NHL ‘Fight of the Nights’ Now Few and Far Between

Enjoy a good scrap when you can, they won’t be around forever. With the players, coaches, and the game itself focused on skill, speed, and precision more than ever, fighting has taken a back seat. Occasionally, you can still catch a good tilt when the blood boils over. Last night Jamie Benn and Josh Anderson went toe to toe with some old school ferocity you don’t see much in this modern NHL. 

There’s something exhilarating about seeing a star player like Benn mix it up and throw them thangs. The Captain not backing down and going toe to toe with a bottom 6 guy on the other team gets all the juices flowing from the teammates and fans alike.

Excitement – Beat his ass! Don’t back down! 
Inspiration – That’s our guy! He’s risking it for us, let’s do the same for him!
Fear –  Don’t break your hand, please don’t break your hand or face!

It’s no secret fighting is becoming a rare commodity in the league the past few years. Check out these numbers from last year:

According to HockeyFights.com the number of games with a fight in the NHL is projected to dip to less than 20 percent for the first time since it began tracking the stats in 2000. The number of fights per game (0.22) and the number of games with a fight (220) are also projected to hit new lows.

For years the NHL has resisted the calls from the media and casual fans to ban or outlaw fighting entirely, while still quietly catering to it’s hardcore base that knows fighting has a place in the sport. Will this ever change? It’s doubtful it will happen under Commissioner Gary Bettman, who has been careful to build and grow the sport while keeping it’s base principles of physicality in tact. 

In recent years the softening of our society along with the increased education in head injuries has lead to a lot of heat for the NFL and to a lesser degree the NHL. The NFL recently settled their concussion lawsuit with former players suing the league and paid out a hefty sum… $1 billion dollars in total to former players to help pay for medical treatments and living expenses in their post football lives. The NHL had a significantly smaller settlement to it’s former players settled in the past few days. Much smaller in scale as naturally the league generates less revenue than the NFL. Also noteworthy that less players chose to fight the league in court, only 318 (who will receive $22,000 a piece), compared to the NFL suit which had over 4,000 former players and their families vs the league. 

I myself stand very conflicted on this issue. I do enjoy fighting in the league and think there is a place for it. Not the staged 4th line brawls, but the naturally occurring, heat of the moment, stand up for your teammate battles that happen from time to time. I would even be ok with harsher penalties for fighting than the standard 5 minute calls that are inconsequential.

However on the flip side I would like to see all those predatory hits to the head from blindside checks and shoulders eliminated and penalized as it is in international hockey. I understand it’s somewhat hypocritical, but I think now with the league and the players more educated than ever on head injuries and the inherent risk of playing the sport with it’s level of physicality there can be a distinction.

Anderson and Benn clearly square off here, neither was attacking the other from behind or unknowingly. They both willingly accept the risk of this fight. I do believe this is the basis for the standard that needs to be set.

Let me know what you think…

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