Friday, November 15, 2013

Iginla: Fighting Helps Hold Players Accountable

Jarome Iginla has penned yet another pro-fighting piece in today, saying that the barbaric act of bare knuckle fighting helps hold players accountable for all the stuff that goes on in games that the referees can't see.

Here's some excerpts:

"Fighting helps hold players accountable for their actions on the ice, even more so than penalties. If it was taken out of the game, I believe there would be more illegal stickwork, most of it done out of sight of the referees; more slashes to the ankles or wrists, and in between pads; and more cross checks to the tailbone. Incidents of players taking such liberties are rare in today's game because fighting gives us the ability to hold each other accountable. If you play dirty, you're going to have to answer for it."

In other words, according to Iginla, the inmates need to run the asylum, or else there would be no justice in the NHL. Is he right? All you have to do is look at Olympic hockey, International junior hockey or NCAA hockey, and form your own opinions. All three leagues are much cleaner and played with a higher degree of mutual respect between opponents, than the NHL. Whether or not fighting has a place in the game is certainly up for debate, but arguing that it really is the primary mode of player accountability (a point also argued by Brian Burke a few weeks ago in the piece he penned for USA Today) is somewhat ludicrous.

Players can drop the gloves all they want, but it is up to the NHL, its refs, and the framework of the rulebook to determine how the game is played. That is the way it works in the NFL, an equally voilent sport that doesn't seem to need fighting to police cheap shots.

Another excerpt from Iginla states that their is a purpose behind every NHL fight:

"There is a purpose behind almost every fight. I have fought -- and my teammates have, too -- to stick up for myself or to stand up for a teammate who had been the victim of dirty play. And I do acknowledge that fighting can provide an emotional lift for a team. A player who drops his gloves and puts himself in harm's way on behalf of his teammates is selfless and courageous. And those are qualities that all hockey players respect."

It may be true, but there is also a purpose behind every cheap shot in the NHL -- and that doesn't necessarily make them right, or courageous. Take Ray Emery's beatdown of Braden Holtby a few weeks ago. The purpose was intimidation and to provide his team with an emotional lift. Apparently it has worked for the Flyers, who seen to have gained traction after that game, but is it worth it given that the cost could be brain damage for a player who was goaded into a fight he clearly did not wish to participate in?

Take a look at the photo of Iginla throwing down with Radko Gudas at the top of the page--what is Iginla's purpose on that play?

Iginla can argue all he wants that fighting helps hold players accountable for their actions, but if the players doing the cheap shots actually enjoy the fights that come with it, how is a fight going to deter them from head-hunting the next guy?

Actually some of the commenters on the SI article made more sense that Iginla (and I'll admit, share TSP's views on the matter) so we'll print a few here:


could si please find a more stupid article for its front page? the problem is hockey thinks it's special, somehow more intense and physical. bull. the game doesn't need fighting, but it does need more immediate ejections instead of the refs standing there comically watching "the intensity."


The bottom line is the sport is trying to eliminate blows to the head. This is not compatible with allowing people to deliver blows to the head with fists. Asserting that allowing blows to the head from fists is the only way to avoid blows from elbows is absurd. Officiating is able to control all other sports, the NHL simply refuses to make the commitment to do so. This is because the owners fear losing a portion of their core fans who want fighting.
And the debate lingers on...