There shouldn’t be fighting in prospect games



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The scene: After a hard-fought prospects game at one of the many preseason tournaments sprouting up across North America, a progressive coach brings a player into his office to discuss the fighting major the player earned the night before in the second period of a 5-1 hockey game.

“Oh, hey, it’s good to see you showed up. I wanted to call you in here with regards to that fight that you had last night in our prospects game.

Listen, I don’t know who told you that the best way to get noticed during these tournaments is to stand up for either yourself or your teammates, but it isn’t. Our scouting staff have spend hours watching you and, while we may not have drafted you this past spring, it by no means indicates that we don’t know much about you. 

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We invited you to this camp so that we could test you out in a few game situations under our control and see how you handle them. One of those isn’t fighting, trust me. You don’t have to prove anything. We know how hard you work already.

Look, you’re a good hockey player. I’ve seen some of your game tape from junior hockey, and there’s a lot of good things that you can do, and trust me, we’re looking. We know how hard you’ve worked to make it this far in hockey, and you definitely don’t need to prove it to us. Particularly by doing something as dangerous as fighting; I was nearly sick to my stomach last night watching you scrap and I’m relieved that you and the guy on the other team you fought came out unscatched, but let’s not toy with fate.

I don’t want to connect the dangers of fighting to some of the tragic deaths we’ve seen over the past two summers because in all those terrible cases there were outside influences factor in, but that doesn’t mean that this organization takes them lightly. Hockey is already a fast, dangerous, violent game that can hurt you in many different ways and we don’t want to add to that list on dangerous, violent things in this sport, particularly with something that this organization doesn’t feel has a tangible impact on the game.

You may think that you’re turning the momentum in the game, but, trust me, we’ve done a bit of research. For all the examples you can find of a player overcoming an opponent in fisticuffs and motivating his team to score a goal and come back to win the hockey game, we can find just as many examples of times it didn’t work.

In the end, while I appreciate that you want to show how hard you’ve worked, I’d feel a lot better if you showed me in other ways. Win puck battles, create scoring chances, or even do something as simple as set up an offensive zone faceoff—really, our coaching staff and video analysts are looking at all these things when we evaluate our players. We want to see you do things on the ice that we think can help us win the hockey game, and we don’t want to see you taking part in a sideshow when we don’t know the full effects of the toll fighting can take on a player, particularly one so young as yourself.”

  • FIST

    Fighting is what some of these boys are here to do. I agree they should show what they have to offer in other ways aside from that, but their ability to fight could be the only reason they are on their particular team over someone with a similar skill set who cannot fight at the same level. Fighting should not be encouraged, but should never be ‘taken out’ or regulated in ANY professional hockey game. -> A sad man’s opinion.

  • Cru Jones

    They’ve fought in the leagues they’ve played in before the tournament, and they’ll fight in the leagues they play in after the tournament, so until the NHL bans fighting, why would they not fight in the rookie tournament?

  • Some of those fights yesterday were of the “C’mon, we gotta show our coach something.” variety. No, make it most of them.

    On top of which, I wonder how many fights would have happened if this game wasn’t televised.

      • REALLY?!?!?! HOLY SHIT!

        So I guess that’s why enforcers don’t fight all the way up the line…oh right, they do. Because the purpose of them fighting at every level up the line to the NHL is to prove (drumroll please) that they can fight in the NHL.


        Well, I guess that explains why future enforcers don’t fight at every level leading up to the NHL…oh right, they DO fight at every level leading up to the NHL precisely to prove that they can (drumroll please) fight in the NHL.

        Regardless, I get the sentiment that they need to show the coach ‘something’ but some people would prefer that they show that they can play the sport of hockey instead of an ability to get punched in the head.

        • As far as I’m concerned (and I may be the only one), you don’t prove you can fight in the NHL until you fight in the NHL.

          Same with playing in general. These are prospects playing other prospects. People are getting far too carried away about these games. Yeah they were wearing the jerseys and the game was on TV, but please.

          At the risk of being Captain Obvious, this wasn’t the Oilers playing. Everybody knows that, right?

          • Sure but hockey teams take fights below the NHL level as proxies for guys they’ll let have a chance to fight at the NHL level.

            I don’t see too many fans getting carried away with these games in terms of predicting the future. No one thinks the Oilers will soon win the Cup because their kids spanked the Canucks’ kids or that the Leafs are poised for a huge jump because they handled the Hawks and Penguins kids easily.

  • stevezie

    I’d actually like to go even further and see fighting out of Junior entirely. These aren’t adults, they’re teenagers with developing brains. Plus this would leave heavyweights without a venue to train, and while I love a passionate fight I hate a staged one.

  • Nice Fiction.

    Back here in reality, though, hockey has fighting. If there was no fighting the Oilers wouldnt have dressed Cam Abney. What else was he there to do except to fight when called upon?

    Come on people.

    There is fighting in hockey. Dont like it? Move to another sport.

    At some point people need to recognize that they are watching a violent game played by men with the intention of physically dominating their opponent. It isnt the Olympics and it isnt a women’s league. Time to ask yourselves if you’re still up for watching a game that could leave it’s players injured, sometimes with life altering consequences.

    It’s the same story in football. I hope nobody complaining about fighting in hockey enjoys 1 minute of a football game. Those poor bastards have it worse physically, and that’s just playing “within the rules.” Knees, shoulders, backs, concussions, those injuries are expected IN PRACTICE, let alone once the whistle blows.

    Also on the hit list are, of course, MMA and Boxing. Headers in soccer are also out. TV wrestling is obviously a no-no (but that’s not really a “sport”).

    So while we’re so focused on this thing that happens only a few times a game when it’s at its rowdiest, can we please take a minute to question the calls to make hockey a kinder and gentler game when we still find these other more violent sports more socially acceptable.

    Chess club is down the hall and to the left.

      • Did I say it did? Let me check the record…Nope.

        You know what also doesnt prevent injuries? Playing hockey. It turns out that more players get hurt “playing the game” than they do fighting.

        It’s a part of the game. The deaths this summer have not been linked to fighting, nor should they. Career ending injuries are not higher in fight related accidents than game related injuries. So what’s the commotion about? I dont need to ban fighting so I can sleep better because I’m fully aware that I’m watching a violent game. It seems that this fact just dawned on some people and now they dont like it.

        Deal with it.

        • Danny Gray

          “It’s a part of the game. The deaths this summer…blahblahblah…Deal with it.”

          Really, the one who needs to “deal” with something is you. There is a growing movement among fans (and others in *real* positions of power in the sport) questioning what role fighting has in hockey – whether fighting is, in fact, “part of the game”.

          Does it change momentum? Does it build team unity? Does it protect against cheap shots? Does it actually impact winning and losing?

          And once people start looking into those issue, they will inevitably be left with one conclusion:

          “We don’t see any reason for allowing fighting, because it contributes nothing to winning a hockey game.”

          And then all that’s left is a sideshow to a hockey game that will be eliminated. Don’t know how this process will take, but it is inevitable.

          • Ok, you let me know when that happens. It surely hasnt happened yet, and, hockey gods willing, never will.

            I dont have to deal with something that has always been part of the game and still is just because a vocal minority start feeling bad. You’re the one with a problem, not me.

          • People aren’t advocating for all fighting to be gone by the way.

            And while fighting has a long history in hockey, the talentless goon that only fights is a pretty modern invention. Those players and their fights are the ones that have been put in harsh relief this summer. They’re the ones that people want to curb. The heat of the moment ones, for the moment, seem to be welcome.

          • I think some people really are calling for a ban on fighting. David Staples woke up this morning and started ranting on Twitter. Though I agree that the super heavy is becoming obsolete, and we are seeing that happen in real time. We could speed it up if we reduce the roster to 3 lines and the number of teams to 20-24 also, but no one seems willing to do that either.

            If it doesnt need to be there then it wont be. I just take exception to the idea that fighting in hockey is wrong.

          • I meant people in the ‘consensus’ sense and that’s my reading of it. There is a minority like Damien Cox that would like nothing more than to see the total elimination of fighting.

            Maybe it’s because it’s the people I interact with most but it seems like the movement is more to rid the game of the useless enforcers and their fights.

          • Wax Man Riley

            I hear you. I realize I am in the distinct minority – for now. But once you start eating away at things like “useless goon on goon” fights, its hard to stop carving away the other types of fights.

          • Last time I checked – elbowing, highsticking, spearing, holding, etc do not contribute anything to winning hockey games either. If you commit a foul – you are penalized.

            A fight is a foul and is subsequently penalized. If you want to change the severity of the penalty, different story.

            As others of have posted – there must be a reason enforcers make the NHL, otherwise they wouldn’t be getting paid millions of dollars to be there.

            Pretty hard to get around that fact.

    • “It’s the same story in football. I hope nobody complaining about fighting in hockey enjoys 1 minute of a football game. Those poor bastards have it worse physically, and that’s just playing “within the rules.” Knees, shoulders, backs, concussions, those injuries are expected IN PRACTICE, let alone once the whistle blows.

      Also on the hit list are, of course, MMA and Boxing. Headers in soccer are also out. TV wrestling is obviously a no-no (but that’s not really a “sport”).”

      Not necessarily. I’m against using the helmet as a weapon in football. As for boxing and MMA, fighting belongs in the sport because in boxing and MMA, fighting IS the sport. I’m not a boxing fan and much prefer MMA because I believe they have a safer stance on concussions and head injuries and knockouts. Once you’re out, you’re out.

      My issue with fighting in hockey is because it’s mainly a sideshow that has nothing to do with the actual outcome of the game. I’ve shown my work many times over and other people who have done work have come to similar conclusions. I have yet to see a pro-fighting article that shows how a fight can have a more-than-negligible impact on the game.

      • If fighting had no place in the sport then it wouldnt be there. Just because it cant be quantified doesnt mean it doesnt exist, it just means you havent found a way to measure it.

        The benefits of a fight from what I can gather, are largely psychological, so I doubt there is a way for you to quantify that at all.

        The fact that it happens at almost every level of the game suggests that it is more than a sideshow. That pro teams look for it by drafting and signing tough guys suggests that it is more than a sideshow. The fact that the most players dont want it gone suggests that it’s more than a sideshow.

        • “The benefits of a fight from what I can gather, are largely psychological, so I doubt there is a way for you to quantify that at all.”

          Meanwhile, in the other dressing room…

          “Okay, team, we lost the game, but at least we felt really, really good about this…”

          • You’re falling into the classic trap of rationalizing feelings. I imagine that in your fantasy of pro hockey that after each match the loser thinks to himself “Well, it’s just a game. No biggie, I wonder if this episode of Big Bang Theory is a rerun.”

          • Not at all. Winning and losing is what matters above all else, no? Why the hell do something if it doesn’t help you win? Your model is the “well, we kicked the shit out of the other team and we feel great about ourselves”

            My fantasy coach worries about winning, and doing things to help his team win. My fantasy coach creates a comfort level of communication between him and his players so they don’t feel that they have to fight in order to impress him. He knows they’re tough already, and he knows they’re committed to winning, regardless of what the TV viewers see.

    • How come you hate apostrophes?

      Anyway, the injuries you describe in those sports all arise as a part of actions that are actual functional parts of their respective sports. It’s not a valid comparison because you don’t prevent a team from scoring or win the game or pass the puck by punching an opponent in the face.

      Fighting has a ethereal quality that proponents suggest can turn games on a dime. Unfortunately, as you noted, it’s pretty hard to quantify whether there is any value at all. What is becoming pretty clear is that punches to the head cause damage which can have an impact on a player’s health.

      So why not limit it unnecessarily? Personally, I don’t want fighting out of hockey completely but do we really need no-mark prospects using it as a way to get attention? I’m sure the Leafs noticed Sam Carrick’s goal last night much more than the fight he lost.

          • I bet you know the proper time to use a semi-colon as well. Well, sir, I do not; and that’s a fact!*

            *Or do I actually remember those dark and mysterious lessons from Frances Aleba’s English 101 class…**

            **Turns out, no. I do not. But I kept the textbook, so in a bind I can still figure it out.

          • Wax Man Riley

            I just had to give you props for the shout out to Frances Aleba. One of my favorite professors ever and the person I credit most for my interest in the English language.

            I still remember the first class when he (as he always did) so passionately remark that “words and language are POWER! If you are able to command the english language, you command POWER!”

            Tough not to be excited with such a passionate professor.

            …Oh ya.. fighting…

            Last year I had a change of heart. I was in the “you can’t ban fighting, it’s part of the game!,” and the “this is part of the pussification of the world” camp. Then I watched MacIntyre all last year. Man, is that guy ever a bad NHL player! His fights were brutal too. He had the one good one against Ivanins where it was part of the show (battle of Alberta, 1st game in the “new culture,” etc…) and I cheered.

            As the season went on though, I thought the staged fights were useless. Every. Single. One. They added nothing to the game.

            That being said, the fights I can agree with are the emotional ones. Taylor Hall fighting because he is tired of a guy bein a dick, or Gagner fighting for the same reasons. Those are the fights that change momentum, not the staged fights. I go get another beer when those come on.

          • That Aleba class was intense for a then 18 yr old Archaeologuy. 1/2 the class dropped before the second semester started and 1/3 of the remaining class failed.

            It was unbelievably taxing. But I survived and thrived, so no complaints from me.

  • I am the Liquor

    no one is more anti-fighting than me, but it really makes no sense to me to say “well fighting is an acceptable part of a hockey game, but we don’t want you to do it in *these* games.”

    As soon as you start looking for reasons to exclude it from pre-season games, you end up finding reasons why it shouldn’t be allowed in *any* games.

  • Let me start by saying that I do not turn my head when there is a good fight going on in the NHL (not a fan of enforcers and goons mind you). I like a good fight when two guys have had enough of each other.

    Having said that (and maybe age is catching up with me) I could not stand to watch the kids fight.

    I have kids that are getting up in years and I would just not want to see that from them (ok they are both girls but they could take on Semin from the Caps and win that – I am confident of).

    I agree with Cam on this and think that if fighting in type of game should be allowed.

    We don’t let kids vote or drink until they are 18 because as a society we don’t feel they are able to make good choices at that age. But we have no problems watching 17 years fight in Jr. hockey games? Some thing is wrong with that line of thinking.

  • I agree with PopsTwitTar in the sense that if you’re going to eliminate it, it won’t happen until they’re really gonna do it across the board. I like the article, it’s just like he mentioned, if the NHL ends up banning fighting in rookie games, then shouldn’t they just ban it outright in all games?

    Tough to say “hey, don’t fight at the rookie tourney, even though we expect you to fight in the NHL when you finally make it”

  • This is a frustrating article. I have never heard a coach actually talk like this, from all my encounters right through junior hockey they love to see guys that are willing to do what ever it takes to make an impression. I am not saying fighting should be or shouldnt be in hockey or anything like that but if I am sitting on the bench and know that it might be my last shot I am going to let someone know that i want to be here. I think hockey people appriciate the kids that do. I dont think anyone is going to have this conversation unless Hopkins or another elite talent is doing it. For now fighting is here and is part of the game

  • kawi460

    i just have a question, worst case a player gets run from behind and is face down on the ice. If i was the coach or GM i would be PO’d if no one stood up for a mate,

    why would a coach be mad if a player stood up for another? It shows character especially if that player isn’t known for dropping the mitts

  • kawi460

    im all for enforcers, as long as they play at least 5mins every game. My point was it shows character when a player not known for fighting stands up for a mate. If anything managers/coaches encourage players to have eachother backs.

    And sometimes “staged fights” don’t happen just because two heavies are in the lineup, they happen because of what goes on in the game, from what was said or done earlier in the game

  • Ducey

    Sorry, but the prospects game is a proper place for fighting. Reasons:

    1) It beats fighting with your own team mates in training camp – or perhaps you don’t want it there either. I guess we can just see if Cam Abney is ready for NHL fighting when he drops the flippers with SMac or other veteran in pre season (“Oops, I guess not, sorry you got destroyed”).

    2)You have to practice fighting just like anything else. Here, prospects are fighting prospects of approximately the same age and experience

    3)its part of the game. Part of what teams want to find out is how their younger skilled guys (say from Europe) are going to fare in the heavy going. Is our fiesty Finn just going to yap when the gloves are taped on or is he going to still play his game when someone might slug him a few times?

    The prospects games are part of the evaluation process for these teams. They are not some kind of all star game.

    • Danny Gray

      I don’t want players fighting in training camp.

      The point is is that these games are largely meaningless. It is an unacceptable risk to have your prospect fighting in a meaningless game. For most of these guys there is little chance they start the season in the NHL, why risk an injury in an exhibition game?

    • 1). I’d rather Cam Abney be ready to play as a hockey player in the NHL, rather than be ready as a fighter. Having the latter without the former has little actual value. Not only that, but he’s got a full season in the AHL to prove he can fight men.

      2). I’m not sure how that makes them anymore ready to take on the experienced pros. Isn’t it just more of what they are already used to?

      3). Granted, but in a prospects game like this, why not put a rule in place where if you fight you are done from the game? That way if there is a legitimate reason to fight they guy still will (i.e. defend the teammate), but it prevents the sideshow fights from happening because the game is 6-0.

      I don’t have an issue with fighting in terms of as a tool to try and protect. If one of your good players is getting pushed around and punched in the face, go after that guy, get him off the ice for 5+minutes.

      But that’s not what the fights last night were about.

  • Didn’t Gregor or Brownlee write an article a ways back that said that in a poll the majority of the NHL players actually would prefer that fighting not be a part of the game?

    EDIT: I think it had to do with the instigator rule specifically as opposed to fighting in general.

    EDIT # 2:
    Here it is.

    • From that article, Mixed results on Instigator, overwhelming results for not banning fights.

      “Still, it’s a jolt to an assumption I’ve long held, especially considering 98 per cent of the same group of players voted “no” when asked if fighting should be banned in the NHL.”

      98% of polled players think Fighting is part of the game.

  • Danny Gray

    Why are all of you people fighting over fighting ? It’s here, been here for a very long time … And until somebody drops dead in an NHL game due to fighting it won’t go away .
    What’s next no flying in hockey ??

  • Ducey

    I’d rather Cam Abney be ready to play as a hockey player in the NHL, rather than be ready as a fighter. Having the latter without the former has little actual value. Not only that, but he’s got a full season in the AHL to prove he can fight men.
    I don’t want players fighting in training camp.

    The point is is that these games are largely meaningless. It is an unacceptable risk to have your prospect fighting in a meaningless game. For most of these guys there is little chance they start the season in the NHL, why risk an injury in an exhibition game?

    What happens when you are trying to decide if an Abney should play in the AHL, ECHL or go back to junior?

    The logical conclusion to your argument is that they don’t need the prospect game at all. They saw RNH play last year and will have this year to watch him – why bother?

    Further, should we then outlaw hits – especially when its 6-0, as they increase the chance of injury?

    If you want no fighting in hockey, fine. There are some good arguments for that position. I could do without the staged stuff. But to start saying to teams and players that you can have it here but not there is unfair to both.

    Until you see Abney fighting with guys closer and closer to his ultimate weight division, you don’t really know if he has the technique and strength needed to excel.

    • dawgbone98

      If I’m deciding whether Abney should be in the CHL, ECHL or AHL it’s not based on his fighting, it’s based on where he is capable of taking a regular shift without being a detriment to his team. His fighting ability is the last thing I look at because if he can fight like a demon but still can’t play above a CHL level, then he should be in the CHL.

      I’m not saying they don’t need the prospects game, but I think the focus should be on the right players. Do I need to see another game of Hopkins doing his thing against the same calibre of players he played against last year? Probably not, but seeing Gernat is probably something not a lot of the scouts were able to see. Same with the invitees and undrafted free agents. A guy like Hopkins just increases the amount of skill in the game (which is fine), but you aren’t evaluating him.

      And hits are apart of hockey from 12 years old… fights aren’t (especially staged ones). Besides, the penalty I’m suggesting isn’t that drastic, you can still fight if you really feel you have to, it just discourages some of the scenes in previous years where there are 6 or 7 staged fights because guys want to prove how tough they are, and the game is already in the bag so there is no need to play hockey anymore.

  • Danny Gray

    @Cam Charron

    So you are what 24? Fresh out of university. I’m happy you landed such a sweet writing gig here at the nation… but I’m not sure you are in any position to come across all wise and all knowing when it comes to the way hockey is and should be played considering its doubtfull you ever have. while you where busy working at your school news paper these kids where training their asses off for a shot at the bigs and if fighting is going to get these kids a six figure contract, who sir are you to tell them that they shouldn’t?

    • “Have you ever played hockey?” is a pretty weak argument.

      As for the second one, he’s not saying that the players shouldn’t do what they are encouraged to do by the teams. He’s suggesting that teams shouldn’t allow pointless fighting in an evaluation camp.

    • simply to point out the hypocrisy in what you are saying, and i quote “who are you to tell them that they shouldn’t?”

      query: did you not just tell cam charron in that same paragraph that he is in no position to come across all wise and knowing? Yet there you are telling him how he should write.

      so you can tell him but he can’t form an opinion, and that’s all they are *newsflash*, interesting.

      you wanna disagree because you have an opinion, cool, but to bash someone because you don’t like the way someone else formed their’s, not cool.

      disagree smarter.

    • SmellOfVictory

      I’m gonna say you’re both in an equal position to determine whether or not fighting will get them a contract. Having played amateur hockey doesn’t give anyone insight into how pro organizations are going to make a contract decision.

      As another equally qualified party, I agree with Cam. Logically it makes little sense to audition pugilists in a prospect game; I don’t think anyone drafts or develops a player in the hopes that one day they’ll become a glorified rock-em-sock-em robot. As such, it’s probably not going to make a great positive impact in a game like this when you decide to trade blows with another dude.

  • I think there a full range of issues in hockey. You cannot just point at the fighters. There may be personal issues that lead some to fight – one of the few venues where I guy can do that without getting into trouble with the law. But you cannot say all fighters have problems, nor do all players that have problems go on to be fighters. Patrick O’Sullivan, something happened to him. I’m not sure what the details are, but I think we all know it has affected his ability to step up and be a star player. He is not a fighter.

    Most of these hockey players were seperated from their families in their early teens. Maybe the isolation from their family leads to coping problems for some? Some were exposed to bad people. Think Fleury or Mike Danton. Some of these kids have their families looking to leech money off of them. A Lindsay Lohan effect.

    There are a range of problems, unique to each player. I think the various hockey leagues and the PA can step up and try to take better care of these kids. A helpline or something like that to help identify any issue.

  • @ Pension Plan Puppets

    Personally i dont think it is a “weak” argument but you sir are welcome to your opinion. Second what Cam is doing,using an imaginary conversation instead of a real argument in an attempt to stir up hits for his article, by using a topic which people like you and me are deeply opinionated for or against.

  • Fighting is a means of weeding out the men from the boys. This is true in society as well.

    If your not willing to stand eye to eye and hopefully not but possibly toe to toe for yourself or a loved one than what does that say about your character, should you choose to turn the other cheek?

    Fighting, whether we like watching it or not, is an effective character assessment tool. For this reason, I think fighting should be allowed to carry on in the NHL.

    • “An eye for an eye leaves the entire world blind.”
      – Mahatma Gandhi
      “But I tell you, Do not resist an evil person. If someone strikes you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also.”
      – Matthew 5:39

      It does say quite a lot about the character of someone that can turn the other cheek.

      However, we’re talking hockey and not suggesting that they turn the other cheek. The suggestion is that they not needlessly fight for THREE games.

    • Danny Gray

      They have the Internet in the 1950s?

      I’ll never understand why a sniper scoring a goal on an ensuing PP isn’t seen as much better revenge than pounding someone’s face.

    • Wax Man Riley

      I’ve never been in a fight (in the real world anyway, hockey fights don’t count, as I have been in hockey fights).

      Does the fact that I have never been in a fight in society speak to my character? I believe it does, but not in the way you think. Anyone that knows me will be able to speak to my character.

      Fighting in society is NOT a character assessment tool.