Georgian Bay Sports Fan

commentary & opinions on the sports and political scene

SHOULD NHL BAN FIGHTING ?

Damien Cox of the Toronto Star asks that question and answers it with a “yes” in a recent article.  He cites many reasons why, foremost the terrible deaths of NHL tough guys Wade Belak, Rick Rypien and Derek Boogaard this summer.

The deaths of these three men, while however tragic, is not reason enough to ban fighting.  There is a much better reason.

Goons, enforcers, fighters….call them what you will, but have been in the game a long time.  They are fringe or role players for the most part.  That’s a tough position on any team sport.

You’re not in the play every night, and when you are it’s not for the highlight winning goal….its emotionally and psychologically tough.  That’s the reason most are giving as to why Belak, Rypien and Boogard did what they did.

But being a tough guy role player is no more difficult psychologically then a fourth line defensive winger, or a backup goalie, or how about the AHL 28 yr old call up that keeps getting sent down?  These are all positions that mentally tear a man down, destroy dreams and puts them on the edge.  As Cox quotes in his article from a former player “the game eats people up”.

No, the reason fighting needs to be banned is not because of what’s happened to these three men….its because simply it drags the quality of the game down.

To the real hockey fan the fundamentals skills of shooting, skating, passing, stickhandling and checking are what the game is about.  The Europeans have known this for years.  The Russians at one time shocked the North American hockey world by focusing on skills rather than brute force……and it was only by dragging the game into an embarrassment of on ice muggings and intimidation that they lost the Summit Series for those who can remember.  Watch an old re run of it, you’ll be ashamed of our game.

Watch some of the smaller European countries at the World Juniors and you will certainly see some individual skills on display.

Now yes, yes, yes….Canada has the best players in the world.  We’re the best…blah, blah, blah…..and Don Cherry knows how to dress….

Yes we have skilled players coming out of Canada but it’s by sheer numbers.  We have the largest hockey system in the world, but as a percentage of players in the NHL to the number of players participating in hockey in Canada….we are awful.  Our development system encourages toughness, focuses on body checking, rewards the early developers in size and if you learn some skills as well that’s ok to.

The Europeans and to a large degree the Americans now FOCUS on skills, develop the skilled player, reward the playmaker and then introduce the physical part of the game….while Canadians take the big, strong bully that can lace up some skates and promote him to a player called “goon”, “enforcer” or worse.

We dumb our game down by allowing fighting.  It’s like two kids being in a spelling bee, the one spells the word right and the other beats him up for it and wins…..its a joke to those there for the contest, to the fans who could care less about spelling it’s entertaining as hell.

But I’m a hockey fan….please don’t hit me.

The Hockey Geek

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