Wednesday, June 02, 2010

Tuesday Night is Merely Okay for Fighting

Jake Bogoch's article on the Puckmasters Fight School is a must read. As an inside look at the controversial fight school, it's intriguing; as a look at why fighting is a part of the game of hockey, it's invaluable.

As a borderline pacifist who was raised Mennonite, I've always had trouble defending the presence of fighting in my favorite spectator sport. It's not just the fact that it's there, it's the fact that I enjoy it. There's nothing quite like Rick Rypien looking up at a player eight inches taller and sixty pounds heavier and taking him to task.

When I introduced my wife, an American raised watching baseball and football, to the great game of hockey, fighting was one of the initial barriers. It was something that just didn't make sense. I tried to explain the benefits of protecting star players, pumping up your teammates (and the fans), and even intimidating opponents. All of it rang hollow. While all of those are legitimate reasons for fighting to remain a part of the fabric of hockey, the real reason I don't want fighting out of the NHL is because I enjoy it so much.

As Professor Farnsworth might say: "Oh my, yes."

Let's face it, every hockey fan in North America cheered when Evander Kane knocked out Matt Cooke (perhaps he should have attended the Puckmasters Fight School), though some purists may have attached an asterisk to the moment, noting Kane's visored helmet still securely attached to his head. Every Canucks fan perks up when they see a clueless goon size up Rick Rypien, thinking he's an easy target. Even my wife has taken to the Rypper. Hockey fans love fighting.

The odd thing is, as much as hockey fans love it, fighting continues to be wrapped up in arguments against the violence of hockey. Appeals are made to the wider sports audience, that hockey is too violent for the casual sports fan. Meanwhile, UFC 114 Prelims on Spike TV captured 1.6 million viewers. The moments of violence collated by CBC post-Bertuzzi-incident? Only one involved actual fighting, the legendary night the Lights Went Out, wherein essentially every player involved in the junior Canada-Soviet game squared off, the Cold War taking to the ice. That's a bit of an isolated incident.

But the sidebar to Bogoch's blog about fighting is "A History of Violence," with less electric-drill-based torture and more recapping of the deep-roots violence has in hockey. Every incident mentioned involves swinging a stick at a player's head; none of them involve a hockey fight. To what purpose was that sidebar attached to Bogoch's article about the Fight School? It's an odd editorial decision: the logical sidebar for such an article would be a history of hockey fights. Obviously, someone at Deadspin disagrees.

Not pictured: Hockey.

To finish things off, here's Nucks Misconduct's Top 10 Rick Rypien Fights. Good gravy, I love Rick Rypien. And Darcy Hordichuk had some interesting thoughts on fighting in this old blog post. Worth a read. As is A History of Violence. Very different from the movie.

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