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Players policing the ice

Muscle for the 2013-14 Rangers

During Friday night’s melee against the Blue Rangers Jackets, we certainly saw something we weren’t used to seeing since the departure of our captain at the very latest; we saw heart and a team playing with passion. We also saw an instance of a hard, borderline hit which rocked one of our players so hard he hasn’t played since with a questionable timetable to return.  Though I feel I can speak for everyone in saying we never want to see this, what we saw afterwards was refreshing.

The passion came about with a fight – a quick 30 second dance – between a seasoned fighter and a guy who’s got 5 prior career NHL fights. Benoit Pouliot made his best effort to avenge an apparent concussion on John Moore, holding his own and pinning down Derek MacKenzie. For me, an unashamed Pouliot fan, this was exactly what I love to see: a guy unafraid to potentially get his butt handed to him in an effort to let the other team know they can’t mess with our guys. But is that really the right way?

The argument against fighting has been made so often that it’s mind numbing. I even made the argument against goons earlier this season after a flurry of disgusting play occurred. So was Pouliot right to stand up for Moore, or should he have let the league review the play and possibly pass out another ShanaBan for the future? The game had been scrappy and physical, a type of game we hadn’t seen for some time, so maybe we are biased in our opinion of liking this. Is this really how hockey should be played?

Last week the St. Louis Blues game against the Winnipeg Jets ended with a full line brawl which resulted in 100 penalty minutes being awarded. A very physical game and a frustrated Jets team led to cameras panning to 3 and a half minutes of sheer chaos in the Blues zone. This brawl was so consuming that it somehow blew the game dead and negated an empty net goal that (maybe?) didn’t wind up counting, despite time still being left on the clock. The old phrase “I went to a fight and a hockey game broke out” comes to mind right now – though I cringe typing it.

Personally, I think that players policing the game is a good thing. Hockey is unlike any other sport, and we typically hear about that in the negative sense. A well renowned baseball writer called it a ‘minor sport,’ and if we as hockey fans are going to accept that, then we might as well stand proud to our roots that lay in allowing players stand up on the ice. If you aren’t playing passionate hockey, what are you even doing? There’s a reason refs allow fighting to occur up until the point of possible serious injury. You won’t see a guy hitting another guy while he’s down. There’s a code and, as vague and indefinable as that sounds, it’s a code that makes hockey unique and lovable.

Though blind, cheap shots should never happen, players standing up for their teammates and not backing down in the face of a potential whooping should. Do you agree or should the NHL try to mainstream and negate fighting as a whole?

24 Responses to “Players policing the ice”

  1. bayman says:

    I think Pouliot got the better of the exchange.

  2. Gary says:

    Nice post, agree!

    The injuries that come from unpoliced stick work are far worse than from fighting, which as you say has its own code.

    Refs? Please, they can police 80% of it but how often have they missed dangerous things going on. The players can police it 100% of the time and yeh, that even includes some times when your guy takes a clean hit.

    It’s part of hockey. IMO when Phaneuf hit Mike Sauer someone should have been on him like white on rice. That is what hockey is, aside from the strategy and skill. It is a controlled war of attrition IMO.

    I know I sound like a neanderthal but fighting should be off the table for discussion. Good on Benny for getting in there against CBJ the other night.

  3. Gary says:

    Admit it, most of us want to see a tough team that can stand up to anyone. That is not what we have, but it’s good to have a skilled, offensive team that at least does not get rag dolled out there.

  4. Walt says:

    Ben earned my respect, and he did hold his own, not bad for only 5 pro fights??

    Agree with most of what you say Becky, but if there is a so called code, tell trash like Rinaldo of the Flyers about it, that dirt bad is just bad for the game.

  5. Ray V says:

    If fights were banned and refs would call all the roughing and so on….no one would need to stand up for anyone. I love hockey. I am with The Great One. BAN FIGHTING. Have always hated it in our game.

    • Puck Luck @Centerman21 says:

      If you ban fighting, it won’t make players any less rough when hitting. Should we ban contact too? If players are able to hit who they want with no retribution, it’ll make the biggest most physical team win.

      • Ray V says:

        The contact will always be part of our game. It should be within a set of rules that the refs should enforce. That is my point. If the rules are enforced there is no need for fighting. Players will adjust. Remember that 5 or so years ago you could stick hook a player from behind in center ice. Rules were changed and players adjusted. We do not need the fighting and our game would be such a prettier game =)

  6. The Suit says:

    I can go either way with fighting. So long as it exists in our game I think we should have guys on our roster that can handle themselves.

    However, if they did ban fighting, I can’t say I’d miss it much. There’s not a lot of fighting in the playoffs. It doesn’t exist in College hockey or Olympic hockey and I find those games to be just as entertaining and just as physical.

    We’ll see what happens, but I think fighting will be gone in 10 years.

    • Becky says:

      I think the fight for the sake of fighting is bush league. No space for that. But I sure hope that the penalties handed out for clean open ice/hip checks stops cause that’s a part of the game that I adore

    • HARLEMBLUES says:

      Suit the playoffs are what 28 games at most or 16 wins,the Olympics are what 7 games.Each game is so much more important than a regular season NHL game.They are tournments more on the line.One for country,one for the cup.More focus on the task at hand winning.

  7. Chris F says:

    Fighting is an inevitable part of the game if you want to keep it as physical as it is.

    Hockey is a violent sport, violent in the sense that you are legally allowed to skate full speed and slam your body into an opposing player’s body with certain caveats regarding contact to the head and such. With such physicality comes high emotion. Allowing fighting –which is relatively safe within the confines of a refereed 15-30 second bout– is an emotional release that prevents further dangerous escalation that would come from the absence of fighting.

    It also adds an exhilarating storyline within the game and from game to game that makes hockey so unique. I’m all for getting rid of guys like Scott and Brashear who really only bring their fists to the table. But 4th line grinders like Dorsett or skilled players like Pouliot willing to drop the gloves to defend a teammate is a part of the game that makes hockey hockey.

    • Chris F says:

      And no, collegiate and olympic hockey are no where near as aggressive and physical as the NHL.

      And what about scrums? Are we going to ban pushing and shoving in the crease which many times leads to fights?

      Stop messing with a perfectly fine concept. The only guys ever injured long term as a result of fighting are the serial goons. Get rid of them, not fighting.

      • Puck Luck @Centerman21 says:

        I agree. The “serial” goons like you say are phasing out of the game anyway. Now a days players need to be able to skate and score a few goals too. No more 4th liners like in the Domi & Probert days where you had 1 or 2 players for 1 reason. I wonder if a suspension for a certain amount of fights would phase those guys like Scott out. A player won’t make a team if he isn’t able to either play D or strive in the offensive zone. The cap and contract limits will make teams unable to carry goons on suspensions. Maybe that’ll kind of get rid of those notorious fighters. Maybe even go as far as take money off a teams upper limit of the salary cap. I’m sure there’s ways the NHL can make it less worth it to carry those guys on their roster.

  8. Bort says:

    This is a sport played on a solid, hard sheet of ice, where large men slam each other into walls at high speeds with metal blades attached to their feet. Good defensive players are regularly struck with a frozen piece of rubber going close to 100 mph multiple times per game.

    Let’s try and keep two guys every once in a while punching each other for less than a minute in context. Truth be told, it’s really one of the less dangerous parts of the sport.

  9. Mundo says:

    A well renowned baseball writer called it a ‘minor sport,’

    What does a baseball writer know about sports?

  10. Steven Cifuentes says:

    That Blue Jacket/Ranger game should be the poster game for why fightening MUST remain in the game.

    The staged fight is the problem…not a teammate sticking up for another one and Nash pushing the goalie and answering for it. Blue Jackets had a problem with Nash and Rangers a problem with the hit on Moore.

    The emotion both of those fights had in the game was amazing to see.

  11. Lou says:

    For all of you that have never played the sport – do us the favor, save your opinions on fighting to yourself.

    Hockey is a physical, grinding game for real men. Intimidation, heckling and getting in the opponents face is part of that. This isnt some “politically correct” dance around some pond. It is the essence of finding the heart in the athlete. It is a true team concept. It is the only sport where the athlete goes and gets 15 stitches and plays the next shift. Or where the most talented of teammates drops the gloves and goes at it, with the least talented opponent — just because it “had to be done”.

    To play is thrilling, exciting, fast paced, and scary all at the same time. To play, you get exciting about hitting, almost as much as getting hit!

    Sure players are bigger and faster, but the game is already evolving on its own. Let’s not try to police every aspect of our lives, by ruling on a part of the sport most of you dont know anything about. Trust me when I say…this is a sport where the guy who goes too far get’s his eventually — I only wish life were that fair.