Though there is a vast spectrum separating purists from the casual fan, most of the time both parties can generally agree on one thing: Fighting is a part of hockey. Whether it’s one team’s enforcer settling an old score (Darren McCarty and Claude Lemieux comes to mind) or two tough guys squaring off just to get their respective teams off their asses the case can be made that dropping the gloves has a definite place in the game. But what happens when someone gets seriously injured (like in the clip below, which took place at a recent AHL game between the Philadelphia Phantoms and the Manchester Monarchs).
Recently the debate has been raging as to whether or not fighting should be taken out of hockey completely in order to avoid incidents like the ones listed above. It’s no secret that most people (and this is directed at the aforementioned casual fan) have come to expect a good dust up when they watch a hockey game, but judging from the overall reactions seen in the video above (from fans, players and coaches alike) it is clear that no one is prepared to deal with such a sudden and unexpected incident. But will banning fighting in hockey really stop players from getting injured (or even killed)? Definitely not.
I vividly remember a similar incident from my skating days when a player on my team got into it with a player on the opposing team and in the course of pushing and shoving had his helmet knocked off. As often happens in such situations the remaining players on the ice each grabbed hold of their respective counterparts and much stick-and-glove discarding ensued. Incidentally (and before a punch was even thrown) my teammate slipped on one of said sticks, hit his head on the ice and began convulsing, much to the dismay of everyone in attendance. An ambulance was called, the game continued and thankfully the guy made a speedy and full recovery.
The point I’m trying to make is fighting isn’t the only way a player can get injured in such ways. Of course getting waxed with an overhand right doesn’t help, but then again getting planted with a stiff body check can have the same result.
The truth is that fighting has been and always will be ingrained in every facet of ice hockey, from the young bucks playing in invitational tournaments all the way up the ranks to professionals competing for the Stanley Cup. The only realistic way to eliminate fisticuffs from the game would be for the game itself to be done away with as a whole.
And we all know that will never happen.