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I went to a fight the other night and a hockey game broke out. Rodney Dangerfield The police had to hold back about 20 spectators who were attempting to attack one of the Lavals. Argall, the Laviolettes’ goalie, attacked the referee several times; the players kicked each other, punched each other, and hit each other with their sticks.1 Don’t bother searching online for further details on this sorry scene. Contrary to what you might be thinking, these events didn’t transpire recently—they happened in 1899! Ice hockey has been dealing with the problem of violence since it first began. Violence continues to be a thorn in the side of the NHL (founded in 1917), where unsavoury behaviour has unfortunately become par for the course and frequently makes the headlines. Hockey is by no means the only sport that’s known for violent outbursts—far from it. However, there is one unique aspect of our 1. Donald Guay, L’Histoire du hockey au Québec (Montmagny: JCL, 1990), p. 206. The first description of a game in a newspaper article, dated March 3, 1875, mentions that it ended in a fight! Fisticuffs: When do We Say Enough’s Enough? Christian Boissinot Hockey and Philosophy.indd 125 15-11-02 15:54 126 Hockey and Philosophy national sport that has long provided fodder for discussion: fisticuffs , otherwise known as fighting. A few years ago, a series of events reopened the debate on violence and whether fighting ought to be banned. A monster of a player, Todd Fedoruk (a sort of bionic man whose face is adorned with nine titanium plates from past fractures), was knocked out by a friendly hit from another monster of a player, Colton Orr. Goaltender Jonathan Roy crossed the ice to beat up his counterpart Bobby Nadeau, who chose not to respond in kind.2 In something of a Groundhog Day revival, George Parros (457 games, 18 goals, 164 fights) got a concussion from falling face-first on the ice following a fight with the aforementioned Colton Orr (444 games, 12 goals, 118 fights). Goaltender Ray Emery viciously attacked his fellow goalie Braden Holtby, who didn’t want to fight. All of these incidents have brought the debate to the fore. I am writing this now—and I’m not the first to do so— at the risk of being labelled a wuss: for the good of hockey, it’s high time we banned fighting. I would like to contribute the debate by asking a simple question: when do we say enough’s enough? The pro-fighting camp When you start teasing them apart, the arguments currently used to justify fighting don’t have much substance. First of all, let’s consider the particular nature of this ultra-high-speed sport, with its many bangs and bumps involving athletes who are armed to the teeth (if they have any left) and flying down the ice at 30 kilometres an hour. Getting clocked or slashed by a fellow player is enough to make anyone ’s blood boil, especially if the aggressor goes unpunished: this is only natural. Referees are only human, and they can’t catch everything . So rather than retaliating against somebody who’s just elbowed you by checking them, you drop your gloves, settle the matter in a fist fight, and calmly get back to the game. Fighting 2. Shocked by this act of aggression, the Québec Minister of Education, Recreation, and Sport, Michelle Courchesne, said she wanted to see fights disappear from Canadian junior hockey. Hockey Québec produced a report that, among other things, made changes to penalties for participating in fights— without banning them, of course. Roy, who was charged with simple assault (no injury), avoided a trial by pleading guilty and received an absolute discharge. Hockey and Philosophy.indd 126 15-11-02 15:54 Christian Boissinot 127 allows us to channel frustration that would otherwise have built up if not for this therapeutic release. Second of all, the talented players, with some exceptions, are too busy playing hockey: they prefer to spend as much time on the ice as possible and leave others the hassle of throwing down the gauntlet. But who’s there to protect them? That job goes to the recognized enforcers (the fighters, the heavies, the goons), whose given mission since the birth of hockey has been to police the game, to “make space,” or to change the course of a game with a little...


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