Split Decision: Why Fighting on the Ice Needs to Go

Andrew Bensch explains the NHL should implement new rules to decrease fighting.

Whether you are a hockey purist like yours truly, or a casual fan, you have certainly heard that fighting is a controversial issue when it comes to the NHL.

Every season at some point during the year (some years even throughout the season) the issue of “legalized” fighting in hockey becomes a popular subject.

Therefore, even us purists have to acknowledge the issue of fighting has plenty of merit. Certainly there are some in the camp that believe eliminating fighting altogether would be in the best interest of the sport.

And at the other end of the spectrum there are those who think the status quo (five minute majors for a fight) of fighting is perfectly fine.

There are quality arguments that can be made for both sides.

But why does it seem to have to be either or in this case?

It isn’t impossible to put restrictions on fighting and doing so would help aid the NHL product on the ice.

The first restriction idea is to eliminate fights that break out immediately after a face-off. A rule that could be  put in place would be as follows:  all fights begun within 10 seconds of a face-off will result in a 10 game suspension for both players.

With this rule, situations like what happened between the New York Rangers and New Jersey Devils earlier this month would be eliminated.

Two fights broke out in that game right at the opening faceoff:

Furthermore, a second rule should be in place to limit the need and ability for teams to sign and play a pure enforcer type player.

A rule could be put in place that would read something like the following: All players will be allowed up to five fighting majors in any given regular season, but after five, only players who average more than nine minutes of ice time per game will be allowed to fight. Any player who fights a sixth time and does not average over nine minutes per game will be suspended for the remainder of the season including playoffs.

Nine minutes of ice time means that fourth line players have to be good enough to earn the confidence of  their coaching staff to play significant minutes.

Enough is enough, players simply in the lineup for their fists are not entertaining. There are plenty of capable players who can drop the gloves.

And more deserving players will then have ice time available to them if the NHL can eliminate the role of “enforcer”.

As a fan who do you want to see play? The leading goal scorer on your team’s AHL affiliate or Jody Shelley, career goon?

Please, tell me what this fight accomplished?

This fight came during the first period of a 0-0 game, everything is fine, play goes along as normal and then a fight comes out of absolute nowhere.

Not shockingly, Shelley and Devils forward Eric Boulton are the two participants in this bout. And not shockingly the two players have just a single assist between them in a combined 54 games this season.

Zero goals, a combined minus-17, and 96 PIM in 54 games.

These fights that come out of nowhere are the issue. People who have an issue with fighting in the NHL will understand that it is a part of the game and that it will  upset many die hards if it is eliminated completely.

But meet those fans in the middle and come to a compromise. Put some restrictions on fighting.

The following are three quality fights that truly are entertaining because they make for good conversation.

Included in these videos are three San Jose Sharks who rarely fight in Dan Boyle, Joe Pavelski and Marc-Edouard Vlasic. They are all examples of real hockey.

Pavelski vs Vancouver’s Keith Ballard.

Boyle vs Columbus’ Derick Brassard.

Vlasic vs Philadelphia’s Daniel Briere.

Fighting when emotions boil over is one thing and it is as natural to hockey as a sheet of ice. But the NHL can certainly get rid of the useless fights that have no causation.

It would make for a better NHL product.

Andrew Bensch writes for TheFanManifesto. Follow him on twitter at @AndyBensch

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