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Hockey fights: Why not have them in other sports?

February 23, 2007

Searching on Digg today, I came across this video, which has a ton of votes.

It’s an NHL hockey fight between Aaron Downey of the Dallas Stars and Jesse Boulerice of the Carolina Hurricanes that was a very short affair:

Looking through the comments at the Digg post, there’s the usual remarks you’d expect to see from non-hockey fans:

  • I went to a fight once and a hockey game broke out. (theamazingkort)
  • He’s going to want to put a little ice on that one. (SvenHammerstahl)
  • Hockey needs fighting. The fans love it, and it keeps players honest. (astrosmas)

But in truth, hockey still allows one-on-one fights to help police the game.

Other sports should look to do the same.

More of my reasoning (with video clips) after the jump…

In hockey, each team has at least one “fighter” that will challenge any opponent that takes a cheap shot at his team’s star players. The refs don’t see everything, so the fights clean up the trash left unseen.

When fights happen in any major sport (except hockey), you see them on the evening news. Why? Because most other sports have fights involving the entire team or bench spilling out on the field, which creates more fighting beyond the original incident and is a frustration to on-field officials trying to break it all up. It becomes a spectacle, which 24/7 news LOVES to air.

There’s also the whole “I got your back” mentality of teammates that comes into play, where everyone wants to fight the offender, and that inflames the situation more.

Hockey doesn’t have this problem when fights occur (most of the time, there are rare exceptions). It’s just you vs. your opponent — straight up. No teammates are out there to help you or him, so you’d better be sure you can handle it when you throw out a challenge and drop the gloves. If the other guy answers, you’re on your own.
Check out this montage of baseball fights….see how they spill out of control when teammates jump in? And look how often it’s a teammate of the original two participants that does the most damage.

And everyone remembers this horrible incident at the Palace of Auburn Hills between the NBA’s Pistons and Pacers last year (though, the crowd did elevate this incident to ridiculous levels):

And last season’s NCAA football game between Miami University and Florida International degenerated into a full-field brawl (ONLY 13 players were ejected):

But in hockey … it’s usually one player vs. one player only, and rarely devolves into a full-team melee. Why? Because other players on the ice and on the bench will be suspended if they get involved. It’s the “third man in” rule the league has incorporated.

And it works when used in other sports.

Check out this fight from the National Lacrosse League, featuring the Philadelphia Wings’ Geoff Snider and an Edmonton Rush player. The Wings player, no. 28 Thomas Hajek, tried to get involved in the fight, and was given a game misconduct penalty and got a one-game suspension for just the little bit (about 4 seconds) of involvement he had.

My question … why won’t other sports incorporate this rule? It would be rather simple:

  • In baseball, if the batter is upset at the pitcher for throwing inside, let him come after the pitcher and allow no one else to intervene (unless the catcher stops the batter before he gets there … then let those guys go at it).
    Let the fight be broken up by the four umpires on the field, ejecting the players, and anyone that jumps in late gets a mandatory one-game suspension. Anyone out of the dugout or bullpen gets two games off.
  • In basketball, if punches are thrown by two player, let the three referees break it up and eject the participants. Anyone in late gets one-game suspension, anyone leaving the bench gets two games off.
  • In football, if two players want to try to fight with all those pads on, let them, then eject the two players. Anyone else that jumps in on the field gets ejected and a one-game suspension. Two games off for any players that come off the bench to get involved.

I understand why it’ll be hard to change the “culture” of defending your teammates in on-field fights in America. But it needs to stop so that fans of the sports can see that teams and leagues are serious about stopping this overkill violence.

After all, we don’t want to turn into European Soccer, right? (*gulp*, I’m going to get e-mails about that remark)

[UPDATE: Of course, as soon as I make the argument about hockey fighting having some sort of honor, the Senators and Sabres go for a full-line brawl, plus goalies throwing down.

  1. February 23, 2007 1:15 pm

    I don’t particularly like fighting in hockey games. It turns it into an individual sport as opposed to a team sport. How selfish is it to get into a fight and get a penalty when your team is behind and need all the players on the ice?

    You did forget one sport (which for some reason, people still do). Auto racing. Granted, there are probably more fights at the local track on Saturday night than there are in the big leagues, but NASCAR got a lot of attention due to the fight at the end of the 1979 Daytona 500. The second place driver took out the leader on the last lap, and they got into it after the race.


  2. February 23, 2007 1:18 pm

    You’re right Glen. Auto racing gets a lot of attention for the wrecks/fights. Probably explains my fascination with bumper cars… 🙂

  3. flyfisher1986 permalink
    February 23, 2007 4:09 pm

    I think it would be a good idea to allow “controlled” fighting in all sports. I agree that it would cut down on the riots that happen in most sports. You have a very good point.

  4. dougm permalink
    February 24, 2007 11:58 am

    fights rarely cause the damage caused by the “incident” that started the fight in the first place. i gotta agree that a spontaneous fight meant to punish cheapshots has a legitimate role if the refs fail to clamp down on it. the refs can’t call everything – either because the game would drag on forever or they can’t watch for every foul – so its up to the players to set the limits themselves. there are unwritten rules that anybody who has ever played any sport knows what they are and you’ll gain the respect from the other guy as long as you don’t cross that border. elbow to the ribs, no biggie but at least you know i’m good enpugh to warrant the attention, but an elbow to the jaw, why wait for the whistle, just drop ’em.

  5. February 26, 2007 7:57 am

    I never thought of it that way before. Actually makes a lot of sense.

    -J. Kaiser


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