Sports

You gotta fight for your right to . . . fight

Recent OHA death has added fuel to the already hot debate on fighting in hockey

Publication YearIssue Date 

If you're like me, when it comes time to fight, you kick your opponent in the shin, squeal, run about 10 yards and get the crap kicked out of you. If you're Jarome Iginla, you look your opponent square in the eye, rip off your helmet and proceed to re-arrange his face.

Although these scenarios provide valuable entertainment to spectators-- whether it be my initiation beating into the Gauntlet, or a professional hockey scrap-- there is little evidence to support the safety of fighting. In fact, some people may go so far as to claim it is, in fact, unsafe. Shocking, I know.

The Jan. 2 death of the Ontario Hockey Association's senior player Don Sanderson has added fuel to the already hot fighting debate.

His death was caused by massive head trauma after he fell to the ice after his helmet fell off during a fight.

Stu Hackel of the New York Times wrote, "Junior players have historically removed their helmets voluntarily during fights, which allows them to avoid hurting their hands on helmets, cages and visors that they are mandated to wear. That practice has not been common in the NHL."

The argument goes both ways. Take off your helmet, save your fists from turning bloody and your hands from breaking, but risk serious injury from the ice.

Leave your helmet on, prepare to get hurt, but protect your head incase you fall.

Iginla is one of the few NHL players who will regularly take his helmet off before a fight.

When I see him do that, I take it as a sign of aggression, but also as a statement of respect to the opponent.

Fighting has always had a weird sportsmanlike quality to it. There is a certain code of approval when two heavyweights give each other "the look" before the puck drops, then proceed to fight.

Afterwards, if it was a solid effort, they will acknowledge each other with another look, often in the penalty box while they are serving their five.

Homoerotic gestures aside, fighting is an integral part of hockey in strategy and entertainment and will not leave the game anytime soon.

If that's the case, then how do leagues cope with the nature of fighting injuries?

The OHL recently implemented a rule that will see a one-game suspension for anyone who removes their helmet or undoes their chinstrap during a fight. Two players have already been suspended.

While this rule is a reactionary statement in the wake of Sanderson's death, it will serve more as a reminder about the dangers of fighting, but will not stop it.

A rule like this should be implemented across all leagues, including the Canadian Interuniversity Sport league the Dinos fall under.

This will at least keep the rules consistent.

While fighting can be a respectful act, there are more frequent cases of hitting from behind, knees being extended, players stabbing other players skates as they chase the puck into the boards.

This is the crap that needs to be looked at just as much as the rules of fighting. And the rules should change from the minor leagues up, not the NHL down.

Tags: 

Section: 

Issue: