The NHL general managers met in Florida this past week to discuss, among other things, rule changes that would affect the mechanics of fighting in hockey. Fighting has become a hot topic issue since the death of Don Sanderson of the senior AAA Whitby Dunlops, who fell into a coma and later passed away when his head hit the ice after a hockey fight.
Among the proposed rules changes are the wearing of helmets during fights, intensifying the instigator rule and avoiding so-called staged fights. What needs to be considered, however, is the effect that these rules will have on the way the game of hockey is played.
The instigator rule is one example of a rule change that has affected the way the game is played. Staged fighting is one manifestation of these rules, as players line up at the faceoff and drop the gloves at the same time. Staged fighting is a way for players to avoid getting called the instigator. By agreeing to fight before the play, players can simultaneously engage in a fight, without one player being the aggressor. Though fights at the drop of the puck have always been an occurrence, the instigator rule has increased the frequency in which these staged fights occur. Now, these staged fights have become a problem in the NHL.
Proponents of the anti-fighting movement in hockey contend that fighting is not part of the fabric of the game. The effects of these rule changes however, demonstrate how even a slight change can alter the way the game is played on the ice. By changing rules with regard to fighting, there will be an effect on the ice, and the rule changes may not have all of the positive results that they are expected to.
Making fighting safe should be a responsibility of the NHL, but it is also important that the integrity of the game is kept intact. As long as fighting is in the game, it will continue to serve a purpose on the ice. Some would argue that the hockey goon does not have utility, and does more to hinder the game of hockey to help it.
As long as there is fighting in the game, the individuals in charge in the hockey world need to ignore the antifighting movement. It is not that there arent valid arguments coming from that side, but these arguments come from a faction that does not believe fighting belongs in hockey. If you believe it does, then the rules and the game on the ice need to reflect that, otherwise, rule changes will start to manifest themselves in unnatural instances, such as staged fighting that are not traditional or usual in the context of hockey as a whole.
Whether you believe that fighting is a part of the game or not, most people would agree that it is important to maintain the integrity of the game. While rule changes that promote safety in a fight are important, the powers that be need to be aware that these changes may not always have the desired effect.