As we all know, fighting in sports is a common phenomenon. Fighting can happen in all sports, but I am going to focus my viewpoint on hockey. Hockey is considered one of the most “manly” games out there and for good reason. One on one fights between players occurs almost every hockey night, and with all the recent emphasis on player safety, many critics are lobbying for fighting to be banned for good. Their biggest argument against fighting is that there is no place for it in hockey. Fighting only introduces more concussions. A recent New York Times article, stated that “fighting caused 10 percent of all concussions in hockey — a significant number.” Although there is not direct proof that fighting causes concussions, critics belief is that the NHL should do everything in their power to take a dangerous, unnecessary element out of the game.
I believe that fighting does have a place in hockey. Hockey fans are known to be tough, working class people who are known to get in “scraps” once in a while themselves. To them, fighting is a huge part of the game. If you have had the pleasure to witness a hockey fight first hand you would understand the sense of pride it brings to the fans. I think Giamatti would agree with me. In Giamatti’s book, Take Time for Paradise, he argues that the fans watch sporting events with “aspirations to be taken out of the self” (Giamatti). By this he means that fans want to be the players, feel what they are feeling in specific “intense” moments. Fans want to “Feel what they saw. Become what the believed” (Giamatti). Fighting is part of hockey, the fans need it to feel part of the game. In addition, fans can escape the “real” world through hockey and fighting is one of the times they can do this. The only thing that matters to the spectator during the intense moment of the fight is the two player circling each other on the ice; all other stresses are forgotten.
In addition to the fans loving fighting, the players also love it. They are not forced to get into fights, it is a voluntary decision made by two players on opposing teams. You could even say they are “playing” according to Huizenga’s definition of play. Fighting is voluntary, it is limited in time and space, it is enjoyable (for at least one participant), and it has a book full of unwritten rules all players follow. Players often times ask other players to fight. Not because they are angry, but because it is part of the game. They are getting paid to be an enforcer on the ice, something that a true hockey fan will always be jealous of. The following clip shows this very well. George Laraque asks for fight, wishes good luck.
All in all, the fans are the ones who show up to watch the hockey game. They are the ones who truly enjoy seeing a battle between two players representing their team. If fighting were taken out of hockey, the experience of watching the game would greatly decrease and the spectators would feel much less “part of the game”. Fighting enhances the game and attracts the fan base the NHL needs to survive.