New York Rangers: Fighting is Nearly Gone, and I Love it

Recently, friend of the blog Kevin DeLury penned an article about why he misses fighting in the NHL. While I’m not one to send readers over to other blogs, you should absolutely give that article a read before reading this piece. Once you’ve read that, come back over here for my own opinion. The NHL has made progress in steering away from fighting and it’s time to ban it altogether, not bring it back.

The New York Rangers have participated in five “fights” this year, each as meaningless as the one before it. Simply put, fighting has become obsolete, and that’s a good thing. Fighting does not belong in hockey.

Simply take a look at J.T. Miller’s fight with Andrew Shaw on Saturday night. Shaw’s flying elbow knocked Jesper Fast out of the game temporarily, so Miller defended his teammate by fighting Shaw.

The fight was a snoozefest, and the Rangers lost a top scorer for five minutes. New York lost the game, and everyone forgot about the fight.

It meant nothing to the game, and fighting is part of the reason players like Andrew Shaw have jobs in today’s NHL.

It’s outstanding to be able to watch two teams with skilled players throughout their respective lineups rather than seeing Donald Brashear or Tanner Glass take the ice, with everyone knowing what’s about to happen. Derek Boogaard’s father recently had an article written about him and his understanding of what fighting can do to an enforcer, not for an enforcer.

If there were no fighting allowed, Len knows, “Derek wouldn’t have been playing in the NHL.”

Len Boogaard says he has lost the desire to watch the NHL: “I watched the World Cup and that was hockey. None of this bullshit, fights, scrums in front of the net all the time. It was just up and down hockey.”

“My son was an enforcer,” says Len. “He was there simply to fight. He wasn’t a goal-scorer, just bare-knuckle boxing on ice. So the first thing to do is get rid of fighting.”

Seeing glorified bouncers on skates take the ice is headache-inducing, and the sooner the NHL fully kicks those players out of the league, the better. Sure, players should be able to protect themselves from dirty hits, but getting players like Brashear out of the league only puts greater skilled players on the ice, making dirty hits less likely.

Skilled players are able to pivot quicker from dirty hits, and are more likely to chase the puck (you know, the actual point of hockey) than chasing a player from behind.

In the only part of his article I do take offense to is when DeLury asks “Seriously, how can a die hard fan think this is a bad thing?…”

Forgive me, but I fail to see what’s to enjoy in that video. I’m a hockey fan, not a boxing fan. I don’t watch the game of hockey to watch grown men pummel each other’s faces because of unwritten rules or manufactured hatred.

I remember a quick story. I used to work at an after school sports program. One of the kids’ parents told me they took him to an Islanders-Penguins game and were horrified at what they saw. The game in question:

She told me she never wanted to take her son to a game again, that players were essentially assaulting each other on the ice. He did not enjoy watching players lying on the ice more often than skating. She was not wrong. Matt Martin was looking for Max Talbot until he found him from behind. That’s not hockey, that’s intent to injure. Trevor Gillies, who would not be in the NHL if not for fighting, stood and screamed at Eric Tangradi after hitting him illegally and giving him a concussion.

Yes, an NHL player screamed and taunted another player he had just given a concussion by an illegal hit. Is that hockey?

I told the Mother to wait until the next season, find a game, and hope for the best. She took him to a random 3-1 Islanders win against a Western Conference team. The kid fell in love with the sport of hockey, watching players like John Tavares and Kyle Okposo work magic together rather than Trevor Gillies skating around trying to concuss someone. To this day I know him to be a hockey fan.

Last time I checked, the objective of hockey is to win the game. Forgive me if I don’t see the point in wasting my time with unnecessary shenanigans between a bunch of dudes that are increasing their likelihood for brain injuries.

Forgive me if I don’t see the value in fists being thrown and players taking time and effort away from actual hockey to settle random scores that will become meaningless within a few days of the games.

I don’t consider myself a purer hockey fan for not liking fighter, nor do I consider myself any better of a person. I find it wonderful that hockey has strayed away from fighting and enforcers, but I understand that hockey is a tradition. I understand fans feel connected to it, though I personally have no connection to it.

To me, the NHL has not lost any personality, and if it has it’s due to NBCSports grossly misunderstanding which teams the fans want to watch play. I want to see Connor McDavid weaving his way through five defensemen, Auston Matthews blindly finding James van Riemsdyk in front of the net, Braden Holtby making gasp-inducing saves. OK, maybe not that last one.

The NHL can greatly improve their product by marketing the sport better, and rivalries can be renewed by rivals playing each other more. The lack of rivalry between the Rangers and some of their fiercest rivals does not stem from the change in fighting, it stems from them seeing each other only 4-5 times a season.

Rivals must play each other more, and then rivalries will develop with tensity and back and forth action leading the way.

To me, that’s what hockey is all about. Two teams battling with everything they have to win the game. The emotion you can see on the ice when a player scores a goal against their hated rivals. The speed, the intensity, the leaving it all out there. But with fighting, that all stops for a moment. It’s like pausing a movie at the good part. Keep the movie playing, keep the players safer, increase the intensity in a wiser way. Progress.

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