Want to Stop Fighting in the NHL? Then Stop

Despite being a pacifist, I have never objected to fighting in ice hockey. This game has been around for a long time, anyone who steps out on the ice knows exactly what could happen to them.

Ninety-five percent of fights end with a fat lip, a bloody nose, and two guys willing to step out of the penalty box and go at it again. But that is not always the case, and a few general managers are now speaking out about fighting and its place in the game.

Tampa Bay’s general manager Steve Yzerman, Carolina’s Jim Rutherford, and Pittsburgh’s Ray Shero have all said something should be done.

The average team partook in 23 fights during the 2012-13 regular season. Not that I blame these guys for speaking out, but Pittsburgh fought 22, Carolina 23, and Tampa Bay ranked fifth in the league with 31 bouts. The correlation between number of fights and team points is .0002, meaning that when it comes to winning, fighting is about as important as your jersey color.

Based on the 2012-13 season
During the 2012-13 season

Yzerman said recently, “We penalize and suspend players for making contact with the head while checking, in an effort to reduce head injuries, yet we still allow fighting. We’re stuck in the middle and need to decide what kind of sport do we want to be. Either anything goes and we accept the consequences, or take the next step and eliminate fighting.”

Said Rutherford, “We’ve got to get rid of fighting, it has to go.”

WE. WE. WE. But what about YOU? You want to get rid of fighting, then tell your team to stop fighting. We just saw that it has no correlation to winning. Ceasing to fight will not hurt your team in the standings. The only reason your team is still dropping the gloves is because you have not told them to stop. If a jerk on the other team goes after one of your big-name stars, then let the referees deal with it.

The movie, 42, about Jackie Robinson was a good example. Obviously the stakes are much lower here, but the key was that Branch Rickey figured out what he wanted to do, and he did it. He didn’t ask for permission. He didn’t go out and explain why it was important because reasonable people already understood what he was doing and why he was doing it.

Google has done the same thing time after time too, be it with Google Books or their driverless car. They didn’t ask the government if they could test their car out on the road. They didn’t try to get any rules changed. They just did it.

If you don’t want fighting in the game, then stop acting like it’s a necessary part of the game. Stop acting like it leads to winning. Stop putting goons out there. Focus on scoring, stop your own team from fighting and other teams will stop too. It’s not really that complicated of an issue.

What the other team does is irrelevant; it takes two willing participants to fight. A rule will be much less effective than some guy who says, “I’m not going to fight you, I’m going to do something that actually helps my team win.”

Want to stop fighting? You don’t have to change the rules. Just stop.