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Fighting In The NHL - Is It Necessary?

Fighting in the NHL is a part of the league's culture, but is it worth the risk to players?

Tim Gleason mixes it up with Jarred Tinordi in a preseason game against Montreal
Tim Gleason mixes it up with Jarred Tinordi in a preseason game against Montreal
Jean-Yves Ahern-USA TODAY Sports

This is actually a topic I had been thinking about for awhile and I wanted to get a bit more research, but after the incident between George Parros and Colton Orr last night, I felt this was as good a time as any to finish the article.

Is fighting really necessary in the NHL?  While talking to a few of the Hurricanes, I did not find a single player to really speak against it.

According to a player's poll in 2012 put out by the NHLPA, 98% of players polled were against a ban on fighting.  Why is this?  Puck Daddy examined the subject in this article.

Players oppose ban on fighting

Players get injured fighting, there is no arguing that.  Then you have the possibility of more serious long term issues, like with Derek Boogard's, Rick Rypien's and Wade Belak's deaths.

Yet players are willing to take that risk.

As one of Carolina's enforcers, Tim Gleason told me that he felt it was definitely "part of the game".

(Ironically, Gleason is injured right now and his status is "week-to-week" because of a concussion, possibly because of being injured in a fight with Jarred Tinordi in a preseason game with the Montreal Canadiens.  The cause of the concussion has not been released, but it was suffered in that game.  This interview was taken a couple of weeks ago, before Gleason was injured.)

"There's places and times to do it.  There is excitement about it.  You usually don't see a person sitting down during a fight.  I believe the fans love it.  Safety wise, there were more injuries back 10 years ago and I think they have fixed some of that now.  You have to leave your helmet on, which makes sense.  I think that is a good thing."

Gleason went on to explain more.

"I think it should always be in the game, because if you don't have it, I think that there will be certain players out there that will run around and do things that they wouldn't do if they knew they had to fight somebody.  I think there is a fine line, but I think it is needed in the game.  It controls the bad in the game, in a way, a little bit.  Plus, it's just an exciting part of the game, I think most fans would agree."

Jay Harrison is also known to drop the gloves on occasion.  The defenseman is also one of the more thoughtful players to talk with in the Carolina dressing room.  He took his time and thought a bit before speaking with me about the subject.

(This interview was also taken before the Gleason injury, a couple of weeks ago during training camp.)

"This is really a hard subject, and kind of a double entrende, or red herring in the game where you are kind of allowed to break the rules to a certain degree.  You know, fighting is really an important part of our game, but I don't want to sound inconsiderate to...... the damage that could be caused."

Harrison took some more time to think, and then went on.

"Injuries happen of course, but accidents happen everywhere on the ice. I believe a lot of hockey players live by a certain code as well, and there is a degree of fairness.  There is a degree of rules within the rules, when it comes to that part of the game, in keeping guys safe.  It's not like a street fight out there.

It is a tradition in our game which there is a hard time getting away from, because it obviously serves a purpose.  If it didn't, it would certainly be gone.  It has stood the test of time and there have been naysayers, but it continues to be an important element of a game within a game, for momentum, and for regulation, as in terms of self policing and keeping things even out there.

You know, there are arguments for each side....that you could argue all day long.  It's a really hard subject and you have to walk a line."

Opponents of fighting will point out that there are few fights in the playoffs, and the game still thrives.  If fighting was vital, why is it usually stopped in the postseason?

Also, fighting does not seem to be a requirement for a winning team.

Last season, the Stanley Cup Champion Chicago Blackhawks had the third fewest major penalties in the league.

But the bottom line seems to be that most players feel that fighting is necessary, for whatever reasons.  They take the risks and it is their game, so the final determination will be theirs.

Although, at some point they might feel that the risks or damage caused, outweigh the need to police, or other reasons to keep it.

They just voted yesterday to adopt hybrid icing, in an effort to reduce injuries.  Are there fewer or less serious injuries caused by fighting, than icing?