In today’s (12/16/2009) Post-Gazette, Ron Cook, a sports columnist, wrote an op-ed titled “Penguins win this round with a knockout”. As always from Ron, a well written article. However, I completely disagreed with his thesis. At least to me, Ron’s entire point was that hockey fights are “barbaric” and takes away from a great game.
I think it’s ridiculous, actually, that the sport allows the gratuitous violence.
It’s an embarrassment to a great game.
That’s what Ron had to say about the fighting. He was specifically speaking to the Pens vs. Flyers match-up yesterday evening, in which there were 3 fights in the span of 16 seconds.
Rather than going into the details of last evenings game, I want to talk about the politics around it.
Right now, some are probably agreeing with Ron that hockey fights are bad, barbaric, & have no place in the sport ESPN ranks as the 2nd toughest to play, only behind, what other, than boxing (yes, that’s right, 1 spot above football!). Anyways, another sum of people are saying, fighting makes the game, that’s why I watch it, it’s so intense & it combines the toughest sport boxing too! Then lastly, there are those of us who believe fighting is an integral part of the game, used to protect highly skilled players, or rattle the arrogance from a un-humble team. Most of us with this belief are more than your casual fan.
Why do we say so? Well, as Ron so greatly points out (you need to watch the above video and recall the Pens came back from an 0-3 deficit to win 5-3 on away ice after that fight!):
… quick goals by Ruslan Fedotenko and Mark Eaton immediately after the fight were a bigger factor in the comeback.
Is it just me or did the fight spur the goals?
Now yes, fighting is just that, fighting. It’s not glamorous and honestly, I was the furthest thing from a fighter or enforcer when I played. I wanted to play the game for the speed & skill, not the aggression. However, there are guys out there that are willing to take liberties on your top performers and sticking up for them is what needs to be done in hockey. As for the Talbot fight, he wasn’t sticking up for Crosby or Malkin at that moment, but he knew his willingness to sacrifice his body (you watched the video right, he did get slaughtered!) would reinvigorate a sunken team. It sure helped that Carcillo was foolish enough to be duped into the draw, trying to entertain a crowd. The willingness for Talbot to have a punches thrown on him, showing his team the Flyers were arrogant at that point in the game, meant the world to Penguins, and look, the rest is written on the Stanley Cup!
Now back to Ron, unfortunately, of all folks, as a sports writer, to criticize fighting, to me shows some ignorance to this great game. To criticize certain fights because they’re not well timed, meaningless, etc. is okay. Cook’s comments are unfortunately here, off base.
As a side note, I need to go through storage and find my high school senior project in which was titled “Ice Hockey Violence and Aggression” and attach it to this post. It’s just some more information to show I’ve done research on this topic before and have a bit to share. The main thesis of the project was that aggression has a place in the game, such as Talbot’s infamous fight. However, violence does not. What’s the difference you ask? Well, how about this stick to the head: