Fighting ‘has a place’ Jets say dropping the gloves can play a critical role in on-ice success
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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 09/11/2022 (200 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
For as long as fighting is allowed in the NHL, there will be a debate over whether or not it belongs.
Those who want it out of the game point to the research done around concussions and the potential for serious long-term effects from taking repeated shots to the head. For others, fighting brings an excitement to hockey unlike anything else in the sport and a level of toughness that separates the NHL from other professional leagues such as the NBA, NFL and MLB.
But talk to the men who have the most at stake and there really is no debate at all. In speaking with a handful of players on the Winnipeg Jets following Wednesday’s practice, each one said they believe that not only should fighting be permitted in hockey, but that it also plays a critical role in the game.
“It has a place and there’s a reason why it’s still in the game,” said Jets forward Kyle Connor. “We can’t have players running around, taking advantage of certain players and there being no precautions for that.”
Connor said he understands why some might disagree with fighting, and it’s not like he’s hoping to turn back the clock a few decades to an era where fights were commonplace and bench-clearing brawls not out of the norm. He likes the direction the game has gone, which has only benefited the Jets most prolific scorer.
Connor scored 47 goals and added 46 assists in 79 games last year, while registering just two penalty minutes. For his efforts, he won the league’s Lady Byng trophy, which is awarded “to the player adjudged to have exhibited the best type of sportsmanship and gentlemanly conduct combined with a high standard of playing.”
“If anybody takes a liberty with one of our players, it’s something that’s a team mentality, and we have certain designated guys that, yeah, that’s their role, but it’s part of taking ownership,” said Connor. “It’s kind of faded out, there’s not as many roles like that. There are now three, four lines that can play, that can skate.”
Then there’s the emotional effect it has on players and fans.
The Jets scored five times in a 5-1 win over the Dallas Stars Tuesday, a game that had first place in the Central Division on the line. But as spirited as the crowd was all night, there’s an argument to be made that they were never louder than when Jets defenceman Brenden Dillon dropped the gloves with Stars forward Ty Dellandrea.
“Gone are the days of you’re just carrying a designated fighter, where you’re just coming in to try and intimidate. Dilly’s fight last night happened organically,” said Jets centre Adam Lowry, who leads the team with 20 NHL fights, though he has zero through 12 games this season.
“It’s one of those things where the points are so important, you want to get the crowd into it at home and you don’t want to get pushed around either. You want to send a message that we’re here to play and we’re going to be battling.”
Lowry noted that the first period against the Stars was scoreless, but the crowd gave a resounding applause as the Jets made their way to the locker room for intermission, which he compared to a playoff atmosphere. He doesn’t think it was a coincidence that Dillon had fought just minutes earlier.
“It has a place and there’s a reason why it’s still in the game.”–Kyle Connor
There’s no pleasure in seeing anyone get hurt, Lowry said, and he gets why some fans aren’t on board with fighting. But while the risks still certainly exist, Lowry noted there have been new rules implemented in recent years – players can no longer voluntarily remove their helmets when fighting, an extra penalty for instigating a fight and stiffer penalties for a head shot, among others – that have made it a safer game.
“I don’t have the exact numbers, but fighting doesn’t happen as often as it used to. Usually, it’s out of pure emotion, out of pure competitiveness, they’re going to happen organically, and I think that’s great,” Lowry said.
“It’s just another form of competition within the competition, and hockey is a physical game and sometimes emotions boil over and you get it out and then you can move on and play hockey.”
There has been a notable drop in fighting over the last 10 years. In the 2012-13 NHL season, 35.8 per cent of games had at least one fight; last season, that number was 18.2 per cent, which, interestingly, was a jump from 13.5 per the previous year – the lowest in NHL history.
Jets head coach Rick Bowness, whose playing and coaching career spans 47 years, also likes fighting in the game. And while there are some examples where it’s been eliminated, such as in the Olympics, he thinks ridding it from the NHL would make it a less appealing product.
“I hated the era, hated the era, of when we had guys sitting on the bench and that’s their only role. That bothered me to no end. It had nothing to do with the game,” Bowness said.
“I hated the era, hated the era, of when we had guys sitting on the bench and that’s their only role. That bothered me to no end. It had nothing to do with the game.”–Rick Bowness
“If coaches don’t get the guys playing hard and with passion and emotion, everyone’s all, ‘They don’t play hard enough, they don’t play with enough passion. They don’t play with enough emotion.’ Well, now you’re walking a fine line. You can never, ever, take passion and emotion out of this game.
“And when you’re asking an elite competitive guy to go out there and play with emotion and play with passion and be very competitive, well, sometimes it’s going to happen. I’m glad that fighting is way down. That I support 100 per cent. But if you took it out completely, what does it look like after that?”
After a slew of injuries playing hockey that included breaks to the wrist, arm, and collar bone; a tear of the medial collateral ligament in both knees; as well as a collapsed lung, Jeff figured it was a good idea to take his interest in sports off the ice and in to the classroom.
Updated on Wednesday, November 9, 2022 9:19 PM CST: Changes background photo