Opening day of the 2013-2014 National Hockey League season was marred by a disturbing incident during a fight between George Parros of the Montreal Canadiens and Colton Orr of the Toronto Maple Leafs.
Parros lost his balance during the scuffle and landed, forehead first, onto the ice.
He was knocked unconscious from the blow and lay motionless on the ice for several minutes, before eventually being put onto a stretcher and taken to the closest hospital. The good part about the incident is that, by early accounts, Parros will recover.
On a grander scale, what the incident did was ignite the debate about fighting in the NHL, for the umpteenth time.
The faction of hockey analysts, fans and even former players calling for an end to fighting in hockey grows every year and those numbers will likely spike again with this latest incident.
Should fighting be banned? The debate rages on. Will fighting be banned? Not anytime soon. It's not only too much a part of the sport's culture, but it's also too much of a marketing tool for the sport. Video game companies use fighting as selling points for their hockey games. Television sports media types drool when a "good" hockey fight happens: highlightreel stuff. Until a fight breaks out at a hockey game and nobody gets up to cheer, it will remain in the game.
And that's a shame. I don't mind the fight that occurs when one player takes exception to a cheap shot delivered to him by another player and decides to take matters into his own hands. That's no different -other than the lack of consequence-than the baseball player who charges the mound after a pitcher throws at his head.
I don't even have a huge problem with one team's tough guy going after someone who took a cheap shot at his team's top player. But unfortunately, those two instances are the exception, rather than the rule.
More often than not, what happens is if my second-line player knees your first-line player, my fourth-line tough guy and your fourth-line tough guy line up next to each other one or two shifts later and, as soon as the puck is dropped, so are their gloves.
That is the kind of fighting that should be taken out of hockey, because it is, for the most part, unnecessary.
Sadly, those are the fights people really want to see. Let's face it: George Parros is not in the NHL for his skating ability. Colton Orr does not make nearly a million dollars a year because he has a 100-mile-per-hour slapshot.
Those who say, "take away fighting and you ruin the sport" really must question their logic. The fact is that the vast number- and by vast I mean more than 90 per cent-of people who play, or have played, hockey have never played in a league that allows fighting.
Fighting is not allowed in minor hockey. It is not allowed in any men's league with which I have ever been associated. There certainly is no fighting in any old-timers' leagues. And yet, somehow, people still consider it integral to the sport.
Odd, that. In the meantime, enjoy the regular season. And for all of you who think that fighting is integral to the game, enjoy the 17-day break, from Feb. 9 to 26, when the NHL season is put on hold for the 2014 Winter Olympics.
Surely you won't be watching that. It will be as boring as all heck.
. Terry Farrell is the editor of the Abbotsford-Mission Times.
© Copyright 2013