With Wednesday night’s fight between Frazer McLaren and Dave Dziurzynski, the fighting in hockey debate is once again at the forefront. This is the second fight that I know of this season that has resulted in a concussion (the first being the John Scott and Shawn Thornton on January 31st) which is bringing up questions about whether or not fighting should be banned. Personally, I am a fan of fighting and don’t think it will ever be completely eliminated from the game. I have been called a dinosaur (by someone older than me) for having this opinion , but I stand by it. However there are certain types of fights that I feel belong and types that don’t.
Let’s look at the fight between Frazer McLaren and Dave Dziurzynski. They fought 26 seconds into the first period. This is what I like to call a pointless fight; the only reason for this fight is to have two fighters face off against each other for the delight of the crowd. It is basically a boxing match within a hockey game. This is the type of fighting (often called staged fighting) I don’t agree with. Fighting because you are both fighters and you want to see who is better doesn’t have a place in hockey.
The kind of fighting I like is the honour code of hockey, the unwritten rule that has tough guys fighting to stick up for themselves and their teammates. These kinds of fights increase morale and can give a team momentum to win a game. My favourite example of this kind of fight is Mikhail Grabovski’s only career fight. Chris Neil, Ottawa Senators tough guy, started to go after rookie Carter Ashton in a scrum that started during a fight between Luke Schenn and Nick Foligno. Grabovski stood up for the rookie by going after Neil and eventually dropping the gloves. After the game Grabovski explained his actions “I remember when I was a rookie and I remember my first game in the NHL, and that kind of player wants to get you all the time. That’s not right. I wanted to protect young players”. Grabovski did the right thing by sticking up for Ashton, that’s what fighting in hockey is for.
Some people have a problem with the injuries that fighting causes. To them I say hitting and shot blocking also cause a lot of injuries as well but no one is talking about banning those because they are part of the game, so is fighting and I don’t see that changing anytime soon.
For all of those painting McLaren as the bad guy, just remember 2 people were involved in that fight Dziurzynski chose to fight a veteran tough guy that had 2 inches and 26 pounds on him (not that he is to blame either). McLaren said this after the game: “Any time you get into a fight, you never want to see that happen. Obviously, I hope he’s OK. I asked the doctor between periods to just get word that he was all right. It was just an unfortunate incident that that happens.” John Scott said something similar after his concussion causing knock out: “I was asking our trainers how he’s doing. You never want to hurt somebody, I was kind of concerned after the first period; we never saw him again”. Players are not going into fights to cause devastating injuries and these fighters aren’t heartless. Fighting is part of the game. It shouldn’t be banned and I don’t think it ever will be.