Wednesday, March 13, 2024

Is Fighting in the NHL Something of a Bygone Era and Outdated?

Sports evolve. Rules change. The basketball of today is nothing like its original format. Football has changed a lot too. Hockey has seen many alterations, but one thing that has persisted is a fondness for, nay an endorsement of, fighting. It is somewhat in the sport's DNA. Players will get irritated enough with one another they, "Drop the gloves," and engage in a good ol' bout of fisticuffs. The NHL will itself lean into how this attracts attention while ignoring how a number of enforcers suffered the same traumatic brain injuries from fighting that we see in other physical sports such as boxing or football. The NFL has made some effort to address CTE and other concerns but the NHL basically shrugs when certain guys want to throw down. Is fighting in hockey--and the NHL in particular--outdated and something that should be discouraged or outright punished

There is no easy answer to such a question. Hockey is a game of grace and speed, but it is a very physical sport too. Certain actions are verboten (boarding) and others will get you slapped with a penalty, but while fighting will get you in the box it isn't as big a deal as if a baseball player or basketball player threw a punch at someone. The, "New York Post," is a bit of a tabloid paper, but I'll be darned if Phil Mushnick's article, "NHL’s promotion of fighting is sick and out of touch," doesn't make some valid and calmly-presented points in discussing how two men punching each other should be less of a draw for the sport and more of an embarrassment (also, a player discussed in that a piece is now in trouble for a dirty hit some days later). Now, when I was a kid and would watch some hockey I'll fully confess I was eagerly awaiting someone to get pissed off enough they took off their gloves and started throwing haymakers. I'm a grown-ass man now, however, and I enjoy hockey and want to see people playing a game of skill. I don't have a problem with the sport getting physical or a fight happening. I also don't crave it as some fans seem to do. I'm not sure what the solution would be for fighting and how it is treated in the NHL, but I think sooner than later something official will need to be said or done.

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