SUN Hockey Pool

Let's fight for hockey

MICHAEL DEN TANDT -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 11:11 AM ET

Can there be anything more pitiful, more foolish, more dull, than a hockey fight?

In all the fuss about Quebec Remparts' goalie Jonathan Roy's "brutal" attack last week on Chicoutimi Sagueneens' goalie Bobby Nadeau, no one has yet pointed out the obvious: Nadeau wasn't hurt. He fell to the ice, curled up in a ball and quietly waited for the avalanche of blows to end.

Roy's punches, delivered from a standing position while he was bent at the waist and standing unnaturally high on skates, had little power.

Likewise, Nadeau was thickly padded, as all hockey players are. The padding is similar to what some martial artists wear in sanctioned full-contact bouts. With two "fighters" decked out in this way, it's difficult, though not impossible, for either one to do any real damage.

That's not to say there aren't exceptions, in which real violence is done on the ice, with terrible effects. Most of us remember how, in 2004, Vancouver Canucks' enforcer Todd Bertuzzi sucker-punched Steve Moore, of the Colorado Avalanche, knocking him to the ice from behind. That attack fractured three of Moore's vertebrae and ended his hockey career.

For the most part, though, hockey fights nowadays are little different from WWE wrestling. They may not be scripted, but they are staged for dramatic effect.

There's nothing like a good on-ice scrap, some will say, to fire up a team that's running out of gas.

But here's the thing: The sucker punch, dropping the gloves, the game-clearing brawl, the whole gamut of hockey violence, is a set of tactics designed for and most often employed by losers. Literally.

Twenty-year-old Nadeau, though clearly not much of a brawler, led the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League this season with a 2.63 goals-against average in 46 games. Roy, 19, scraped along near the bottom of the heap with a 3.96 goals-against average over 22 games.

When the brawl broke out last Saturday night, the Sagueneens were leading 7-1.

And that's typical of big hockey dustups. The weaker side typically instigates the scuffle, either out of frustration, or as a calculated tactic to throw off the stronger team's energy and momentum.

Do fans enjoy the pseudo-violence? No doubt, some do. But I would argue that a growing number hate it. Hockey is already the fastest physical team sport in the world. (Football is more physical but not nearly as fast).

Top-level hockey combines speed, grace and power in a way that is thrilling to behold.

The fights, by comparison, are predictable, colourless and lackluster. The interminable officiating delays that follow them are even worse.

Maybe it wasn't always this way. Maybe in bygone days, when most hockey players wore no face or head protection and a fist fight was a socially acceptable way for two boys or men to sort out their differences, a hockey fight was really a fight.

PROBERT ON THE SCENE

Certainly I wouldn't be one to tell former Detroit Red Wings enforcer Bob Probert that what he did for all those years in the NHL wasn't fighting. At least, I wouldn't tell him that to his face. Probert remains active on the NHL alumni circuit and even now, long retired, he looks as though he could beat me to death with a head of lettuce.

But the point remains: In the vast majority of cases, hockey fighting is neither entertaining to watch, nor real. It slows down the game. So why allow it at all?

Let fight fans gravitate to mixed martial arts or MMA, which is a legitimate and thrilling spectator sport in its own right. And let hockey fans enjoy the game at its best.


Videos

Photos