Boston Daily's Paul Flannery took a jab (no pun intended) at fighting in hockey today. It got under my skin a little bit. He states right away that he's a basketball person, and most of his argument goes from there. He wants to know why basketball players aren't allowed to fight, but hockey players can. Flannery uses Todd Fedoruk's fight injuries to further back up his opinion. I have to disagree with him on this issue. I'm sure a lot of hockey fans are with me.

A quick little lesson on fighting: it's been formally part of hockey since 1922 when Rule 56 regulated "fisticuffs." It's currently under Rule 47. Fighting was never unpunished; players have always been handed five minute penalties for it. There are more rules to keep things from getting way out of hand. For example, if another player cuts in on a fight that's already happening, the third-man-in rule automatically results in his ejection from the game.

Now for my quick defense:

+ Fighting in hockey isn't just "fighting" for fighting's sake. It really is a part of the game. Players fight to get their teams going. If you're down 3-0 early in the game, you can have a little dance to get the team and the crowd back into it. It's a great source of energy that sends a jolt of electricity throughout the whole building.

Fighting is also used to stick up for teammates. If an opponent takes a cheap shot at one of your guys, it's time to send a message. The Sidney Crosbys and Pat Kanes of the world would be constant targets if no one was there to protect them.

+ Money, money, money. Fighting is a huge drawing factor. There are plenty of people out there who don't know much about hockey, but they go to a game to see a fight. Is this something to be proud of? Depends who you ask. But it works. Especially in the United States where hockey isn't the first sport on everyone's minds.

+ It's not just a bunch of animals going at it. Hockey players have a mutual understanding of how to fight. Fair and clean. Very rarely do you see something completely ridiculous happen in a fight. It's not two guys out there swinging away in hopes of seriously hurting the other one. The Fedoruk/Colton Orr situation does not happen every day. Usually the most guys come away with are loose teeth and black eyes.

Hockey is and always will be a physical sport. Hockey players are some of the toughest athletes out there. They play through broken bones and bruised ribs. Sitting out is not an option. This isn't baseball where a guy breaks a thumb and sits out five games. This is hockey. Taking fighting out of the game is like taking Big Macs off a McDonald's menu or taking Santa Claus away from Christmas.You just don't do it. It's tradition.

And come on. Without fighting, a great movie like Slapshot would have never been made. Now THAT would be a sin.



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