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THN.com Blog: Fighting keeps a balance

Donald Brashear of the Capitals fights with George Parros of the Ducks. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

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Donald Brashear of the Capitals fights with George Parros of the Ducks. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

I love hockey fights. I think they are part of what makes hockey the game it is and I think abolishing it would open it up for the yappers to reign, without fear of repercussion.

I like those yappers, they are part of the game, too. But getting rid of those who keep them in check would create a world with more dangers. The game of hockey is like an ecosystem: take one part out – no matter how small or insignificant you think it is – and the whole thing will change.

In fact, I believe the NHL needs to abolish the asinine instigator rule – perhaps another blog for another day – because it has upset the balance. You’re not only seeing more sticks up in the air, checks from behind and such, you’re seeing the nuisance problem increase. You actually have agitators now – ahem, Patrick Kaleta – openly admitting they don’t fight, but they have no problem taking liberties on anyone, whether with words or cheap shots in scrums. How convenient.

While fighting without your helmet on is certainly a dangerous proposition, you’re still as likely to get seriously injured from going head first into someone’s shoulder while cutting through the middle of the ice, or being crunched and having a loose helmet slip up, or fall off all together.

I have a hard time understanding the argument that fighting in the NHL is what turns off American viewers. This is an audience enthralled with NASCAR and one that has always backed duels, whether boxing in the 1970s or Ultimate Fighting today.

As for the argument fighting is bad for the growth of the game because fights scare off some parents, well, I’m almost sorry to say this, but that’s fine. Those who would not allow their kids to play the game because of fighting obviously choose not to sit down and discover what this game is about – especially at the minor league level – and, therefore, aren’t a hockey family anyway.

Let’s face it, hockey isn’t the safest sport out there and it’s definitely not for everyone. That’s the nature of it.

Besides, there are plenty of house leagues to play in across North America that don’t have fighting. Period.

However, I’m not naïve enough to think this part of the game will continue on unmolested to the end of time. Change will inevitably come, whether it’s next year or 10 years from now. And that’s too bad; it’s unfair to change the game just to get a few more butts in the seats.

So, while I think fighting certainly has a spot in the game and doesn’t need to drastically change, I have an idea that might appease both sides.

Who am I kidding? No it won’t.

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Aside from getting manufacturer’s to make a visor that can easily clip on and off without having it fly off after a hit, the NHL could take a page out of minor hockey’s book.

In the Ontario Minor Hockey Association, fighting is an automatic ejection from the game, while fighting in the final 10 minutes of the third period is an ejection from the game and a suspension from the next. The NHL could have a variation of this rule.

Don’t kick guys out for fighting in the first two periods – give them the normal five. But if you fight in the third period, you’re out of the game. And if you fight within the final 10 minutes of that period, you’re out for the next one, too.

In a boiling battle, tensions could rise in the first two stanzas and maybe even result in a fight or two, but when it came down to the nitty-gritty it would be all about who scored the biggest goal and all messages would be sent via the big hit. The idea is top-notch, grinding hockey would thrive in the final minutes.

In this scenario, fighting could stay, but for anyone who thinks hockey is better without the fisticuffs, there’s at least one period each game that would all but guarantee no bloody battles. Unless some agitator crosses a line, in which case, he should be confronted.

Am I way off base? Or have I got a nibble here? It’s a mistake to abolish fighting altogether.

PICKING ON PRONGER
I know there's a vast hate-on for Chris Pronger across Fan Nation for his past transgressions and I found it funny when I discovered a Pronger Physics page on SAS Wiki poking fun at Pronger's suspensions and his excuses for them.

But come on folks, this is absolutely not an elbow and is certainly not an intent to injure. It's clear Pronger didn't see Parise until the last second and they ran into each other. Heck, there's no doubt Pronger's elbow was tucked in when the two collided.

To call out Pronger for this run-in is quite a stretch.

Rory Boylen is TheHockeyNews.com's web content specialist and a regular contributor to THN.com. His blog appears Tuesdays and his feature, A Scout's Life, appears Thursdays.

For more great profiles, news and views from the world of hockey, Subscribe to The Hockey News magazine.

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