I'm a relatively new hockey fan. But watching the game intensely for the past year has convinced me that the NHL has embraced fighting to the sport's detriment and that the league is far too tolerant of some very questionable hits.
I'm just learning to play, but it's pretty clear to me that these type of hits and fights are only allowed in the NHL and pro leagues. Most other forms of hockey emphasize the hockey and see no need for the dirty stuff.
This is a long intro to a hit that took place the other night in the Vancouver-Columbus game, when Columbus forward Jared Boll got checked by a Vancouver player and then received a blindside hit from another Canuck, Darcy Hordichuk, that resulted in Boll slamming his head against the boards. He needed to be helped off the ice.
The Sporting News' Bob McKenzie wrote that the hit says a lot about the state of the NHL. Excerpt:
So, yeah, maybe I would have felt a little better if Hordichuk had been suspended by the NHL, but not much. Because the larger issue for me is how accepted a hit like Hordichuk's has become. I would suggest the NHL community – from the league's hockey operations to the managers to the coaches to the players to the Players' Association – should at least bat around this notion of what type of hitting is acceptable and what's not. Is it really the end of the world as we know it to perhaps consider that the hitters need to exercise judgment before they deliver their hit? Or has the game become so much about hitting and “finishing the check” that it's done with no regard whatsoever on the consequences?Read McKenzie's entire piece. I agree with him. I think the only way that the sport will clean up its act is if fans -- the ones who pay the bills -- demand that it's cleaned up.
The other big problem now is that it's difficult to even have a responsible dialogue about this subject. The minute you do, the reaction from the traditionalists and hard-liners is that ''you're going to take hitting out of the game.'' It's a knee-jerk reaction to avoid having to talk about the issue and if that fails, the next step is to challenge the machismo of the person raising the issue.
Hitting is not in danger of leaving hockey any time soon, even if certain aspects of hitting are challenged. I think it's a gross overreaction and fear-mongering at its worst to suggest any discussion on this subject is going to neuter the physicality of the sport. It's not an all or nothing proposition.