I have never felt any kind of need to watch UFC, boxing or any kind of sport that involves human beings beating one another up. However, I do quite enjoy hockey, which for most people is as close as you get to seeing real up close violence. Many argue that fights are a part of hockey culture — in many ways this is a truism, it is currently an accepted part of the sport but this in no way implies that it is an integral part of the game. Basketball, soccer and football manage just fine without players periodically punching each other.
Hockey can be an awkward and clumsy sport at the best of times and hockey fights are generally terrible. Those who adore the fights aren’t even getting something very good. The players usually spin around grasping onto one another equipment, getting in the occasional punch. These fights take up time that could be spent, oh yeah, playing hockey — the thing that some of us signed up for in the first place. If you want to watch a fight, go watch a fight. There has to be UFC or mixed martial arts or boxing going on somewhere else.
The best revenge is success. Often times fights break out when a player gets hurt or there is a big hit — I am not against contact, hockey is after all a contact sport but it should be legal and not injuring the other player. The obvious choice for revenge is to pummel the guy responsible but I can make a better suggestion: take that powerplay and score a goal. Spinning around in hockey fight tango with the responsible player doesn’t do much more than give both of you a five minute time-out and maybe a broken hand or face cut.
Many sports foster an environment of competition and respect and in some ways this is lacking in hockey. In a sport where it is acceptable to hit another player if they annoy you it is easy to fall into thinking of them as the enemy. Often times in a tight series or games between rival teams you will hear players describe the other team as the enemy. I think this is missing the point. The other team is the competition, not the enemy. While you may not like everybody on the other team odds are they are decent people and you would like them if you happened to share a locker room with them. There should be some comraderie based on shared love of the sport. The NHL would be a better place if this mentality was more common.
It sucks to be an injured player. Your body is your greatest tool, especially when you are a professional athlete and you need to do your best to take care of it. Broken noses and hands, and cut faces are the opposite of this. If I was a coach it would drive me crazy having good players out injured because of something so foolish and needless. Discipline, discipline, discipline.
Hockey would be a better sport if it was more like basketball, soccer or football and brawls were a rarity rather than expected behaviour. It is just a game after all and in a professional, respectable league there should be no circumstance in which a player is permitted (let alone expected) to hit another. Imagine Zinedine Zidane’s headbut on Marco Materazzi in the context of the NHL. Brutal, but nothing new. In soccer it was worthy of nothing short of a sending off and shaming — the exception, not the rule.