Fighting: It’s Part of the Game

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Quickly moving behind us are the days of hockey fights, and man do I miss it.

On Sunday night, the Rangers squared up against the Flyers for their final meeting of the regular season. Watching the pregame, Rangers defender Dylan McIlrath and Flyers forward Wayne Simmonds seemed to be having a conversation and we all knew it wasn’t pretty. McIlrath told reporters after the game that “not too many nice words were said” during his pregame chat with Simmonds. “It was pretty clear, I wanted to send a message. I’m going to stick up for my teammate, our captain, our best player.” This followed the previous match-up in Philadelphia, in which Simmonds cross-­checked and sucker punched Rangers captain Ryan McDonagh, whose been out of play ever since.

It only took 39 seconds for McIlrath and Simmonds to drop the gloves. Despite a lackluster fight, it was still a fight. Not too long after that, 20 seconds after to be exact, Rangers’ Tanner Glass and Flyers’ Ryan White took their turns at each other’s faces, ­and it was awesome. It got the crowd into the game, the viewers at home pumped, and most importantly, the bench was amped.

I understand the reasoning behind less and less fighting in the league, but as a fan, I can’t help but hate to see it. Fighting isn’t as important to the league today as it was 10 or 15 years ago. Fighting isn’t just ruthless aggression. Fighting is still a necessary part of the game that allows the players to police themselves and keep the game from breaking out into an all out war. Unfortunately, we are watching an era in the game where fighting serves no real purpose. Its entertainment.

But let’s not forget what professional hockey ­or professional sports from that matter are: entertainment.

One thing stands true, however. Fighting never occurs when the game is most important. Fighting doesn’t happen in the 3rd period of a tied game. Fighting doesn’t happen in overtime. Sports writer Adam Gretz reports, “Of the NHL’s 40 fights this season, 22 of them have come in the first period of games, including 15 that have come in the first 10 minutes (and nine in the first five minutes). In other words, thirty-­five percent of the NHL’s fights through the first month of the season have come in the first 10 minutes of a game.Only 13 fights have taken place in the second period, and out of those fights only five of them have come in the final 10 minutes of the second period. There have only been five third period fights, with three of them coming in games where a team was facing a three goal deficit and the outcome was already pretty much in hand,” (CBS Sports).

Games are too evenly matched and points are too important in today’s game of hockey to waste players on fights and to waste a spot on your team for a player who’s sole purpose is to fight. Gone are the days of Derek Boogaard, Bob Probert, and Dave “Tiger” Williams. Fights are still going to bring us out of our seats. It’s the thrill we love, much like why we love Roller Coasters and scary movies. But the downward trend fighting in the NHL is only seeming to continue.

– M. Fritz

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