Sports

I've flip-flopped 0

MATT FLEMMING

Iused to hate people like me who write columns like the one you're about to read.

Every once in a while, something happens which prompts sports commentators to call for an end to fighting in hockey.

For most of my life, I have counted myself among the staunchly pro-fighting in hockey crowd. I was among those who believed that fighting is exciting and an important part of the game.

Whenever a commentator came along and called for a ban on fighting, I usually accused that writer of not understanding the game and not being a true hockey fan.

Don Cherry calls them tree-huggers and usually makes some reference to sitting around a campfire and singingKumbaya.

But after the recent death of Don Sanderson, a senior hockey player who hit his head on the ice during a fight, I've decided to flip-flop on the issue.

The value of fighting to hockey has never been lower. Fighting in the NHL is way down from the days of the Broad Street Bullies. Teams very often don't even dress an enforcer because fighting is less of a factor in games now than it has ever been. It has become almost irrelevant.

The world junior hockey championships is a good example of incredibly entertaining hockey with virtually no fighting. There is also very little fighting in the Stanley Cup playoffs.

It's true that a fight brings a crowd to its feet and that it can cause a momentum shift in a game. And I can't deny that I enjoy a good hockey fight, but most fights aren't even that entertaining.

The days of hotly anticipated bouts between Tie Domi and Bob Probert are long gone.

But after the death of Don Sanderson, it can't be denied that fighting can be dangerous and it's surprising that something like this hasn't happened before. Players lose their helmets in fights all the time and fights usually end when one or both combatants fall to the ice.

And let's view fighting in hockey for what it is: bare-knuckle boxing on ice. Even in the most brutal forms of fight sport, fighters use padded gloves and matches take place on a slighty padded ring canvas, not a surface as hard as ice.

So I've taken a mathematical view on the issue: given the value of fighting in hockey against the risk of serious injury, it's simply not worth keeping it in the game.

Hockey is a violent game and violence is one of the things that make the game great.

It's true that far more injuries occur because of clean, legal bodychecks than fights, but the physical aspect is vital to the identity of the game.

Hockey has evolved over the years in many ways. Fighting adds almost nothing to a hockey game and it's time to get rid of it for good.

Have your say on fighting in hockey by visiting the Packet Sports Blog at www.orilliapacket.com


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