There never seems to be a shortage of hot topics in the NHL these days, and today is no exception.
After last night’s game between the Rangers & Devils, much of the talk today has been in regards to the value of staged fights in hockey. According to the game story written by Dave Lozo of NHL.com, here’s how it all went down:
- The (game’s lone) goal came about eight minutes after a four-man brawl two seconds after the puck was dropped to start the game. The Devils’ Cam Janssen and Eric Boulton squared off with the Rangers’ Mike Rupp and Brandon Prust, respectively, and each duo battled until the linesmen had to step in and break up two fights that seemed like they would never end.
The feeling after the game – expressed by goal scorer David Clarkson – was that these fights were necessary “to set a tone.” In other words, staged fights are seen a sort of preemptive strike (so to speak) from 3rd & 4th line guys intended to bring with it a collective rise for the team as a whole.
My opinion on this topic is as follows: I equate staged fights with the shootout. Both are unnecessary and take away from the natural flow & feel of the game. In the same way that I would prefer to see games end in a tie than by determining a winner through some gimmicky sideshow, I would much rather see fights that spring up as an authentic expression of the intensity of game than two dudes dropping the gloves 2 seconds in for no reason other than it’s their job to do so. Quite simply, I like fighting in hockey to be a genuine expression of emotion that has been percolating throughout the course of the game, or as a result of some sort of egregious action that has taken place between the two teams in question.
And here’s a perfect example of that genuine kind of fight that I’m referrring to:
It’s the 2004 Stanley Cup Finals, and Jarome Iginla & Vincent Lecavalier engage in a spontaneous, non-choreographed tussle that developed as a result of some hard battling along the boards. The stakes are high & emotions are at a boiling point, and two bona fide stars & team leaders just get to it.
Now, I realize that games 1-82 often lack the kind of emotion that is found in the playoffs, and that teams and/or the fans are sometimes in need of some sort of jolt that a fight can (or is perceived to be able to) provide. Along those lines, I’m also ok with a situation like Lucic vs Gaustad, a fight that arose out of an incident in a prior game. Yes, this bout was expected to a certain degree, but it flowed out of an earlier incident and by all rights should have occurred right after the hit on Miller, not during the next meeting between the 2 teams.
Which brings me back to the comparison to the shootout: in any given game, the progression of events may lead to an outcome where no clear winner is determined – therefore, the game should end in a draw with each team awarded one point. In the same way, maybe nothing happens to set two guys off and cause them to drop the mitts, and that’s fine; fighting should be seen as a natural outcome of any number of events that call for it and not a necessary aspect of the game.
At the end of the day, the idea of two 4th line guys whose only role is to drop the mitts can go the way of the dodo, in my opinion.
That’s just one bloggers take on the situation. Feel free to agree / disagree in the comments section or hit me up on twitter.