The media loves to debate the topic of fighting in hockey. As the NHL places more restrictions on fights (helmets on with mandatory visors), the debate rages on over whether the NHL should ban fighting in hockey once and for all.
However, there's one group that's consistently in favor of fighting: the players. Some 98% of players want to keep fighting in the NHL. Why? Jarome Iginla gave an interesting interview with Sports Illustrated in which he detailed why he believes fighting still has a place in the NHL.
Iginla on fighting:
Does fighting still have a place in today's NHL? My answer is a qualified yes. I temper my response because I don't know of any player who truly loves fighting. Ideally it would not be a part of the game. But the nature of our sport is such that fighting actually curtails many dirty plays that could result in injuries.
You've probably heard the argument that fighting actually keeps the NHL safer. Does it? Iginla's stance is that it does and that it's impossible for two officials to keep track of everything that's going on given the speed of the game. When the players are able to police themselves through fighting, the overall game is safer.
One misconception about fighting is that it is for entertainment, a spectacle for the fans. But most hockey players do not see themselves as boxers or fighters. We would all rather be scoring a goal — or preventing one! While I agree that fighting has entertainment value and is enjoyed by many fans, there is a lot more to it than that. 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.
In my opinion, fighting prevents more injuries than it causes. And with the high caliber of officials in the NHL, it very rarely results in significant injuries; the referees step in quickly to help minimize that risk.
Iginla still believes hockey would be a good sport without fighting, but he thinks it's great with it.
The game of hockey is special. Its blend of physical play, intensity and emotion is what makes players such as myself love it. But I think it is important to realize that fighting plays a role in — and enhances — all of those aspects. Would hockey still be a good game without fighting? Yes, I think so. But it is great game with it!
Do you agree with Iginla?