I'm clear about my position: I don't like fighting. I also don't like some of the plays that go on around fighting, and I especially don't like the fact that the referees seem oddly disinterested in calling some of these plays.
Fighting, some of its proponents claim, is a way for the players to police each other. You'll be less likely to commit some of the various fouls if you know that the pest or enforcer on the other team is likely to come and share his fists with you.
Well if the refs actually called the rule book, and not just the "when they feel like it", the game would be policed already.
I'll even respond to Five for Smiting's comments on the matter:
I want the proponents of a fighting ban tell me that the game is more entertaining without a fight than it is with one, that the 18000 or so ticket buying souls who stand and roar during every single fight have been wrong all along. I want them to swear to me that now that fighting has been eliminated, they will flock to the rink and buy jerseys and beer and pizza and car flags in numbers never seen before.
OK, in order:
- The most entertaining hockey I've ever seen is four-on-four sudden-death overtime. And the reason for that is that since there's less margin for surviving a possible penalty, you can't piss around hitting, hooking, or holding: you have to play the damn game. So yes, for me, "less fighting" is equivalent to "more entertaining".
- I'm not going to presume to tell people who buy their tickets whether or not they are wrong. That's up to them. They clearly like fighting.
- Bitter Leaf Fan has the numbers on that: suffice it to say that if you want to grow your hockey audience, you have to consider what those who are not in your audience (who by definition are the ones you need to pull from to grow) do, or do not, want to see.
(O.B. Maple Leafs shot: although that might happen in Toronto, since people are clearly not buying tickets to see skilled hockey.)
I suspect it's closer to the "no fighting" side than it is the "fighting" side, and the quantity of vitriol being spewed suggests that they suspect that, too.
I'm going to skip the rest of Five For Smiting's comments because it mostly boils down to the players need to be reactive to rules violations not punished by the refs -- and honestly my view is the fix for that problem is to fix the officiating at all levels. Yes the system is broken, but trying to band-aid it with another broken system is still stupid.
But in the end does it matter what I think?
Fighting can end in the NHL in a number of ways:
- The players stop fighting. Unlikely due to the state of the players (typically impressionable, adrenaline-driven young men) and the "history" of fighting in the game. Fighting gives an advantage, and attempting to get that advantage is blessed, or at leased tolerated, by the rules and officials, so giving that up would be stupid on the part of the players.
- The owners and the league deciding to get rid of it. But unless the issues with the officiating are addressed at the same time, this avenue will be pointless.
- The fans not showing up for games unless or until fighting is banned, although realistically this will just be the trigger for the owners and league deciding to follow through.
Personally I suspect fighting will be in the NHL for quite a while to come yet.