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Nader - No fighting in hockey


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Ralph Nader put out an open letter to NHL commissioner Gary Bettman today. You can read it at www.leagueoffans.org.

I’ll be quick, because this issue doesn’t deserve much space. Ralph Nader has obviously never played hockey, nor studied the game. He’s comparing all the recent head injuries to fighting. Listen, if fighting was banned there would be MORE HEAD INJURIES! More players would take liberties — cheap shots, cross-checks and glove-punches to the head — because they’ll know nobody will beat them up for it, make them accountable. The NCAA lacks two major things — it requires players to wear full face cages and it basically bans fighting. Thus, the college guys turn into gladiators. I’m been covering the NCAA and NHL since 1995, and believe me, if the NHL banned fighting and forced all players to wear half-shields, or visors, the amount of head injuries would increase.

Fighting is part of hockey, and it should never go away. It’s how pro players police themselves, and it’s a respected part of the game. Now, the days of enforcer vs. enforcer are over (or ending). The days when every team has a 6-foot-4, 240-pound goon waiting to get tapped on the shoulder for his first or second shift of the game are ending. And that’s good. But eliminating fighting between players who actually deserve to be in the league should never happen. Here is Nader’s last sentence to Bettman:

“On behalf of hockey players everywhere – and their families — here’s hoping you have the strength and courage to take this decisive step.”

Hey Ralph, you are not eligible to speak “on behalf of hockey players everywhere” — because you are not one of us.

When a guy wants to go, either because of what you did to him or one of his teammates, and you want to go, that’s the only way to settle it — on the ice. That’s not saying you have to fight. But typically, every team has teammates who would gladly do that for you. It’s what creates the locker room’s biggest bond.

Keep tabs with Mike Chambers on Twitter: @MChambersDP

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Nader is delivering the right message to Bettman. How can the NHL care about the players when they allow two people to pound each other in the head. It’s time to eliminate fighting from the game – http://itsnotpartofthegame.blogspot.com/.

I don’t believe that fighting ever had a place in the game and as far as the accountability argument goes, why were the 70′s and 80′s some of the bloodiest hockey years while fighting was at its peak? There were lots of “policemen” in the game but it didn’t seem to help. Let’s focus on skilled hockey players, good hard hitting and fast paced action. Not two grown men wrestling for a few minutes before falling to the ice.

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Notpartofthegame - Fighting in hockey is less dangerous then changing lines. More people get hurt in hockey because bench doors are opened than fights in hockey . If you don't want fighting in hockey, great, that's your personal opinion. You can't use concussion's, and the three tragic deaths (and at least could spell all three names right) to argue that fighting is dangerous. The facts just do not point in that direction. You said it yourself, fights in hockey are more like wrestling than boxing and the amount of heavy punches that actually make contact with the head are a rarity. Fighting in hockey just isn't dangerous, so argue morality, or purpose but Ralph Nader was out of line with his letter and should stay out of sports.

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If you read Nader's letter closely you will see that he did not state that fighting caused the head trauma experienced by Crosby, LaFontaine, Lindros and Primeau. He is making the point that any concussion is serious and the NHL should take action, even if fighting only causes 3% or 4% of all head trauma (NHL data). You can't have a department of player safety and tolerate an activity where players punch each other in the head. Yes Nader's letter has some mistakes, like misspelling a few names and stating that the OHL has banned fighting (later corrected on League of Fans website) but the point he makes is valid.

The problem I have with fighting is that it serves no purpose other than to ruin the flow of the game. If it is an important part of the game, why does it virtually disappear in the playoffs, when winning is critical? I enjoy fast paced, hard hitting hockey, not marginal players throwing punches. Get rid of fighting, let the refs police the game through increased penalties and suspensions and hockey would improve dramatically.

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One of the site features is If you click @Mention Member under the person's name at the left, the person you are responding to will receive a notification (and maybe a email depending on member settings). See screen shot below.

Here's my stance.

There are too many rules, both in society and in this case a game, that protect us from ourselves. These are grown men that have made a choice to play hockey and they know full well hockey is a tough sport. They knew that growing up and they know that now that they made the big leagues. They don't have to play. They choose to play knowing the risk and they are well paid to do it.

The only way hockey should even consider removing fighting from the game is if the players unanimously decide that it should be removed. Give the players the say as they are the one's taking the risk. The players choose to lace up the skates. They know the current rules of the game and if they want to change those rules, let the majority prevail. My guess is that most want fighting to remain in hockey.

This concept can be applied to many other aspects of our lives. When the majority of people want something it should be. What's more fair than that?

At what point do we start taking accountability for ourselves & our actions and stop relying on others to watch out for or take care of us? It seems to me that our personal choices are slowly being eroded from those that think they know what's best for us. I think this is a very dangerous road to be going down as what happens when a choice is made for me that I don't agree with? As a typical American, I'll probably sit here on my ass and complain. Instead, if I feel strongly enough about the issue at hand, I should try to convince others of my views which would therefore hopefully work at changing the majority.

I respect the fact that @NotPartoftheGame is campaining for what he feels is right but I agree with @stevet159 on this particular subject obviously.

All that being said, I think staged fights in hockey are stupid. The guys who fight just because they are expected to fight I think is a little much. I'm not saying there should be a rule against it but I just don't care for it. I still watch hockey because I enjoy all the other aspects of the sport.

I must say that I do like the fights that brew out of a hard fought contest or someone standing up for a teammate that was illegally checked into the boards. That is just intensity boiling over. For example the Hartnell/Phaneuf fight last night after his goal. He was standing up for himself. It happens in every sport but the difference is that in hockey they let it get solved on the ice. Again, hockey is a full contact sport unlike any team sport out there (hold maybe rugby).

Hockey is full of respect. Even during and after the fights, most players show respect. There are very little cheap shots and even fewer punches thrown when a player is in a vulnerable position (when one player is down on the ice). Most players even go to the extreme of asking if the other is okay or saying "nice fight." I know that when my daughter is old enough to understand the game, I will be making sure that is the part that she notices as I think it's the most important.

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One of the site features is If you click @Mention Member under the person's name at the left, the person you are responding to will receive a notification (and maybe a email depending on member settings). See screen shot below.

Here's my stance.

There are too many rules, both in society and in this case a game, that protect us from ourselves. These are grown men that have made a choice to play hockey and they know full well hockey is a tough sport. They knew that growing up and they know that now that they made the big leagues. They don't have to play. They choose to play knowing the risk and they are well paid to do it.

The only way hockey should even consider removing fighting from the game is if the players unanimously decide that it should be removed. Give the players the say as they are the one's taking the risk. The players choose to lace up the skates. They know the current rules of the game and if they want to change those rules, let the majority prevail. My guess is that most want fighting to remain in hockey.

This concept can be applied to many other aspects of our lives. When the majority of people want something it should be. What's more fair than that?

At what point do we start taking accountability for ourselves & our actions and stop relying on others to watch out for or take care of us? It seems to me that our personal choices are slowly being eroded from those that think they know what's best for us. I think this is a very dangerous road to be going down as what happens when a choice is made for me that I don't agree with? As a typical American, I'll probably sit here on my ass and complain. Instead, if I feel strongly enough about the issue at hand, I should try to convince others of my views which would therefore hopefully work at changing the majority.

I respect the fact that @NotPartoftheGame is campaining for what he feels is right but I agree with @stevet159 on this particular subject obviously.

All that being said, I think staged fights in hockey are stupid. The guys who fight just because they are expected to fight I think is a little much. I'm not saying there should be a rule against it but I just don't care for it. I still watch hockey because I enjoy all the other aspects of the sport.

I must say that I do like the fights that brew out of a hard fought contest or someone standing up for a teammate that was illegally checked into the boards. That is just intensity boiling over. For example the Hartnell/Phaneuf fight last night after his goal. He was standing up for himself. It happens in every sport but the difference is that in hockey they let it get solved on the ice. Again, hockey is a full contact sport unlike any team sport out there (hold maybe rugby).

Hockey is full of respect. Even during and after the fights, most players show respect. There are very little cheap shots and even fewer punches thrown when a player is in a vulnerable position (when one player is down on the ice). Most players even go to the extreme of asking if the other is okay or saying "nice fight." I know that when my daughter is old enough to understand the game, I will be making sure that is the part that she notices as I think it's the most important.

Click to enlarge

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I think Notpart stated his case pretty well. But, everytime some guy wants to get his name in the paper, he'll raise one item off of a list of recyclable "issues". Fighting in hockey is one of those. First of all, hockey is not the only sport that involves guys punching each other. Anyone who's played football has given and received jabs, kicks, stomps and other assorted painful blows. And, what about boxing?

Is Nader suggesting that players not get angry? For me, hockey should be played with passion. Lots of players only play well when they're irate. The occasional dust-up will happen between eager and willing participants. A serious injury is a rare thing. Hell, three times this year, I know of players being cut by skates in the locker room. Should we take the skates away?

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. First of all, hockey is not the only sport that involves guys punching each other.

I think the argument though is that hockey is the only team sport that I can think of where it's allowed, sometimes encouraged and actually has rules governing it.

Obviously it happens in all other sports but it's severely frowned upon and usually stopped within in seconds.

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@NotPartoftheGame

First of all I'd rather see Nader focus his attention to *real* political issues, and leave player safety in the hands of the NHL, and NHLPA.

In order to help minimize concussions in the league due to pucks and high sticks to the face I would be in favor of the NHL requiring visors and if the rules ever changed to full cages, I wouldn't mind. Nor would I be opposed to changing the player pads etc.

The problem I have with fighting is that it serves no purpose other than to ruin the flow of the game. If it is an important part of the game, why does it virtually disappear in the playoffs, when winning is critical? I enjoy fast paced, hard hitting hockey, not marginal players throwing punches. Get rid of fighting, let the refs police the game through increased penalties and suspensions and hockey would improve dramatically.

Let me start with my views are not too far different from yours, I can't stand the role of dance partners with enforcers. But I really see no need to eliminate fighting from the NHL. The rules and refs in place today for the most part police the game to the point where there are many games in the regular season which have no fights. (the game today is not the same as it was just a few years ago)

I do find occasional fights entertaining. Sometimes a team has a strategy to try to goat the opposition into a fight to take a player off the ice for the next 5min. I am also all in favor of teammates sticking up for each other. Scrums that develop into a fight from around the goal net too are entertaining.

Besides needing to go to concessions or the restroom there are three events during a game where the fans stand and cheer.

1. Home team scores a goal

2. A fight

3. Shootout

Sometimes a fight sparks a team to play with more intensity during a game. During the playoffs teams usually don't have an issue with the need to ramp the intensity. But during the long regular season, a fight can wake up the crowd in a back and forth boring game.

As mentioned in posts above the enforcer's role in the NHL has been neutered. A player like Boogaard would never become an NHL player with the rules that are all ready in place today. I also enjoy fast paced, hard hitting hockey, and if a scrum or fight breaks out, so what, it is a part of the total entertainment package.

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First of all let me say that I am impressed with the quality of the discussion and the respect that is shown for other viewpoints. Maybe that is because I'm comparing this forum to the discussions I have had with the hockeyfights.com crowd that has been posting on my blog :-)

I agree with Blocker that the NHLPA has to make a decision on fighting before there will be any change. The NHL executive and general managers are not in any rush and until the players decide to approve tougher penalties on fighting, or leave the game the way it is, there won't be movement on this issue. Pubic pressure will continue to influence opinion and I believe that the anti-fighting fan base is growing. There is a lot of faith in that statement because when I'm at the Air Canada Centre I am one of the few people sitting down when a fight breaks out. Then again no one goes for a hot dog when a dugout-clearing brawl breaks out in Baseball, but that doesn't mean MLB is about to allow fighting. Recent polls by Sports Illustrated, CBC.ca and by the NHL at past All-star games show that 30% - 70% of fans want to see fighting eliminated. And I hope that I am wrong but I think we will see increased awareness of health issues amongst enforcers in the future due to the press of the past year. That will impact the image of the league and begin to influence advertisers and sponsors. The NHL and NHLPA will have to do something to show that they are concerned about controlling something that is not integral to the game and protecting the health of players. Fighting may not cause many concussions - somewhere between 4% and 7% depending on what figures the NHL releases - but even 1 is too many. And fighting is easy to fix unlike changing the speed of the game, the size of the players or the layout of the rink.

Edited by NotPartoftheGame
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  • 4 weeks later...

I have two recent posts on my blog that I think are important to the discussion on fighting (of course I'm biased). Based on feedback over the past few months I thought I would address some two key issues:

I was looking for data to prove or disprove the whole accountability argument, that fighitng polices the game. I couldn't find anything so I studied the past 12 seasons and analyzed statistics related to fighitng and PIM. In summary, when fighting is reduced, non-fighting related PIMs are also reduced. And teams who fight the most also take more non-fighting PIMs. That tells me that enforcers may be contributing to the violence and cheap shots, not controlling it. http://itsnotpartofthegame.blogspot.com/2012/02/additional-statistics-on-impact-of.html

A lot of pro-fighting fans have been throwing out that 98% of NHL players want fighting, based on the HNIC poll released in February. Actually the question was "do you want fighting completely banned". Regardless I am willing to acknowledge that fighitng will not be reduced or eliminated without the involvement of the NHLPA. Therefore I have written an open letter to them and suggested the course of action they should take to study the issue. http://itsnotpartofthegame.blogspot.com/2012/03/open-letter-to-nhlpa.html

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@NotPartoftheGame

So, basically you're saying you're a pansy?

An intelligent and well thought out response. I guess Jim Thomson, former NHL enforcer who is now advocating the elimination of fighting in hockey is also a pansy. What about Wayne Gretzky, who stated in his auto-biography back in the early 90's that fighting should be taken out of the game. Study the issue and you'll see that the reasons provided for keeping fighting in the game are mostly myth and perception. It's not needed and only takes away from watching skilled players in one of the best sports on the planet.

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An intelligent and well thought out response.

Lol, I'm a Flyer fan, what did you expect? If I didn't make comments like that to a Leafs fan, my fellow knuckledragging, neanderthal Flyer fans wouldn't respect me. So, it was just a joke actually. I hope you take it that way (now that I've told you it was a joke).

I do indeed have intelligent and thoughtful comments on the role of fighting in hockey, past, present and future, but for now I'll just say that it can, and has, actually served for players to develop more respect for each other. Stay with me, now.

The classic scenario I would paint for you is when buddy sticks you in the face, intentionally. Now, you could just turn around and spear the guy in the face, or you could drop the gloves, fight and settle it like men. It's a funny thing that happens after you take the latter course. For one thing, buddy still has his teeth and both of his eyes. For another thing, you go away with the score settled and even forget the fact that he stuck you in the first place! Score settled. Play hockey now.

I've personally experienced this very scenario in my hockey career. Maybe you haven't and just prefer to go around spearing people in the face when they do something wrong or dirty to you?

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Podein25. I now understand the "pansy" comment. And I can't explain my status as a Leafs fan...

I get your scenario and I've been speared by players and got in their face, but never dropped the gloves. I preferred to let the refs call the game and get on the powerplay. I can only imagine what a Flyers fan will say about that. But today fighting is more staged with the same 30 or 40 guys in the league dropping the gloves for most of the fights. How does that police the game? Then you have the fights that start at the 2 second mark of the game or when players have to respond after a clean hit. I think that the game would be far more exciting if you let the refs enforce the rules and let the players just play. Add a misconduct for every fight and if someone absolutely feels that they have to respond to something they still can. But they will pick their spots a lot better. That will also go a long way to putting the final nail in the coffin of the one-dimensional player, the guy who sits in the press box until his team plays an opponent who also has a guy sitting in the press box most nights.

I realize that letting the refs call the game is a big assumption that they will be consistent (a penalty is a penalty in every situation) and that the NHL somehow improves the officials ability to see a lot more of what goes on. Maybe add a couple of off-ice refs situated up high in each arena as has been discussed in the past. But I would rather have an unbiased official enforcing the rules than a biased player who is charging into the situation with emotional and only "the code" to justify his actions.

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I preferred to let the refs call the game and get on the powerplay. I can only imagine what a Flyers fan will say about that.

Hey @NotPartoftheGame,

You asked for it: I'd prefer to fight, kill the penalty (if that's the result - cue the instigator penalty rant!), gain momentum and score on the following shift. Especially at home.

There are many different, but related, points raised in your post that I can't respond to right now (e.g. reffing, the one-dimensional player=goon). Let's keep it to "fighting in the game of hockey," ok?

Now, I'll tell you an actual true story to go with my previous scenario.

From the time I was 8 until I was 18, I played against two identical twins from Flin Flon (they shall go nameless, but they know who they are if they are reading this, which I doubt). Arch rivals. They were like Brad Marchand (Little Ball of Hate), only nastier. Very nasty, but also very good hockey players. To say I despised them is to state the obvious. But I respected them. And feared them. And they did me, I think. No, I know they did. And I'll tell you why.

Fast forward two years and I see them walk through the door as walk-ons to the Junior team (MJHL) I had played with the previous season. It's our last year as eligible players in that league as we are all the same age. Actually, they has been invited to camp, but I didn't know that at the time I saw them.

So, first scrimmage in camp. I'm on the bench of the team with our head coach. The twins are on opposite teams. Within 15 min they had both fought: each other. For real. It gets better. They were both locks to make the team. Hell they instantly became two of our best players. So why fight?

Why indeed.

So yeah, when I call you a pansy, I know what I'm talking about :)

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Sorry for the delay, I meant to reply to Podein25's post earlier but the Leafs won a game and I had to participate in the parade....

Now that I know you are a Flyer's fan, it all makes sense. No apologies necessary. The problem with your scenario is that incident would be in the minority. Most of the fights today are between 30 or 40 players, enforcers who seem to get summoned from the pressbox when they play another tough team who also has enforcers. It has little to do with respect and everything to do with revenge, like going after someone who has just laid a clean but hard hit on one of their teammates. I've been watching hockey since the mid 60's (one of the few who saw the Leafs win a cup) and haven't seen any period where the cheap shots disappeared because of fighting. Doesn't work. I would agree that the star players get more room to skate, but not because they are protected. It's because the enforcers are too busy fighting each other and getting tossed.

I've also played hockey and never had a fight. I played tough but earned respect with clean hits and out-working my opponent. If I got high-sticked then I let the refs call it. You can't have a player policing the game because they do so with emotion, bias and no rule book other than what they think happened and what is deserved.

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