ice to judge this type of stuff. Somebody that gets punched in the head for a living probably isn't the right choice to play judge and jury out on the ice.

And of course this isn't a rare occurrence. Look at the other players that have committed some of most atrocious cheap shots in recent memory: Chris Simon: 302 career points, 1772 career PIMs, Todd Bertuzzi: 542 career points, 1056 PIMs, Marty McSorley: 359 career points, 3381 career PIMs, Dale Hunter: 1020 career points, 3565 career PIMs.

All guys that were supposed to be "policing" the game with their fighting and instead, they ended up giving the game of hockey a black eye.

Example 4:Junior Hockey Fight

I was at a junior hockey game at a tournament a few weeks ago, and I don't want to use names, but Team A wasn't having a great game. It was fairly early in the third period and they were getting blown out. Player X wasn't having a great game for Team A. All of a sudden, a player from Team B got tripped up and slid into Team A's goalie. Player X jumped on the player and got into a fight with him. The referees finally pulled the two players, and it took 5-10 minutes for the referees to straighten out the mess and get the game started again. While they were sorting it out, most of the scouts in the rink had gotten up and wandered off to watch a different game. The funny thing though, is that as Player X was being escorted to the box, everyone on Team A got up and cheered for him. Why? They were still losing by a lot. They had lost out on a nice opportunity to be scouted. Maybe they were just happy that one of their weakest players wasn't going to be playing anymore. In any case, I fail to see what that accomplished other than positively reinforcing stupid behavior.