One of the biggest novelties in the sport of hockey is fighting. It’s the heart and soul of the “goon” mentality that has been immortalized in movie classics like “Slap Shot.” Fighting remains very popular with both fans and players, but, it’s use to sway the momentum of the game or to enact revenge, is declining. And that’s a good thing.
Health is the No. 1 reason fighting is facing opposition these days. A scan of legendary enforcer Bob Probert’s brain tissue showed signs of CTE, a progressive degenerative disease that has been shown in many other athletes who have experienced head trauma. In 2011, three enforcers, Derek Boogaard, Wade Belak and Rick Rypien, died within a span of three months – one from an accidental overdose and two from suicide.
The concussion and head trauma epidemic of the NFL has been widely reported, but the NHL has faced some media flack and even a lawsuit because of its negligence in dealing with concussions and head trauma.
While fighting is still allowed in hockey, the NHL has made some changes. The league has altered the game’s rules to penalize anyone who wants to fight. New players must wear visors, and will also face a two minute minor penalty if they take them off during a fight. Teams, knowing the game is changing, have signed fewer and fewer enforcers and more tough players who can also score.
One day fighting in hockey will be banned. It will cause an uproar. Fans will vow to never watch any NHL game ever again. Eventually, though, they will calm down and realize why they watch hockey in the first place: to see their team win.
There will always be serious injuries in hockey that don’t involve fighting because hockey is, and always will be a physical sport. But fighting doesn’t serve as big as a purpose as checking does, leaving the core of the sport intact while also reducing unnecessary injury and head trauma.
The NHL has already begun its purge of enforcers without much, if any, change to the competitiveness of the game. Calm down and put player’s health before entertainment and remember, hockey will still be hockey without fighting.