I went to a fight, and...
By Nicole Weissman
I went to a fight, and a hockey game broke out. What a dumb joke. But then this Saturday, late in the Caps’ match-up against the New Jersey Devils, it really happened.
After Jason Chimera’s fight with David Clarkson early in the 3rd period, I explained hockey fights to my friend Matt. I assured him that fighting in this sport is not as gratuitous as people think it is. At that point I should have knocked on wood to make sure nothing would happen for the remainder of the game to make me look like a total idiot.
With less than five minutes left, Ilya Kovalchuk picked a fight with Mike Green. I was excited to see these two guys getting into it – not guys you see fight every day. That was the beginning of the end. Moments later, Matt Hendricks took on Rod Pelley. Two seconds after that, Matt Bradley and David Clarkson. The fights were replayed on the Jumbotron, and the crowd went wild.
Then finally, a clean faceoff. But no! Pierre-Luc Letourneau-Leblond (whose name I filed away for a future post on ridiculous hockey names) jumped poor Marcus Johansson, who moments before had verbally refused to fight Letourneau. The resulting mess included one fighting major, one roughing minor, two game misconducts, a slashing minor, an instigator penalty, and a solid promise that Mr. Letourneau will be getting his butt kicked by someone when the Caps meet the Devils again on November 22.
It was pretty entertaining stuff, to be sure, but it inspired me to say a few words about fighting in this sport. I often find myself having to justify this practice to friends of mine who feel that hockey fighting is downright barbaric, a shameless ploy for attention in a sport that sometimes struggles to remain popular.
In fact, fighting in hockey is a way of blowing off steam, and making a statement on behalf of your teammates. Emotions build, and fighting allows both teams to put some of those feelings aside and move on with the game. Sometimes it’s the opposite. When teams are looking slow or indifferent, players will fight to inject some enthusiasm and raise the stakes a little bit.
Based on my interest in players as role models, folks sometimes ask me if this behavior sets a bad example because it promotes poor sportsmanship. I don’t think that it does. More often than not, fights are mutually agreed upon before they begin. Most enforcers aren’t thugs, they’re protectors for their teammates, and they’re some of the nicest guys around. I also think that the NHL does a good job of penalizing unsportsmanlike treatment of fighting, and Pierre Letourneau’s one game suspension is a good example of that.
I have fan pictures and quotes from the home opener coming later this week, but this shot is of the very empty Devils bench at the end of the game.
Box Seats blogger
| October 11, 2010; 1:00 PM ET
Categories: Capitals, Nicole Weissman | Tags: Caps-Devils
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