I'll begin this Sunday Night Fights column with a brief informative lesson on the art of fighting in the NHL.
Fighting in the NHL has been a long-established tradition since the first pucks were dropped in the 19th century. No other team sport really allows this type of sheer manliness to have such an effect on the game. Shoot, I'm sure half the people who write off fighting in the NHL as pointless, stupid, lame, not "real," etc., couldn't even take a punch from their grandmothers (let alone throw one on skates). There is a purpose to fighting in the NHL. There is an art to fighting in the NHL. There is a meaning to fighting in the NHL.
Let me educate you.
1. It sets the tone. A lot of people (especially in the South) don't appreciate hockey as a sport because they just don't get it. They don't understand why a puck is a puck. They don't get why there needs to be ice. They don't see any "skill" to the game. They don't see fighting as an integral part of the game. Fighting sets the tone. If you come out throwing your body around, scrapping for loose pucks, jawing at an opponent, or getting into some fisticuffs, people know you mean business. You wanna prance around on your skates and do all these little fancy moves... I'm sure someone would oblige to knocking your ass down.
2. You don't touch our best players -- teams pay the big bucks, and players become the face of a franchise (and even a city) for a reason. There is a very fine line in how you treat these franchise players. You don't touch them. When you have the Gretzkys, Lemieuxs, and Crosbys of the world, you better think twice before you lay even a breath on them (useless if you're in pursuit of #1 seen above).
Here's a simple example: 1999. Hall of Famer Jeremy Roenick (then with the Phoenix Coyotes) took out Dallas Stars' top center Mike Modano with a hit many of his teammates called "cheap." Well let's just say Stars' captain Derian Hatcher didn't forget three weeks later when they played again. (Warning: there will be blood).
3. You don't touch our goalies. Same as #2, but with one difference: your goalie doesn't even have to be good. Just don't touch him. He is the sacred defender of the net.
I could probably list out ten more reasons, but I'll save it for another day. With that, I'll leave with the fight of the week. It's always good to see the young players establishing themselves.
Let the fighting commence!
Wayne Simmonds vs Joey Crabb
Photos and video courtesy of hockeyfights.com, youtube.com, thestar.com, espn.com