Thursday, March 27, 2008

More thoughts on the Roy debacle

So, after all of the calls for banning fighting in hockey, I decided to take a look at some leagues that do, in fact, ban fighting. In other words, fighting results in immediate ejection, and in three fights result in a one game suspension (in some of these leagues) and three of those suspensions result in a longer suspension.

I also found the video of the fight.

Next, I looked at NCAA hockey. Where fighting is banned - it results in an automatic ejection.

Or is it? Look up University of North Dakota Hockey on YouTube. They've been involved in several brawls this season alone.

I go back to the Midget AA games I went to this season. There were fights, regardless of suspensions and ejections.

The fact is, fighting in hockey isn't always about fighting. Especially not at the junior level. At level, fighting is about stupidity, and try as we might, we cannot make rules against stupidity. Sure, we can make rules and laws that try to protect people from their own stupidity (seat belt laws) and the stupidity of others (non-smoking laws), but people will still be stupid if they chose to be stupid.

What Roy Jr. did was stupid. It was a senseless act of violence. Senseless acts of violence occur in rinks every year and every year, one of them garners enough media attention to make the bleeding hearts demand a "ban" on fighting.

I'm not a bleeding heart. Sure, I think a lot of fighting that occurs in the game is stupid. I thought last year that Jordin Tootoo acted a fool. I think its awful that Todd Feodoruk's cheek bones are mush.

That said, I believe that you cannot legislate stupidity. You simply can't. No matter what rules you put in place someone will break them, and claiming that making an example of Roy is going to make a difference is ridiculous.

If you're going to make an example in the CHL, you need to make an example of EVERYONE. The line brawl in the Windsor-Sarnia series resulted in ONE suspension. Compared to 9 suspensions in the Sagueens-Remparts series. Now you tell me which league made an example that fighting in the game is unacceptable?


Anonymous said...

I agree with you that what Roy did was stupid. But I don't think ALL fighting is stupid. Sometimes it's just about defending your smaller guys who can stand up to the heavy weights. Sometimes it's just about defending yourself because the refs didn't see that cross check to the back that you just received. Hockey is already physical, and getting banged around doesn't make you very happy and if you don't fight to relieve some of that anger then you might find your self "accidentally" stepping on a guy when he's on the ground which can result in really serious injury.

Sherry said...

Word on basically everything you said.

I agree that stupidity is impossible to legislate but I also think it would be stupid to try to ban fighting altogether. Hockey is a fast, emotional sport and when you've got the blood pumping at that rate and the frustration boils over, it's hard not to let your emotions take over. What Roy Jr. did was unacceptable and I'm not about to excuse it, but the fact that fighting still occurs in the NCAA even though the rules on it are stricter means that no matter what you do about it, it'll still happen.

I think fighting is taking less of an important role in hockey. The number of fights have gone down and I dare say that it's not even a significant part of the culture anymore.

Dare said...

Neither league made an example that fighting is unacceptable. The day that, quite frankly, any men's league - professional or otherwise - makes such a statement, I will be very shocked.

It's not about being a bleeding heart. My second favorite sport is Ultimate Fighting, however, I continue to find fighting in hockey absurd and ridiculous. Take a look at the "big" sports (basketball, football, baseball, etc.) - in which of these is fighting as predominant an aspect as in hockey? How many of these sports are highly emotional, and yet, the players some how manage to keep their "baser instincts" in check?

Fighting in hockey remains a prevalent aspect of hockey because it is celebrated. We have made it into part of hockey culture, and an "appropriate" way to express one's feelings/disatisfaction/etc.

You're not allowed to fight in CIS hockey, either - the referees will let a lot of things go, though. If a glove goes flying, but the guys really don't get into things, it's typically roughing, two minutes and you're back. Drop a glove in the women's game and see what happens.

Fighting is stupid, yes, but I think it does an extreme disservice to the players to assert that they fight because they're stupid. Laws like seatbelt laws, or speeding laws mitigate risk - death is bad. Huge insurance payouts are bad, especially those that could be decreased significantly with the implementation of relatively simple regulations. The threat of being caught doing something illegal, and the penalty that one receives when they are caught are major factors in the decision making process when it comes to obeying rules/laws. To go back to your DUI example - I would argue a significant percentage of drunks behind the wheel don't think they're going to get caught, and thus penalized, so why not drive? This can be related to fighting in hockey: someone will see me doing this (ie. the referees will catch me fighting), but the penalty for doing so (five minutes, maybe an ejection, maybe a one game suspension) will not be severe enough to outweigh the positives of performing this action. In this sense, I don't think people are stupid at all; they are able to weigh the risks and rewards of their actions and operate accordingly.

Do I think it's ridiculous that Jean Charest has stepped up and recommended that we need to ban fighting? Yeah, I do. Just like I thought it was ridiculous when Shane Doan's captaincy was debated in parliament last year. It certainly speaks to the cultural power hockey holds in Canada, but I don't know - for me, I wonder if they maybe should have spent that time debating health care or something.

Can you ban fighting? Not unless you're willing to make very significant repurcussions for engaging in such behaviour - 10+ games for throwing a punch. If you're going to miss a huge chunk of the season for failing to control your emotions, people will take notice. It won't happen, though, because fighting remains a culturally acceptable as a demonstration of on-ice masculine prowess and bravado.

There were six suspensions that resulted from Sagueneens/Remparts debacle.

Shan said...

Plenty of leagues work and function without fighting. People always cross the line, but if you draw the line so high, when someone crosses it, it becomes much uglier. This incident may not have happened this way if fighting wasn't in the league.

Objectionable Conduct said...

Dare - The NCAA has said that fighting is unacceptable - you get booted out of the game for it. How much stricter can they get? Seriously, if you going to tear apart everything I have to say without even seriously looking at the rules (which I did - I actually READ the bloody rulebook).

As for the other BIG sports. In Basketball - every dirty shot is repaid if a foul isn't called, and you're kidding yourself if you think its not. In Football there is very little time in most plays before they reset and there are plenty of dirty plays in the piles and there are plenty of ejections for poor behaviour. As for baseball - there are bench clearing brawls - which you don't see in hockey, so give me a break if I disagree with you on the level of violence in other sports.

Baseball and basketball are inherently, non-contact sports, and therefore not comparable in anyway shape or form to hockey. In football each play lasts no more then 30 seconds to a minute and everything is then reset.

As for the Sags/Remparts # of suspensions, I was tired and tried to remember off the top of my head. I believe that Roy, his son, and 7 others recieved fines or discipline, and only six were suspended.

That said, why aren't you up in arms over the lack of suspensions in the Sting/Spitfires debacle? That's hypocrisy at its finest if you ask me.

Dayna said...

This is kind of off topic, but sort of related to what you had to say about the different suspensions in the OHL/QMJHL.

Do you think that there should be a larger governing body for the whole CHL that works to regulate suspensions throughout the three leagues (WHL/OHL/QMJHL) to be sure that they're all being equally vigilant/non-vigilant about fighting/head shots/cross checks or whatever.

I was thinking about this a lot while reading about government officials in Quebec calling for the QMJHL to ban fighting, because I feel like it would have to be a CHL wide decision. Would the QMJHL ban fighting, but the CHL allow it to continue in the OHL and WHL? I kind of feel like it has to be a mutual decision (though I don't see it coming, but ideally, right?).

I feel like there's a disconnect between the leagues, visible through their very different suspensions. (Although the Roy suspension went deeper than solely fighting, it was his conduct toward the crowd as well.)

Anyway that was a kind of random aside, but I would be interested to know what you guys think.

Dare said...

I think that from a cultural perspective, something like the Q banning fighting while the O and the Dub did not, would only further entrench certain stereotypes. Don Cherry already loves to go off on the Q as, essentially, the (unfavourable word relating to female anatomy) league and regard French players as somehow different than Canadian players from the rest of the country.

I was about to say I thought the leagues operated with the same foundational rules, so if one added it they would all have to, and then I realized the O did the neck guard thing for the balance of the season, and AFAIK, the other two didn't. Never mind. :)