Fighting Should Stay in the NHL | Teen Ink

Fighting Should Stay in the NHL

May 17, 2020
By alee BRONZE, Sharon, Massachusetts
alee BRONZE, Sharon, Massachusetts
2 articles 0 photos 0 comments

224. That’s how many fights the NHL had last year, during the 2018-19 season. With the rise of concussions and head trauma, the league’s most difficult question has resurfaced… should fighting be banned? The National Hockey League (NHL) is the only professional major sports league that allows fighting during the games. Fighting is a rare treasure that is seen in sports today. Although the amount of fights per game has significantly decreased within the past decade, fighting is one of the biggest controversies in the NHL. Although fighting is deemed dangerous and violent, what many don’t recognize is the camaraderie that it brings. Fighting is obviously not the entire purpose of hockey, but it’s an exciting factor.  NHL players want fighting to be allowed, even those who don’t participate in it as much because other than the camaraderie, it also helps police the game. Fighting has been a long embraced tradition in the NHL, and should remain. 

Fighting is one of the main reasons why fans are attracted to the sport. The violence is exciting, especially since fights are rare nowadays. Just like every other professional sport, hockey is a business. A business depends on buyers and viewers, in the sports world meaning fans. Fighting brings in viewers and fans, producing greater ticket sales and purchases. NHL teams purposefully sign and trade for players who are “enforcers,” meaning that they are needed for their physical presence. Enforcers are usually big, tough veteran players who are good “locker room” guys, meaning that they are known for their leadership skills and protecting younger rookies. To win a hockey game you need to score. Sometimes there are close games when both teams are playing well but neither side can score, and a fight is bound to happen. Enforcers are paid to fight, and that’s when they’re put in. A fight helps both teams boost confidence and energy. Not to mention the fans love it. These “enforcer” types of players bring in camaraderie, and help create a close knit team, bound for success. 

In an interview with The Players’ Tribune, former NHLer Brandon Prust talks about the purpose of fighting. He explains how he wasn’t as skilled as the other players, but relied on fighting as his advantage to make it to the NHL. In his interview he said, “I get that there are plenty of people out there who don’t like fighting. Trust me when I say that everyone in the league takes head injuries very seriously now. But in a fight, there are no cheap shots. If you take away fighting, there’s no real consequence for guys taking runs at each other. If they take fighting out, and guys aren’t worried about answering the bell, I guarantee more people will get hurt from an increase in open-ice body checks.” The NHL has changed from a game that was once based on size/skill now to speed/skill. It’s already hard for those types of players to maintain a spot on the team, and if fighting were to be banned, their job would be gone. Would you rather have a player get put in a stretcher from a dirty hit, or have a player on their own will fracture a few knuckles sticking up for a teammate? The intimidation that fighting brings helps discourage dirty or cheap play.  

Every NHL player has their own standpoint on fighting, and many want to keep it in the game. Jeff Skinner, star forward of the Buffalo Sabres said in an ESPN interview, "It's just an emotional game and you always want to keep that emotion in it. I think that sometimes fighting is a result of that emotion, but it also keeps a certain amount of respect in the game. I think that's the one thing. It's more than just entertainment and it's more than two guys that want to sort of blow off some steam sometimes.” Fighting proves that there are consequences to dirty plays/hits other than a two minute penalty. It helps keep the players in check. Gary Bettman, the current commissioner of the NHL quoted on fighting as a “thermostat” to the game, and that it can “prevent other injuries.” As author Ross Berstein said in his novel, The Code: The Unwritten Rules of Fighting and Retaliation in the NHL, “fighting is a way for the sport to police itself.” As odd as it sounds, hockey is safer with fighting, because without it, players would be able to make dirty plays knowing that they won’t have to face anyone. 

The amount of fights in the NHL has been dropping on a yearly basis. The past 2018-19 season had a total of 1,271 regular season games. In those 1,271 games, there were only 224 fights, a shocking statistic for hockey nerds. In the previous season, there were more, 280 fights. Just by these few stats it’s obvious that fighting is becoming less common and becoming less of a problem. If a referee sincerely thinks that the fight will be too out of hand, it’s their job to stop it. These are grown men, they can fend for themselves. No one is forcing people to fight.

Although it doesn’t seem like fighting is going away in the league anytime, if it were to happen, without fighting, not only would the game lose a big factor of its entertainment, tradition would be lost. Fighting is what separates the NHL from all the other major leagues, making it unique, and showing not only what sports are about but what brings fans together, camaraderie. Fighting belongs in hockey.  

The author's comments:

Current student athlete in high school who has a passion for ice hockey. 

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