With star NHL players about to embark on their Olympic journey, it is a good time to consider the differences in the game played on the big ice, particularly the lack of fighting. As to whether there should be fighting in hockey, which is currently assessed a five-minute penalty, the issue has voices on both sides. The current majority, claims that fighting should remain in the sport as a form of policing, necessary intimidation, protection for star players, and as an attraction for fans. Others are appalled that it happens, even infrequently, in the sport and feel that the second class status of hockey, when compared to the other major team sports, is due to this. Why else? Hockey features the fastest tempo, and the most variable set of skills. Friends who are not hockey fans still repeat the tired joke about a hockey game breaking out during a fight. They are unaware that many teams don’t mix it up with any consistency. In fact, perhaps oddly coincidental, since “tough guy” Daniel Carcillo has joined the New York Rangers, I can’t recall a single fight.
Which leads us to the Olympics, featuring hockey games that will have the whole world watching with great interest, and nary will a punch likely be thrown. The best players in the game, on the world stage, generate tremendous interest, even in those who want to keep fighting in the game. This doesn’t seem logical. These great games we’re about to be treated to, are followed with passion and excitement by all fans and even potential NHL fans, showing that fighting isn’t necessary to generate this interest.
How to rid fighting from NHL hockey though is not a simple matter. Would a simple ejection do? What about a player who initiates the fight, with the idea that getting a star player ejected will help his team?
Very few things are simple. What seems clear is that hockey can thrive without fighting. The Olympic tournament will show that. Now if I can just figure out who to root for when Rick Nash of Team Canada, or Ryan Callahan of Team USA bears down on Henrik Lundqvist of Team Sweden. I know…USA, USA!