Toronto Maple Leafs: Shifting Toward A Non-Fighting Sport

Fighting has been a staple in the NHL for as long as the game has been played – and prominent in the Toronto Maple Leafs recent history.

The Toronto Maple Leafs have had their fair share of goons over the years and recently signed Matt Martin and Roman Polak to “protect” their players.

Meanwhile, the Ontario Hockey League – the greatest feeder league in the world – is removing fighting from the game one season at a time.

Last year the OHL introduced suspensions for players with 10+ fights on the year. This year they’ve moved that to three.

The game is evolving for the better.

As entertaining as hockey fights are, there is no statistical value to their existence. Games are won and lost on the scoreboard via goals and fighting doesn’t contribute to that statistic.

Every other professional sports league doesn’t have fighting and they seem to get along just fine. By just fine I mean make more money than the NHL so, really, what value does fighting have at all if it doesn’t affect wins or dollars?

Protecting players and preventing injuries has long been the perceived valuing in dropping the mitts. In today’s hockey it doesn’t do either.

The game is more of a skill game now, and that’s evident by the shift in drafting and free agent signings.

Ten years ago Kris Russell would have been handed the keys to the city somewhere. Now he sits waiting for a team to clear space to accommodate his inflated salary demands. Bad players sit and wait. Fights slowly disappear.

Growing up my favorite player was Dennis Bonvie. That doesn’t mean I can’t appreciate that fighting is irrelevant in the grand scheme of a hockey game.

International hockey and NHL playoff hockey is the best hockey in the world – and there’s no fighting.

But who will protect the star players if fighting leaves the game?

Referees. It’s their job.

Change isn’t going to happen overnight, but it will happen. The NHL will eventually make moves in the rulebook to curb fighting. Europe and International hockey issue game misconducts for fighting and the NHL playoffs features almost no fighting.

Skilled hockey wins games, it’s just that simple.