USA-Canada proved fighting isn’t needed in NHL

BY CHRIS DiFRANCESCO, Columnist

Photo: AP

It’s already been decided that Sunday’s United States shocking Olympic win over heavy favorite Canada was by far the most exciting hockey game that’s been put on television in quite a few years, maybe even a decade.

The hockey game itself drew over 10 million viewers, and that’s on MSNBC. Imagine the numbers if the game was broadcast on NBC, the network that sponsors the NHL.

USA’s 5-3 defeat over Canada in Vancouver was an absolute instant classic. The game produced ratings that beat out last years game seven Stanley Cup Finals.

However, something was missing. Somethings been missing throughout the entire 2010 Olympic hockey tournament. Fighting.

Nobody has dropped the gloves to intentionally punch someone else in the mouth to generate a buzz in the arena or create sudden momentum for their club. What brought those aspects was great back-and-forth hockey.

USA vs Canada was hockey at its purest form.

I’m not going to negate the value of fighting in the NHL. I know there are fans of the league because of the fights that break out nightly. That’s all well and good. But those people aren’t real hockey fans. Most of those fans couldn’t identify what a double-minor is.

Furthermore, these Olympic games are proving that fighting isn’t needed in the National Hockey League to be successful. The hits are as powerful as I’ve ever seen in these games, but without the dropping of the gloves. The referees are letting these athletes play the game hockey and show what kind of talent they possess.

I respect the viewpoint that hockey institution Bill Clement always reels out when describing fighting, saying that most fans come to like the game for fighting than those who stay away because of it.

I don’t mind fighting in the NHL, but I think the game could do away with it. For those who watched that USA-Canada masterpiece on Sunday, did somebody dropping the gloves even approach your mindset? I doubt it. The game produced constant excitement, with every minute being a big hit or another clutch save by USA goaltender Ryan Miller.

Some purists thought it was the best played game they’ve every seen. That’s a stretch; however, I can believe when a fan tells me it was the most exciting game they have ever watched, or the first time in years that a hockey game had them standing up for an entire 60 minutes.

Watching — cough and sigh — Sidney Crosby try to will team Canada back in the game in the final two minutes of the was mesmerizing. It was just as special watching Miller make amazing save after save with those precious minutes remaining.

As a hockey fanatic, the excitement of a crunching hit, a penalty shot, or overtime in the playoffs can generate more entertainment than any goon on the ice that’s out there to simply find a guy and attempt to knock him out.

Wayne Gretzky, Bobby Orr, Brett Hull, Mario Lemieux, and Joe Sakic became legends because of the talent and leadership they displayed on the ice without fighting. Players today like Alex Ovechkin, Crosby, and Mike Richards don’t make a living on the ice by dropping the gloves but make it by putting forth their 100% efforts in trying to win championships and proving their skills are superior to the next guy.

The reality is, fighting will continue in the NHL, it’s always been a significant selling piece for the game. But for me, watching these Olympics and the quality of hockey that’s being performed by these NHL/Olympians is proving to me that hockey fans enjoy watching the players show their talents and play the game the way its meant to be played.

You can read this story and anything else involving the Flyers on Chris’ exclusive Flyers site ‘Faceoff with Chris’. Also be sure to catch his weekly program on USTREAM.tv, ‘At the Warning Track’ sponsored by High Hopes.

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8 Comments

Filed under Chris DiFrancesco, Editorial

8 responses to “USA-Canada proved fighting isn’t needed in NHL

  1. Great editorial. I’ll admit I love seeing a good fight, but hockey has plenty of excitement to stand without fighting.

  2. TheDude

    It’s tough to point to a game like this and say, “see, there’s quality play so we don’t need fighting”. This game had several elements not even close to present in your average NHL game:

    1) a stanley cup final like atmosphere. These teams both wanted this more than anything save maybe a stanley cup. That makes for passionate play which is what you got. There is no way you will get this 82 times a year let alone when Nashville squares off against Tampa in January.

    2) The talent level. the talent level of the elite teams (Canada, Russia, Czechs, Swedes and USA) is generally as strong as any tournament top to bottom. This makes for MUCH better play overall. There is a HUGE difference between having Mike Richards as your 4th line winger than any 4th liner in the watered down, overexpanded NHL. You’re pretty much assured entertaining play in this tournament. When Atlanta takes on Florida, yeah not so much.

    I think it’s apples and oranges as far as a comparison goes. Fighting doesn’t hurt the NHL and it’s on the decline anyway. Let it take it’s natural course and slowly go away if that’s what works but for now, it’s 100% a strategic part of the game. Not a big one, granted, but still a part of the game. Besides, what is the downside of having fighting? I doubt you are losing anyone who would otherwise be a fan. If anybody won’t watch hockey because of fighting, will they watch the gun-toting NBA? Will they watch the steroid addicted MLB? or will they watch the often convicted criminal NFL? I’ll take the fights over steroids, guns or gang bangers any day of the year.

  3. Homer

    I have a great idea….how about once a year we have an “all sport all-star game?” We can have the hockey players drop their gloves, the NBA guys can bring up the rear with the weapons, the NFL can cover the flank with their dogs (if any of them have yet to suffer fatal blows at the hands of one Mr.Vick), and they can storm a dugout full of Popeyes in a giant, cage match rumble.
    HoMer

  4. TheDude

    follow up to my previous post –

    #1 reason fighting IS needed was displayed in the Canada Russia game. Dan Boyle “slewfooted” (kicked the feet out from under him from behind) Ovechkin in retaliation for a borderline cheap hit Ovechkin gave him. In the NHL Boyle simply would have roughed Ovie up a bit and punched him in the head harmlessly to deliver a message that what he did was not okay. Instead, fearing an automatic suspension if he did that Boyle then chose to slewfoot Ovie, which is VERY dangerous. I believe if Boyle did not face automatic suspension for hitting Ovechkin, he would have punched him instead of the dangerous illegal slewfoot he did. In a postgame interview Boyle even admitted as much.

    also, studies prove dangerous stick penalties increase as fighting decreases. To me, fighting serves to lessen the more dangerous outbursts that will occur whether fighting is allowed or not.

  5. If you don’t like fighting in hockey, then go get a drink when a fight breaks out. Stop trying to rid the game of an element that is needed, useful and entertaining.

  6. Michele

    Loved this game. Can’t wait till today’s. I have to say I agree with “The Dude” on this one. If every (or even most) NHL games were this intense and filled with this much talent it would certainly make the argument for less fighting more debatable. But lets face it most NHL games are NOT that intense and certainly NOT that talent packed. I also see the place a good fight has in the outcome/swing of a game. Keep it up boys because I LOVE the fights!

  7. Homer

    I personally don’t like fights, but that’s because the Plate’s flesh is very delicate and bruises easily. Oh, you guys mean hockey? Hockey without fights would be like being allowed to touch the balls in soccer. Heck, if they allowed that, I’d play! Seriously though, another thing to consider is when you are on skates, the impact of punches is for the most part, greatly reduced. And I don’t want to see the flyers have to cut Bobby Shultz, I love watching him play.
    HoMer

  8. TheDude

    Michele – theDude would propose to you sight unseen just based on your comment.

    Also, I want to see Homer Plate on skates versus Mike Vick on skates when they drop the gloves. I’d pay good money to see that!

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