Vulgar Opinions: It Was An Even Fight, I Guess, If He Had His Stick
If you don’t want to watch the entire six and a half minutes of video, here’s the transcript:
- 185 pound Corey Tropp (of Buffalo) fights 220 pound Jamie Devane.
- Tropp goes down, Devane lands on him driving his head into the ice.
- On the next shift Maple Leafs coach Randy Carlyle puts a skill line out against the Sabres goon line proving that like Bryan Murray, he too is blind, a moron, or both.
- 270 pound John Scott goes after 203 pound Phil Kessel.
- 203 pound Phil Kessel decides sword fighting is better and slashes Scott repeatedly and while Scott is engaged with the rest of the Maple Leafs.
- 203 pound Phil Kessel ends up fighting 170 pound Brian Flynn.
- John Scott defeats, like, all the Maple Leafs, tearing a hole in the space-time continuum and ensuring 46 plus years of failure.
- David Clarkson leaves the bench at some point for the purpose of getting hugged by a ref while John Scott yells at him I guess.
- Toronto media is butthurt.
- Fighting is bad.
I mention the weights because no one is spreading the blame so I might as well do it. People have an issue with Scott going after Kessel because Scott is enormous and a fighter and Kessel is only sort of the first. It violates the unspoken code between NHL players that loosely dictates the “rules” of fighting. So by most people’s standards Scott did something stupid and dirty, violating the code in the process. Furthermore they hate what he did because he is so much bigger and tougher than Kessel.
If you don’t like what Scott did for these reasons, then you also have to have distaste for Kessel for using his stick like an axe and fighting out of his weight class, and Jame Devane for doing the same with Tropp and getting the whole thing started in the first place. (And no this doesn’t absolve Tropp or Flynn for making ultimately dumb decisions to instigate those fights either.) If you do it right, the story is less “John Scott is a big asshole” and more “nobody involved in the incident made a good decision, the NHL included.” Great. I’m so glad we got to this point.
So fighting is bad, yes? Maybe. I don’t really like guys missing time because their faces got bashed in while engaging in some meaningless spectacle. At the same time I like when emotion comes to a head and it might be a good thing that it does by way of relatively fair fights instead of escalating dirty play that is probably more dangerous.
Thus I can’t in a vacuum disagree with the people that want fighting taken out of the game completely (or to the best of the NHL’s ability because it’ll still happen). But that argument doesn’t exist in a vacuum, and I think that handing down suspensions that would nix fighting would only result in an uptick in dirty play that the NHL isn’t any good at combating. Improve supplementary discipline and make boarding an automatic major and I feel a lot better about banning fighting. (Then again, maybe I’m wrong and the threat of getting your face punched isn’t enough for the Ruutus of the world.)
There’s also the fact that banning fighting doesn’t necessarily prevent fighters from taking the ice, and those guys are probably going to find ways to be detrimental to safety another way. If the day comes where fighting is to be taken out of the game, the NHL would do well to approach it from as many angles as possible, like actually enforcing penalties against the interference and obstruction that allows big slow guys to exist in the NHL.