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on Tuesday, March 20th, 2012 at 2:02 pm by Radley Balko
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I can never enjoy another hockey fight after reading about the death of Derek Boogaard. Sure, it’s great fun to watch these guys take swings at each other, but they’re doing permanent, life-changing damage to each other.
I love hockey fights. Contrarian, your concern is valid. I played football in college, and we all knew the risks involved; concussions, blown out knees, paralysis.. arthritis as we age, and a diminished life span. The average NFL lineman has a life expectancy 20 years less than the average. In college we knew what we were getting into, I ‘m sure Boogaard did too-it sucks what happened to him but contact sports are potentially very dangerous. I doubt fighting will ever completely disappear from hockey. Fatalities in boxing happen, skiing, and car racing. You accept the risks and take your chances. Injuries, paralysis, brain damage, and fatalities can and will occur from time to time.
Rangers coach John Tortorella and Devils coach Peter DeBoer were jawing at one another before the game, perhaps as a result of the lineup card handed in by New Jersey. Nevertheless, when the lineups came out for each team, New York had an equal amount of firepower ready:
Devils: Eric Boulton, Cam Janssen, Ryan Carter, Marek Zidlicky, Bryce Salvador
Rangers: Brandon Prust, Brandon Dubinsky, Stu Bickel, Mike Rupp, Marc Staal
That’s a good way to assure some bloodshed. The players all knew what they were out there to do, the fans knew it was coming, and everybody watching at home knew what was coming. Then, it happened.
Another take from withleather.com:
I guess I’ve got the wrong perspective on professional sports, but what’s so bad about the New Orleans Saints setting up bounties to injure opposing players when hockey is premeditating gang fights? Hockey fights are cool and all, derp derp, but when they happen with entire teams before hockey has been played, that’s not cool, that’s unprofessional, childish, stupid, any number of negative adjectives you wanna throw at it. You’re orchestrating a situation that causes me to watch a dude’s blood splatter, and poor Sidney Crosby is standing there a few teams over with a head that barely works. None of this seems productive.
Well, maybe it could be productive. Is five-on-five MMA a thing yet?
Mike Leatherwood |
March 20th, 2012 at 5:10 pm
To echo what edmund dantes says above in response to Pi Guy, fighting in hockey is much less common than it used to be. In fact, once the playoffs start and games really matter it rarely happens. What happened in the game last night is not at all a typical occurrence.
The EXACT same thing happened at a Manchester Monarchs game. I was sitting with my 10-year old on the glass. Not much you can do as your kid starts jumping up and down like it’s Christmas because 6 guys are on the ice fighting.
They cleared the ice and then proceeded to have 1-on-1 fights for the next 3 face-offs. That’s about 30 minutes of fighting. Trevor Gillies pounded some kid.
A New Hampshire minor league hockey crowd ain’t exactly looking like the court side seats at a Miami Heat game.
If you haven’t played hockey or don’t really understand the fights, I recommend talking to an old pro that can explain the role of fighting. It actually makes a lot of sense and you’ll understand the game a lot better.
By the way, about a month earlier I went to a SNHU soccer game…and a fight broke out on the field right in front of us. One of the fighters also coached my kid. That made for an interesting practice the next week.
#16 Primus: Wrong. The vast majority of hockey fans do not go or watch to see a fight. They love the sport of hockey. It think most true fans want fighting to remain a part of the professional game because it is all about instant accountability for on-ice behavior. Act like a goon and you will be forced to defend yourself like a goon. Also, you get to sit for ten. No reliance here on the official arbiters of the rules, it keeps the game cleaner and more honest. To understand this you must know enough about the sport to realize that fighting is not even close to the most dangerous part of the game, rather it is the cheap, sneaky shot intended to injure that the players rightfully fear.
The cheap sneaky shot intended to injure would not be an issue if the governance bodies actually suspended players who did that for a lot of games, with further penalties for frivolous appeals.
You can always tell how serious a sport’s governing body is about eliminating foul play and violence by their reaction when players are caught. If the players are fined, I instantly know they are not serious about stopping it. Fining competitors is meaningless. If they play dirty, take away their ability to compete. They will soon wise up and play by the rules. They will of course whine and piss and moan, but the right reaction is to say “sorry I can’t hear you, now STFU and serve the suspension”.
There have been 6 games in the NHL this year where there was a fight less than ten seconds into the game. 3 of them were between the Rangers and Devils. These two teams flat out hate each other. Being a Rangers fan its nice to see them hate the Devils like I do. It was a pretty wild game fighting aside, plenty of chances at both ends and some great goals, including a sick deflection by Derek Stepan for the fourth goal. I do enjoy a scrap but there is so much more to the game than that. To only watch for the fights is like watching baseball waiting for a beanball. You’re missing a lot.
All depends what you want. I want to watch hockey – otherwise I’d go to a boxing match or a martial arts competition. As fights go, hockey fights are clumsy and stupid. Since fighting has become so frequent, I just watch other sports.
March 21st, 2012 at 7:38 am
In Primus’s defense he only said “many” hockey fans go to see fights. I’ve been to hockey games and I think I am being charitable when I say “many” in the stands are not particularly heartbroken when fights break out and “many” verbally encourage these fights. Is “many” equal to “most” or “vast majority”? Not to me. Of course these people in the stands encouraging fights might not be “real fans” I guess.
I have the same reaction to this situation as I do auto-racing and crashes. Both sets of proponents swear no one WANTS a fight or a crash, but then why are fights and crashes so heavily featured in promos and highlight reels?
These fights are not the chaos people might think. There are unwritten (but very powerful) rules and implicit codes of conduct to follow. For example, each player has razor sharp knives on their feet. No one kicks each other. You grab jersey with one hand and punch with the other. Most of the goons are pretty emotionless when punching and have no problem patting the bleeding guy on the back on the way to the box.
In very much the same way that the Tour de France has specific traditions about the race leader, hockey has the same for fighting. It is not much different than pitching inside or plunking a batter.
Without the “goons” or fighting, I’d take your best scorer into the boards until he broke. Or, I’d blindside you repeatedly in transition–which is a complete cheapshot because the game moves too fast and the ice just isn’t big enough to allow this. With goons, I don’t do this because you’ll just do it back to my best player…and we’ll both be fooked for the rest of the season.
Why wait for the puck to drop? Avoid suspensions. Adds to drama.
The mistake I see many make (including my wife…who is NOT imaginary I swear) is that they think the fights are like anything-goes bar fights. They are not. She asks why they are fighting and I can tell her exactly why.
Still more on the subject: there is a difference between “dropping the gloves” and a fight that starts in the boards. Seldom…rarely…hardly ever does a fight actually start spontaneously from a couple players in the boards. The refs actually break those up immediately. The most common is when the goons square off and drop the gloves. This, believe it or not, is real civilized stuff. Which is why the refs wait for a player to go to the ice and then break it up.
I’m with Boyd… minor league hockey is where the action is. We used to go to games all the cities I lived in before major league hockey came to the south. Great fun, they play hard and there’s lots more macho hockey ethic involved (enforcers). Big hits are common, fights less common, but not entirely uncommon either. The speed and skill may not always be fully major league level, but the passion is often greater.
Plus, minor league fans are more quirky and strange. Makes for great people watching.
Same applies for other minor league sports too…. best baseball play I ever saw was at a Durham Bulls game and involved Carl Yastrzemski’s kid. Little Yaz kicked things off when he tripped over a sprinkler head making a catch on a can of corn pop fly…. the play included 3 errors and ended up with a play-at-the-plate throw that wound up flying over the backstop, over the stands and into the parking lot. Guy got a 3 run inside the park homer off of a 120′ pop fly. You just don’t get to see that kind of stuff at a major league game.
It hasn’t become “so frequent.” It has become much less frequent than in the old days and most games today do not have a fight.
As for many fans going to see a fight, I don’t buy it at all. The odds of seeing any fight, much less a “good” one are too low (as noted, most games have no fights at all) to justify the very high cost of an NHL ticket. Nobody’s shelling out that kind of money to go to a game these in the mere hopes of catching a rather infrequent fight.
When there is a fight, yes, of course there is a lot of cheering and yelling which might make it look like that’s what they’re there to see. However I’ve been to enough sporting events to have seen a fight in all the major sports, pro and even a couple in college, and in every instance the fans were up and cheering and yelling just like at a hockey game. Does that mean that’s why they came to see? I don’t think so. It just seems a rather unfortunate (to me anyway) fact of human nature than when you get a bunch of people together in a group, especially in an emotionally charged atmosphere like a sporting event, they seem to enjoy watching people fight. I don’t think that’s at all unique to hockey.