Hockey doesn't need fighting
Professional hockey is not alone in its pummeling of common sense. It's just that hockey's long disregard for what's so obviously wrong leads the pack among this country's major professional sports.
Fighting, an ice hockey tradition that dates to the 19th century, received some unwanted attention on opening night in the NHL when Montreal's George Parros suffered a concussion after falling face first into the ice during a Tuesday altercation with Toronto's Colton Orr. That's the same Colton Orr who once knocked former Flyer Todd Fedoruk unconscious.
As hockey fights go, this one wasn't overly violent. Only a few punches were thrown, which is often the case for scuffles on skates, and none landed flush. At the conclusion of the exchange, Orr slipped as each man held onto the other's jersey. The 6-foot-5 Parros crashed to the ice with the force of a giant Oak. His face bloodied, Parros was removed on a stretcher.
He will not play Saturday night against the Flyers at the Bell Centre and is out indefinitely.
Concussions, of course, happen in all sports and hockey is not the only professional sport with fighting. It is, however, the only one that condones it and fears its removal. It has been argued that if you take away fighting, you take away the sport's fan base. If that's the case, then it's a weak sport to begin with.
It is not the case. Hockey is good enough to stand on its own without fighting. No more proof than the Olympics is needed, but if you want more, look to college hockey. It's a quality product without the fisticuffs.
So much happens away from the puck that it's not the best made-for-TV sport, but attend a live game and you are likely to fall in love forever. Attend a live playoff game and you're sure to fall in love forever because no postseason is played with more pace and passion.
Look up the word tough and you'll find a photograph of a hockey player. Not because they fight, but because they play without fear of injury and with injuries that would sideline athletes in other sports. NFL players have been conditioned to practically skip the preseason, but NHL players are right in the mix during their final preseason games as they get ready for a season that will not end for some until the beginning of summer.
Hockey players always give their fans an honest effort. They shouldn't have to give them boxing on ice, too.
You'll get arguments from a lot of players, past and present, that fighting is a necessary evil for other reasons, the primary one being that it helps prevent bigger players from taking cheap shots at the game's smaller, faster and more skilled players who score the majority of goals.
Aren't the referees and league office supposed to do that? You'll get the argument that referees can't see everything, but video cameras can. If players are taking cheap shots, then the league needs to crack down with harsh fines and suspensions. A significant enough hit to the wallet would be a greater deterrent than a punch to the jaw.
Ninety-eight percent of the players voted for fighting to remain in the game during a 2011-12 poll conducted by their union. A far lower percentage of players actually get involved in the fights, but the enforcers obviously have incentive to keep the combat mentality going, too. Without it, they do not have jobs.
Parros and Orr, two guys who only have jobs because they know how to use their fists, have a combined 30 goals in 877 career games.
The NHL has implemented rules - third-man in is ejected, instigators get an extra two minutes of penalty time - over the years in an effort to curtail the all-out brawls we used to see during the Broad Street Bullies and Big Bad Bruins days.
Commissioner Gary Bettman, however, is on record as saying he is not in favor of banning the fight club. Do you think he likes the fact that there's a website called hockeyfights.com? Do you think he likes that you can go on YouTube and find almost any classic fight from the NHL's past? It's free advertising for the league.
Here's a comical quote from the commissioner shortly after Fedoruk's fight with Orr in 2007: "The discussion that we've been having is about player safety and injuries. We've had a number of injuries resulting from fighting recently. The question is whether or not that's an aberration or whether or not it's something we need to be concerned about."
People got hurt fighting? You're kidding. Why should the commissioner be concerned? And just how many goals do you get for winning a fight in the NHL?