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The Importance Of Fighting In Hockey

1438 words - 6 pages

Every sport has its own unique signature that separates it from the rest of the sports world. Baseball has the homerun, basketball has the slam-dunk, golf has the hole in one, and football has the touchdown. But, perhaps the sport with the most distinguished and unique signature is hockey and its fights. However, hockey officials and executives are trying to eliminate the games most distinctive aspect. Yet, because of the recent decline in the amount of fighting in the National Hockey League (NHL) and since a ban on fighting in the NHL could jeopardize the popularity of the sport, eliminating fighting from games may not be necessary. Over recent years, the amount of fighting in NHL games has been on the decline and the role of the one time "enforcer" has changed dramatically. Also, hockey fights bring in much needed revenue for professional teams in way of television, attendance, and concessions. The NHL deeply needs to look at what effect removing fighting would cause in the long term.The argument for not banning fighting in hockey begins with fighting itself. "The hue and cry of a decade ago calling for the abolition of fighting has all but died, but if the past two season are any indication, those who campaigned for the elimination of fistcuffs are closer to getting their way - at least numerically" (Kreiser). Fighting in the NHL last season dropped to levels not seen since the mid-1970s. There were just 571 fights in 1999-2000 (559 in which both participants received majors, and another 12 in which only one player received a five minute penalty for fighting). The last time the NHL had fewer fights than games played was 1976-77, when, like last season, the league averaged just less than one fight per two games. Even that's a lot in comparison to the rugged 1950's, when the six teams in the league played each other 14 times and feuds were common, but actual fights were rare (there was one for every five or six games). Fighting has always been part of hockey. "Newspaper accounts of the New York Rangers' first-ever game in November 1926 featured a description of a 'wild battle on the ice' between the Montreal Canadiens' Bill Phillips and the Rangers' Frank Boucher that earned each player a five-minute penalty" (Kreiser).However, as times change, players who were once valued as enforcers are no longer given significant amounts of ice time. When games are close near the end of the game, enforcers often times find themselves as spectators from the bench. And, what may continue the erosion of fighting in the continuing growth in the number of close games. The closer the game, the less ice time that teams can afford to give to a small group of players who skills lie not in their skating, shooting, and passing, but in their ability to throw a punch. "Fighting has gone from spontaneous combustion to tactical weapon to the age of the designated hitter" (Kreiser). Players who were one considered strictly fighters must now be able to do a few other things...

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