Tuesday, August 16, 2011

It's Still Okay To Be A Fight Fan

"We've reached a crisis of faith for some fans that have admittedly enjoyed fights for the entirety of their hockey lives, but who now are having second thoughts.  

But for other fans — and I count myself among them — the brain injury epidemic is a product of an inherently violent game.

I'll never apologize for being pro-fighting. It's the game I grew up with, and I've always felt that players enter the NHL accepting that it's part of the gig"
- Greg Wyshynski, Puck Daddy Blog

The above quote from Puck Daddy today was somewhat of a revelation to me, in light of the spirited but civil back and forth I had with Peter Raaymakers of Silver Seven yesterday after I wrote a piece defending fighting in the NHL as a sort of response to an earlier piece he posted on his Silver Seven blog about the human toll that fighting can take on the players who bravely fill that unenviable role.

Much like the rest of the hockey community, a debate about fighting never really seems to change people's minds on either side, and I remain convinced that fighting is not only a vital part of the entertainment package the game provides, but that it's an essential function in hockey, an often brutally physical sport where star players need protection and room to ply their skill in a league full of fourth liners looking hack and whack their way to the next paycheque.

Yet to take that view today is somewhat of a humbling experience, with the latest press crusades against violence in hockey creating an atmosphere where admitting that you enjoy that aspect of the game is perhaps something that you should either hide or be ashamed of.

As Wyshynski said above, you should never have to apologize to anyone or hide the fact that you enjoy fighting in the NHL. It's okay to hold the view that the NHL is about entertainment and not about reflecting the strict moral standards we have to live by in our regular everyday working life. It's okay to cheer for two grown men who are heavily compensated financially for what they do, to fight for their teammates, their team and their fans. Even if a player gets hurt in a fight, that's no reason to hang your head in shame for your supposedly "barbaric" tastes. Players know the risks. They don't have to do it. Many don't and get by just fine. Others thrive in the role. Some are affected negatively. They buy the ticket and take the ride.

On the other hand, there is no reason not to be civil on either side of the fighting debate. For as long as there's been fighting in hockey, there have been people opposed to it and they have a valid point to make as well. In the next few seasons, I predict this issue will be at a fever pitch and there will be plenty of pressure on the league to reduce injuries from fighting, even if that means banning it outright.

That's an issue for another day. But while it exists in the NHL, there is no reason not to enjoy it if that's a part of the game you like. Listen to the arguments from both sides, but never hang your head in shame over it.

I certainly won't.


boobs said...

"Many don't and get by just fine. Others thrive in the role. Some are affected negatively."

I want someone to talk about the people for whom fighting affects them positively.

Some players just like to fight and I just don't think there is anything wrong with that. They see the positive reactions that they get from their team (both in their faces, and in their on-ice performance) and feel like they've contributed to their team.

They don't fight to break faces, they fight because they enjoy a good battle, and they respect a worthy opponent.

How come no one ever talks about these guys? The ones who don't lead lives off the ice that involve drugs and alcohol. They are likely the majority...

bah whatever, now is not the time for anyone to listen to this side anyways....

Unknown said...

You call Ron MacLean, Hockey Night in Canada, and Mike Milbury as dinosaurs. Yet you advocate an art that is back in the "dinosaur" age of hockey.

The NHL is not making it's newfound revenue on fighting, it's because that post-lockout, the goals, plays, and players themselves are more exciting then ever before. Do you know when hockey gets hit ratings? During the Olympics and the Playoffs, where there is a once in a blue moon fight.

For the NHL to advance, they need to continue to attract young viewers, the ones that will pay the big bucks to watch games. Old-cuppers of tea, although they sustained the game, don't represent the general demographic of hockey fans. I still like the physicality in hits, and hard hits should stay. I completely love that part of the game. It's what seperates hockey from the pussy sports of basketball and baseball.

It's time for fighting to go.