Martin Devlin: Time for Ice hockey to grow up

Martin Devlin,
Publish Date
Thursday, 23 May 2019, 12:30PM

Time for Ice hockey, i.e. the NHL, to grow up and rid itself of the infantile superficial fight-club that blights their sport. If you apply that old Team NZ line about "does it make the boat go faster" is, clearly the answer is NO.

Now I do realise any ice-hawkee aficionado’s reading this will be quick to condemn my argument insisting that bare-knuckle brawling is as intrinsic to the game as is the stick and rubber puck. 

Wrong. Totally utterly completely wrong.

Truth being it's nothing but ritualised, gratuitous violence.

The fact that it's mostly pre-organised makes it exhibitionist and because it's so contrived it automatically qualifies as gratuitous.

In this day and age of increased knowledge and concern around CTE & concussion, how this brainless oafishness survives is insanity on an ice pitch.

What purpose, apart from the obvious bloodlust, does it actually play?

Does it make for a more spectacular sport? No.

Does it enhance the viewing experience? No.

Does it help promote the game in any way you'd ever describe as being positive or attractive to non-hockey fans? Again, the only answer is an emphatic No.

And don't trot out that tired old chestnut about how I don't understand.

I perfectly understand why this mindless violence is still actively encouraged. 

Because us sports fans love a bit of biff because we always have. We love the car crash we love the big bash. Which is why every year when State of Origin rolls round they drag out Tommy Raudonikis and revive talk of the "cattle-dog" call.

None of this happens for any other reason than a blatant appeal to our inherent sense of barbarism. The fascination with the schoolyard fight, the exact same reason rubber-neckers slow to gawk at a fender bender on the motorway.

It's cheap, it's superfluous and in 2019 it has no place in what's already a brutal, uncompromising sport.

But back to Team NZ's original question which leaves me with two more for the NHL:

- Does ritualised fighting make the sport better?

- For how much longer is haw-kee going to pretend it does?

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