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Old 10-17-2007, 06:45 PM   #118
Bronx33
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Default It's time the NHL scrapped fighting

Thanks too KK for the story
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Another clueless **** that mom and dad let play with dolls blogs his opinion on something he clearly knows nothing about.




Iam pu$$y hear me roar!


October 17, 2007 4:24 PM

Before we get bogged down in the details (and I'm sorry to say this, but any discussion about fighting in hockey inevitably gets bogged down in the details), let's describe the subject at hand for what it is. Fighting in hockey sees two men circle each other, and then, using their bare fists, punch each other in the face. This continues until one or both combatants fall to the ice, whereupon the fighters will be smothered by the referees. A fight will also be said to have ended if one of its participants is lain on the ice, unconscious. Presumably, a fighter dying in the line of duty would also signal the end of a duel. Not even hockey can condone the spectacle of someone thumping lumps out of a corpse.

Let's imagine that you're an American family, off to enjoy an evening of sport. Better yet, let's imagine you're a Canadian family - much more poster friendly. "What do you fancy going to see tonight, eh?" asks Dad, from somewhere in the Toronto suburbs. "Wow, I know!" says Mom. "Let's go and see the Maple Leafs play! They're up against the Montreal Canadiens. We might get to see them beat someone half to death!" "By a man using his bare fists?" ask the kids. "You betcha!" answers Pop. "Yay!" they all yell. "Hooray!"

Can't quite see it happening, can you? Yet hockey likes nothing better than to present itself as a family activity, which it does with some success. For while the magazine Sports Illustrated describes the game as having a "moral vacuum" at its core (a phrase I cannot hope to better), what it also has is a rich vein of euphemism. So bare-knuckle beatings are merely "dust-ups", players "going at it" are participants willing "to drop the gloves" or who "enjoy the physical play". They are not, so far as I know, referred to as "psychopaths engaging in an activity which, if indulged in in the arena's car park, would see both of them in court".

These days the National Hockey League likes to refer to itself as "The New NHL". Since the league lost its entire 2004-05 season to a labour dispute that did no one but the NBA any good, rules have been tweaked to make the game speedier and more attractive to the eye. These rule changes favour the skilful player, a consequence of which has seen a reduction in the number of fights. And while last season's Stanley Cup-winning Anaheim Ducks did buck the trend with their willingness to indulge in (ahem) "Old-Time Hockey", these days you're more likely, much more likely, to see hockey without violence than with.

Still, try this. Ask a friend to respond to the words "ice hockey" with the first thing that springs to mind, and the reply will probably be something to do with fighting. This is the sport's enduring image. Rarely mentioned is the phenomenal skill involved in controlling a three-inch wide, one-inch thick lump of rubber while skidding about the ice at more than 30 miles an hour. No one seems to know about the 61 all-time records set by Wayne Gretzky, a sporting poster boy whose achievements eclipse even those of Michael Jordan. No, it's fighting that catches the eye of those who aren't really watching.

The theory works like this: the NHL's skilful players need protecting from the opposing team's physical players by having physical players of their own to rely on. It's like a sporting arms race... actually, it's a sporting fist race. So Sydney Crosby, flush-faced phenom of the Pittsburgh Penguins, needs arch-goon George Laraque's hulking presence to allow him the freedom to perform. This is certainly true, but it's true because the NHL allows it to be so. Players who fight are not ejected from the game, instead they sit for five minutes in the penalty box. What this is is a slap on the knuckles.

It is also reckoned that fighting acts as a pressure valve and thus excludes the nastier aspects of the game from becoming too prevalent. These arguments (and I told you we'd get bogged down in them, didn't I?) are as predictable as hearing Hey Ho, Let's Go at a Ramones concert.

I hate to break up the routine, but here are some things to consider. In 2000, Boston Bruins' "enforcer" Marty McSorley blindsided Vancouver Canucks "tough guy" Donald Brashear with his stick, causing Brashear to convulse wildly on the ice. (McSorley was convicted of assault.) In 2004, Canucks star player Todd Bertuzzi broke the neck of Colorado Avalanche skater Steve Moore by punching him from behind and then following him to the ice. And just last week Philadelphia Flyer Jesse Boulerice (whose antics once incurred a one-year ban from playing in the minor Ontario Hockey League) was suspended for 25 games, almost a third of a season, for a cross-check to the face of Canuck Ryan Kesler which left its victim very much dazed and contused. The frankly crackers idea that fighting prevents violence doesn't really seem to be working, does it?

You might have guessed by now that when it comes to scrapping in hockey, I am the host of an Islington dinner party. I want to see it banned. It's not so much that it shows the sport in a bad light - although, yes, it does - but that it's unrepresentative of what really goes on. It's a bit like talking about Bob Dylan and concentrating solely on the fact that he's Jewish. And while the essential crux of the NHL's fighting conundrum might make the Palestinian question seem like the opening round of The Weakest Link (yes, dammit, I too feel the surge of adrenalin when two players "drop the gloves"), the truth is that it's time to say this, and to say it out loud.

Smell the smelling salts. Fighting's gotta go.
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