Earlier this morning, CBC Sports published an article with video and reports of the NHL's senior vice-president of player safety, Brendan Shanahan, admitting that he and the other suits in the war room are taking a look at fighting and whether it "has a place in the game."
Naturally a disgruntled fan's first reaction would be to attack Shanahan directly for this insanity, but let's keep in mind that the league's office is filled with men and women working for the NHL. Brendan's just the face of the disciplinary department.
Over the summer of 2011, the NHL experienced tragedy with three player deaths; two suicides, and another from overdose. What did these guys have in common? They were fighters. Or, in the sport's terminology, they were enforcers.
Though none of us can be certain these occurrences are related to Shanahan's recent news, I'm willing to bet they had a major influence....
"What the final decision is, I can't tell you now, that's something we're obviously going to have to look at, but there's no way we would ever deny that it's not something we're looking at closely," Shanahan said about fisticuffs.
Since taking the position from the incompetent Colin Campbell, I've actually respected the decisions Shanahan's made and the absolutely awesome way he explains to the fans his reasoning for his disciplinary decisions.
Below is an example taken from one of the suspensions Shanahan handed down to an NHLer.
It's edgy. It's techy. It's fresh and new.
The NHL's Collective Bargaining Agreement is a labyrinth. Four-hundred and fifty-four pages of wording put together so efficiently and magisterially you'd think a law book and a sports almanac banged at a Mensa meeting, and you're reading the result.
It is incredibly difficult to read once and understand, which is why, as a fan, I appreciate Mr. Shanahan's little video recorded explanations.
What am I getting at?
Well, I believe Brendan is the right man for this job. He's declared war on head shots, and rightfully so. He's made examples out of a handful of players (two of which were Flyers) and I agree with his analyses and verdicts. But I hope he's not taking this "player's safety" thing to an extreme.
Let's get something straight, here. Players sign up and participate in this league knowing there's liabilities to their short term and long term health. They understand they can get hurt out there during a game. But THAT is part of the game.
If you want to play a sport that will guarantee you no broken bones, concussions, lacerations or any other physical trauma, then I advise you take up bowling.
Fighting has every right to exist in hockey. Especially the National Hockey League. It's been around since the dawn of when skate blades and wood met ice and the breath of a Canadian winter chill.
Not every player in the league fights. This isn't MMA as much as pussy ass, hyper sensitive assholes make the sport out to be. Fighting is an effective weapon used on the ice to control tempo, establish the unwritten officiating between the players, intimidate, entertain, and get your team's bench fired up.
Granted it is barbaric and bloodthirsty, but that's the animal instinct. Each of us have it. Even some British pansy sipping tea and sliding on a pair of his Cricket socks (....if they have official socks?) has some form or another of animal instinct.
To go back to the untimely demises of Derek Boogaard, Rick Rypien, and Wade Belak, I mean no disrespect. This league, their clubs and teammates should each remember them as terrific young men, and I pray for the families and friends left behind who mourn their passing.
But if I may attempt to separate those tragedies from the element of fighting in hockey, I'd like to assume I wouldn't be coming off insensitive. If these deaths are used as an example to get rid of dropping the mitts in hockey, then that would be outrageous given they're a fraction minority.
Again, I hope that was not insensitive.
Or perhaps the incident where an Ontario Hockey player named Don Sanderson who died days after suffering a head injury from falling on the ice during a fight could be used as evidence against fighting in hockey?
To simply put.....it was another freaky event. A small minority. Tragedy, yes. But enough to stack against 94-years of hard hitting, fast action, NHL hockey?
Fighting is the game's pastime. To rid the league of fighting would be the equivalent to removing any biting from a vampire movie. Sure, the game can exist and go on without it, but it would never feel the same. Not to me. Not to the fans. And how could it feel the same to the players?
A large part of the fun in playing hockey is being able to enforce the lingual code that bonds its participants. You remove that factor away from the game and you're damaging the very soul of hockey.
We don't have to worry about this "no fighting" rule popping out of nowhere and being implemented in a day's time. It'd be a slow transition. Slow and painful. And as this ball is tossed back and forth at the table in the war room, fans like you and I are left feeling like....