Fighting in the NHL

As the controversy of fighting in hockey grows, SportMedBC’s Safety Coordinator Seb Hartell gives us his thoughts about on ice safety and how things can improve moving forward.

“In the ongoing battle to prevent concussions in hockey, many experts are questioning the role of fighting and whether it belongs in the game. Thursday night sparked more controversy. Pittsburgh Penguins forward Arron Asham caught Washington Capitals winger Jay Beagle with a solid right hook that knocked Beagle to the ice. Asham then taunted the Capitals forward and the debate picked up.

hockey fightSome people are calling for fighting to be banned from the game. Concussions and head injuries are under the microscope and the NHL has taken steps in an effort to lower the number of head injuries. An increase in penalties, the famous rule 48, and stiffer suspensions for violent hits to the head have been the biggest changes that the NHL has implemented. But aren’t bare knuckle, unsanctioned fights causing exactly what the NHL is trying to prevent? No fighting might mean less head injuries!

Many people close to the sport suggest that fighting actually reduces on ice violence. If fighting is banned, players wouldn’t feel the immediate repercussions of their actions on the ice. If a player tries to deliver a cheap shot or a dirty hit, you can bet that he’ll have to answer to a big-bodied enforcer and have to skate with his head up at all times. But do two wrongs make a right? Players know the risks that they are taking when they get into fights. It’s their choice.

I can see why people like fighting in the game. I’m not alone in standing and cheering when two guys get into it. When you’re watching a game, the food gets put down, conversations stop, everybody wants to watch two guys go at one another. It’s entertainment and the league knows it. But is there a way to make fighting less dangerous?

The Ontario Hockey League banned players from purposely removing their helmets before a fight. If the helmet accidently falls off, the fight continues.

Hockey fights have often being referred to as “dropping the gloves.” What if they forced the players to keep the gloves on? Boxing and Mixed Martial Arts forces the participants to wear gloves, why not hockey?  Devastating, unprotected blows to the head would be reduced and fighting wouldn’t be taken out of the game, seems like a pretty good compromise.

What do you think?”

Photo: Getty Images

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