Fighting: it's part of the game

Jason Gregor
January 16 2009 07:00AM

As the Nation woke this morning, many of you were still smarting from the 5-1 loss in Minny. Once again, after a surprising win in Washington, the Oilers weren’t able to keep their momentum going.

Were you that surprised that they lost to the Wild and Backstrom, who absolutely owns the Oilers? Probably not, but your disappointment stemmed from not seeing a potential epic heavyweight battle between the Bogeyman and SmackIntyre. You could handle not seeing Brash v. Smack two nights earlier, because you were wiping the tear from your eye watching him celebrate his first NHL goal. But last night, you wanted it, and expected MacIntyre to exact some redemption for the Bogeyman crushing Hemsky, Reasoner and the 2007 Oilers.

But it didn’t happen. You clapped and were intrigued by the spirited Smid/Sheppard tilt, and then you were screaming at the TV after Souray demolished Weller with some crushing lefts. Hell, if it wasn’t for Souray’s KO you’d have had nothing to cheer for last night.

Of course winning a fight doesn’t mean as much as the two points, but it re-enforces why the NHL, or junior hockey for that matter, should never take fighting out of the game. Sports are a release from the daily grind, and they get you emotionally involved and ultimately entertained. While you don’t need to see a fight every game, don’t tell me you don’t get excited when the gloves hit the ice.

When the Oilers win, even if the game is boring, you still leave satisfied. And even a loss that has end-to-end action or big hits can be satisfying, but when Minnesota is the opposition the only excitement you hope for is a monumental tussle amongst the big men.

Some pacifists will argue that a meaningless fight between two heavyweights who don’t play much is pointless. But I say hogwash. In boxing and now MMA, the anticipation of a great bout is almost as exciting as the fight itself. Most of us love it because we know deep down we could never do it. You don’t cheer for someone to get hurt, but you want to see a KO. Is it barbaric? No, it’s an adrenaline rush and entertainment.

Not seeing Smack and Bogey doff the gloves last night was a disappointment for many fans, and while it didn’t hurt you as much as the loss, it left you wanting more.

Many, including myself, wonder if the decision by the OHL to suspend players who willingly take their helmets off before a fight, is another step in trying to take fighting out of the game, or just a knee jerk reaction to the horrible Don Sanderson tragedy.

There are fair arguments for both sides when it comes to not allowing players to take their helmets off before a fight. I’m a proponent of fighting and even I can see why David Branch, Commissioner of the OHL, felt it necessary to act swiftly. Sometimes players take their helmets off more for the showboating aspect rather than the protecting-their-knuckles defence. I don’t agree with his decision and I think it was knee-jerk reaction, but I understand he has pressure to try and protect the players in his league.

If Sanderson hadn’t passed away would the OHL have implemented this rule? No chance. And that’s what is disappointing. We can’t change rules because of one incident, or soon we will be changing every fabric of our beloved game.

I don’t believe the NHL will follow suit, and I doubt they will ever purposely take fighting out of the game. As much as I would hate to see it go, if in 20 years teams don’t employ designated tough guys, then I will accept that the game has evolved past that. I will take evolution over a rule change. Hockey fans don’t want to be hit over the head with a fighting ban, but like the past 20 years, if fighting continues to decline slowly at least the league won’t be alienating their true fans.

One of the best aspects of fighting is the unpredictability of it. It can happen at any moment, by any player and normally it is over in under a minute. It’s a quick jolt of energy for the participants, their teammates and the fans. It can change the momentum of the game, or send a message to the opposition and it almost always adds energy to the game.

You don’t need designated heavyweights to have exciting fights. Many of you, especially Amber, gushed openly as Souray jack hammered Weller last night. While it wasn’t the match-up you were anticipating or hoping for, it did quench your appetite.

While you ride the inevitable rollercoaster that comes from being an Oiler fan, you can count the days until the next potential Bogeyman v. Smack battle. It’s 14 days boys and girls: Jan. 30 at Rexall.

This really sucks

Just as I was getting over not seeing #24 and #33 drop the gloves, I came across the preview for Underworld: Rise of the Lycans, and immediately thoughts of Kate Beckinsale in that black suit came rushing to my brain. I didn’t catch the release date, because thoughts of Selene were almost too much for me to bare, so I googled Underworld 3 to find out when I could once again see the sexiest character in movie history.

If you thought not seeing the big bout last night was disappointing, imagine my horror when I realized that Selene will not be back to battle the Lycans. Ok, sure she will make some lame cameo appearance but that’s like knowing Boogaard and MacIntyre are on the bench, though you'll will never see them on the ice.

Rhona Mitro is okay, but compared to the stunning Beckinsale she just doesn’t cut it. She can’t pull off the black suit, and there is no way I will watch part three. Beckinsale will never revive her role; but at least there is a chance you might see some fireworks on Jan. 30.

Damn expectations. First a non-fight and now no Kate, the good news is that it can’t possibly get worse today.

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One of Canada's most versatile sports personalities. Jason hosts The Jason Gregor Show, weekdays from 2 to 6 p.m., on TSN 1260, and he writes a column every Monday in the Edmonton Journal. You can follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/JasonGregor
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#51 kingsblade
January 18 2009, 12:45PM
Trash it!
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trashes
+1
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props

@ Travis Dakin:

Good one. Nearly as clever as your usual analysis.

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