Why the NHL should continue to allow Fighting


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Gregory Campbell (11), squares off with fellow enforcer Matt Hendricks (26). (Creative Commons)

Growing up around hockey, I loved watching the Big Bad Bruins and the enforcers that went along with them so perfectly. Fighting and physical play like they did had such an important role in hockey and still does today that the game wouldn’t be the same without it. 


In hockey, the common theme is always to have your teammate’s back. If there’s a cheap hit against a teammate during a game, chances are that player will have to answer for it either that shift or later in the game. A good hockey team will protect each other, especially star players. If someone takes a run at Connor McDavid who is currently leading the league with points, tough guys Milan Lucic or Zack Kassian are always going to have his back. While they are valuable members of the team, their top skill very well might be fighting. Tough guys are there to answer for smaller teammates who can’t defend themselves against the opposing brute. Meanwhile, in a game where a team is down by one, a fight could be all a team needs to shift the momentum. If your team is flat-footed this can be a huge energy boost and an intimidation factor to the opposing team. Fighting is known to spark a surge and tilt the ice in the team’s favor. 


Of course, you cannot forget about the fans. The fans love fighting, and I think they will as long as the NHL allows it. Let’s say you aren’t a huge hockey fan and don’t know the rules. You might be completely lost until you see 2 players drop their gloves and let off some steam. You don’t have to be a fanatic to recognize two big guys exchanging right hooks while grabbing each other by the collar of their jersey. A fight will always get people on their feet, screaming for the beloved protector to win. 

There is a lot of fear surrounding CTE and hockey fights, Derek Boogard who died of an accidental drug and alcohol overdose was found to have an advanced form of CTE, farther along than seen in most NHL enforcers who died at middle age. While fighting definitely played a role in this, it is not a clear contributor to Boogard’s CTE. Playing a contact sport like hockey is bound to involve head trauma as CTE has been found to get worse with each bump, Boogard was definitely a fighter and an enforcer but he was still a hockey player. 

Some may say fights no longer have a place in hockey, all thanks to new technology, rule changes and stricter officiating. That is very wrong. If fighting were to be removed from the game it would change Hockey drastically. Players would no longer have a controlled way to take off some steam on each other. Instead of squaring off fairly with refs behind each player ready to break it up, they would resort to going for the biggest hits possible with the intent to injure. It’s much safer to have a contained fight than have players skating around trying to take each other heads off with high, cheap hits. 


Dropping the gloves will always have its place in hockey, whether the skill across the league is increasing or not. Players will always want to be able to drop the gloves to defend their teammates after a cheap hit or simply to get the building going when the energy feels low.