The Cutest Hockey Fight Ever?

“Hockey without fighting is figure skating.” – An Idiot

My go-to hockey guy is a really great guy named “Stan.” He is now approaching 75 and he can still whip your butt. Born in Western Canada, he was on skates at around the age of three. He came up through the various levels and received a full scholarship to play collegiate hockey in the States. He was selected – and ultimately declined – to go into the NHL.

As an amateur at the highest levels, he played against powerhouse Soviet and Scandinavian teams. His friends read like an NHL “Who’s Who” of players and coaches. He remained active in hockey as a referee and coach and he ran a popular camp for nearly 30 years. Oh yeah, his nose was busted eight times. He’s not afraid of your right-cross.

Mite Hockey FightSo the other night I’m online and there’s this clip. It was a sports announcer introducing what she called the “Cutest Hockey Fight Ever.” It took place in an impressive arena packed with fans. There were two teams on the ice, made up of kids 7 and 8 years old. The game was taking place during the intermission of an AHL game.

At some point, two of the kids decided to “drop their gloves” and fight each other. It was not really a fight, it was more like a hug, and as they “fought” and fell to the ice you could hear the fans screaming and yelling encouragement (to do what, is a mystery).

The fight was broken up by “team mascots in costume,” who were adults. This is what the “on-air personality” called the “Cutest Hockey Fight – Ever.” I was thoroughly disgusted. OK, so maybe it was just me.

I asked “Stan” what his opinion was in regard to the “fight.”

He shook his head

A look of disgust spread across Stan’s broad face. His first reaction? “It’s the parents,” he said. He went into great detail about how many parents, with unresolved issues and without a lick of athletic ability, push their kids from an early age – to fight. Against what, no one really knows. A seven year old encouraged to drop his gloves is a damn poor surrogate to compensate for his (or her) parents locked in a miserable marriage, with miserable jobs, miserable debt and miserable bosses.

Stan knew of a coach who was assaulted by an angry hockey parent. The coach instituted a huge lawsuit – and won. Stan said it was amusing to see how contrite the parent was after losing in court. The most interesting thing Stan said was that in his vast experience, most kids are embarrassed by the behavior of their parents.

Fighting is not a part of hockey. It is a cultural phenomenon and the culture is shifting. The NHL is doing all it can to eliminate fighting and the strategy is working. This year has so far seen nearly a 50% decrease in fighting over just last season, and fighting is a fraction of what it was a decade ago or even five years ago. Part of the reason is the growing concern over concussions. More than that, fighting appears to be more situational than natural. When the money is on the line, such as in the latter rounds of the playoffs, fighting virtually disappears. The hits are every bit as intense in the playoffs, but any fighting penalty can be catastrophic.

We used to cheer “enforcers,” but several enforcers from yesteryear are now locked in dementia. The brain can only take so much pounding, you see. The point to all of this is when the gloves come off, the players had better well know the consequences. The consequences are not just at the professional level, but the collegiate level and lower.

Mascots and silliness

Stan made it clear that at the age of seven or eight, the skills kids need to learn are skills such as stick-work and passing. A focus on skills may strike some “parents” as being “dull,” but then again, hockey is a game of skill. Funny how that works.

During the “cutest fight,” it was interesting to see the mascots breaking it up. Where were the coaches at that time? Here is another question: did a parent or two goad their kids into dropping the gloves? And the most logical question: why?

Ethically, our argument is not with the kids – how could it be? The argument is more societal in nature. What happened to the concept of sportsmanship? How did it come to pass that a seven year-old dropping the gloves for no reason other than parental lunacy, becomes more important than scoring a goal?

The cutest fight occurred without context. The only ethical conclusion was that a loser was living his or her pathetic life by pushing a child to “show toughness.” Perhaps the kid thought he was being asked to be tough, but the kid’s parent was incredibly weak. There was nothing cute about it.

Sports Ethics, LLC

Chuck Gallagher, President and Co-Founder  (828) 244-1400

 

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