To some, fighting in the NHL may seem inappropriate. To many die-hard fans, fighting is necessary. Unknown to many, NHL enforcers abide by a set of unwritten rules when engaging in hockey fights, keeping them humane (Ross). Fighting in the NHL can energize a lifeless team, attracts fans, and protect star players from cheap shots. Without the fighting, hockey would not be hockey.
A NHL season is a long and demanding 82-game schedule lasting over 6 months. Unfortunately with such a long season, teams occasionally play lackluster hockey on some nights. On such nights, a fight can provide the team with a much-needed energy boost. “Momentum can be so important in hockey - as it is in most sports - that to a certain extent, some fighting may be necessary” (Toney). After seeing a fight, the fans erupt. Players feed of the emotion and energy of the crowd. Fighting provides an emotional lift when the grind of a seemingly never-ending season overwhelms a team.
Even though teams sometimes play uninspired games, fans still show up each game to support their favorite team. The NHL exists because of the fans. Some fans attend games and watch on television in hopes of seeing a fight according to Travis Hughes of SB Nation. “It was enjoyable because it was a hockey fight. Two guys throwing their fists at one another. People enjoy watching that sort of thing” (Hughes). Fighting brings an adrenaline rush to hockey fans that they don’t get watching others professional sports (Bukisa). If the fans who watched the NHL for the fights stopped watching, it’s not known if the NHL could survive the financial loss of those fans.
NHL stars are—believe it or not—protected by fights in the sport. “The threat of fighting also discourages reckless or cheap play” says Jeff Klein of NY Times. With enforcers on the ice, star players are given more room to play at their highest level without worry of cheap shots. Fighting plays such an important role in hockey, even Wayne Gretzky understands how vital enforcers were to his success. “After Dave Semenko, McSorley took over as the protection service for Wayne Gretzky. The Great One so appreciated McSorley that Gretzky made sure his enforcer was included in Gretzky’s trade to the Los Angeles Kings” (The Hockey Enforcers). Fighting in the NHL allowed the hockey great ones to be just that.
As barbaric as they might appear, fights in the NHL are vital to the game of hockey and the league itself. Fights have been a part of the league since the first game played. Without them, teams may not find ways to energize themselves when the adversities of a long season creep up. The fighting aspect of the NHL attracts thrill-seeking fans who desire the action provided by professional hockey games. Even those who played in the NHL who never had one in their career understand and agree with the importance of fighting in the league. Despite the protest of many, fighting in the NHL is as imperative to the league as the elite players. Without fighting, hockey wouldn’t be the game the fans and players know and love.
Bernstein, Ross. The Code: The Unwritten Rules of Fighting and Retaliation in the NHL. Chicago, IL: Triumph, 2006. Print.
Hughes, Travis. "Why Do Hockey Players Fight?" SBNation.com. N.p., 14 Oct. 2011. Web. 25 Feb. 2013. <http://www.sbnation.com/nhl/2011/10/14/2489931/hockey-fight-arron-asham-jay-beagle>.
Klein, Jeff Z. "Debate Sharpens Over N.H.L. Safety Rules and Fighting." NYTimes.com. N.p., 11 Oct. 2011. Web. 04 Mar. 2013. <http://travel.nytimes.com/2011/10/12/sports/hockey/debate-sharpens-over-nhl-safety-rules-and-fighting.html?_r=0>.
NHL. N.d. Photograph. Bleacher Report. By Kevin W. Ryan. 04 Mar. 2012. Web. 04 Mar. 2013. <http://bleacherreport.com/articles/1089979-the-20-best-goalie-fights-in-nhl-history>.
"The Hockey Enforcers." The Interrobang RSS. IB Sports, 22 Feb. 2012. Web. 26 Feb. 2013. <http://theinterrobang.com/2012/02/the-hockey-enforcers/>.
Toney, David. "NHL Fights Important to Games." News, Sports, Jobs, Community Information. N.p., 7 Nov. 2010. Web. 25 Feb. 2013. <http://altoonamirror.com/page/content.detail/id/544051/NHL-fights-important-to-games.html?nav=766>.
"Why Hockey Fans Enjoy Fights on the Ice." Bukisa. N.p., n.d. Web. 25 Feb. 2013. <http://www.bukisa.com/articles/117235_why-hockey-fans-enjoy-fights-on-the-ice>.