Opinion: Banning fighting will be up to the players and owners

NHL facing situation where every incident sparks conversation

George Parros suffered a concussion when he slipped and fell during a fight on opening night of the 2013 NHL season. Photo: Montreal Canadiens
George Parros suffered a concussion when he slipped and fell during a fight on opening night of the 2013 NHL season. Photo: Montreal Canadiens (parros)

In sports the reality is tragedy sparks conversation and time extinguishes it.

Throughout the early stages of the 2013 NHL season this has been the case with the topic of fighting.

On Oct. 1, in their first meeting of the season, the Toronto Maple Leafs and the Montreal Canadians were witness to an accidental but dangerous event.

During a fight between Colton Orr and George Parros, the latter hit his face off the ice when both players took an unintended tumble.

That injury looked quite severe and Parros was carted away in an ambulance for further examination. Even the most casual of fans knew this was going to be cause for a heated debate.

In the days following the incident there was an abundance of debate about whether there was a place for fighting in the game. Many called for an outright ban, some asked that the rules be re-evaluated, and others supported fighting and insisted it had a significant role in the game, many of whom were players.

Players expressed their condolences for Parros but also insisted this was a fluke accident and that fighting still had a place in the game.

A few general managers spoke out and expressed urgency in removing the leniency related to a fight, but weeks later the talk seems to have died down.

Despite the debate it seems that fighting is present in hockey, and won’t be going anywhere, anytime soon.

When a major decision such as fighting is put forth for discussion and decisions, the ultimate decision making power lies with the players association and owners, not the general managers.

In a poll done by Hockey Night In Canada in 2011, the NHLPA voted 98 per cent in favour of fighting remaining in the game.

Players believe that fighting has a place; they believe it plays a role in policing on-ice antics of some of the “peskier players.”

Although it is a risky action that can cause harm to those involved, it still serves a purpose, and a valuable one. The players who fill these roles are highly respected around the league.

Without fighting there would be less accountability on the ice, players could run around and do whatever to whomever they wanted, with the only repercussion being a penalty.

There are actions on the ice that don’t earn suspensions and only result in minor penalties and may still be harmful and destructive to the high-speed game that players and fans enjoy so much.

Not only do the players support it, but it’s likely the owners will as well. It bring publicity to the game, it pumps up in the in-game atmosphere and gets most players and fans excited. It adds to the experience and entertainment value of the product being showcased.

All positive factors in the eyes of league owners.

Although there has been no official poll taken amongst owners, it’s likely they will support the existence of fighting for these reasons.

There is a likelihood that science will play a significant role in this discussion as well and could sway opinions. With recent research and findings relating head trauma to Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy (CTE) there could be a surprising shift in stance on the spectrum of fighting acceptance.

An examination of the numbers will likely show more injuries result in other areas of the game, areas where action has already been taken to improve conditions such as icing and head shots.

However there is no denying that fighting is also a risky aspect of the game and hockey without it would be safer.

Ultimately it is up to the players and owners to decide which they prefer.

Whatever the case may be, and whatever the decision eventually is, reality shows that we won’t likely be hearing much about fighting until the next major tragedy occurs, and hopefully that is not sooner than later.