Hockey fights are not just mindless violence

With the Stanley Cup Playoffs in full swing, the debate on fighting in the NHL once again takes center stage

Brian Palm, Reporter

Lots of people watch car races in hopes of seeing a crash.  Similarly, a good number of hockey viewers tune in or go to games interested in seeing two or more full-grown men duking it out on skates.

Hockey fights occur for a variety of reasons and can have profound effects on the game in which they occur and create rivalries for years to come.  Unfortunately, it seems like almost every season a perfectly good hockey player is accidentally injured during a bout of fisticuffs.  This inevitably triggers a movement by ill-informed do-gooders to remove fighting from the game.  They claim it serves no purpose and is nothing more than mindless violence.  The truth is that they couldn’t be more wrong.

Fighting is hockey’s exciting way of policing its own.  Anyone who has ever seen a hockey game knows that the action can be blindingly fast.  Officials do their best to call penalties that effect the play but they can’t see or necessarily call everything that happens on the ice.  David Ryan is an ASU student who has played competitive hockey for 16 years. “The officials can only do so much.”  Ryan said.  “If you can enforce it on your own it’s more than likely not going to happen again.”

So fighting might actually make the game safer.  If a player takes too many liberties, especially with another team’s star player(s), that player will most likely be tasting a knuckle sandwich later in the game.

If the best way to change momentum is to score.  The second best way to change momentum is to fight.  “Momentum is pretty important in hockey.”  Ryan said.  “If your team’s down and you need to light a spark to get them going, a fight can actually sway the momentum.”

A good fight fires up the fans as well as the players.  All that excitement carries over to the team and positive things happen.

There is also a strategic element to fighting in hockey that not many people realize.  When players get into a fight the usual penalty is that both combatants have to sit out for five minutes.  There is a way that some coaches or teams can use this to their advantage.  Some teams choose to have a player on their roster commonly referred to as a “pest”.  This is usually a small but physical player who is not necessarily employed for his goal scoring talent.  Their role is to stir up trouble on the ice by bothering the opponent’s key players.  The goal is for the “pest” to be able to push the right buttons at the appropriate time to get an important player to fight and consequently spend the next five minutes watching instead of scoring or keeping the other team from scoring.  Luckily, teams can combat this strategy by having a player on their roster commonly referred to as a “goon”.  This is also usually a physical player not employed for their goal scoring talent.  Their role is to step up at the appropriate time and squash the “pest” with their fists.  This allows players who are employed for their goal scoring talent to stay on the ice.

So now that we know a little bit more about hockey fights let’s take a stand.  A stand for tradition and sticking up for your teammates and momentum and excitement.  Take a stand to keep fighting in hockey!