Lost on the rink: Has violence killed ice hockey?

When it comes to the ranking system of top North American sports, ice hockey is left in the dust more often than not. The viewing figures, attendances and general appeal of the rink don’t compare to the basketballs and footballs of the world, and to be honest, it’s not all that hard to see why.

First off, every major sport in that region of the globe has a superstar – at least the ones worth talking about do. Whether it be LeBron James, Tom Brady or Derek Jeter, there’s something for everyone when it comes to finding a guy that you can attach yourself to because of their worldwide star power.

Sure you’ve got Sidney Crosby in the NHL, but in reality, how many people outside of the sport would’ve heard of the Penguins star? 5%? How about Connor McDavid, a kid that is so unbelievably talented he’s been deemed the next Wayne Gretzky and yet he probably spends most of his time being mistaken for Conor McGregor.

When you look at the core of this problem there’s one glaring issue and that is the violence on display in hockey. We aren’t just talking about the NHL, either, because this problem is rooted into the game – this idea that you need to be a “hard man” in order to put on a pair of skates.

For example, the role in ice hockey known as ‘the enforcer’ which is unofficially used to describe the guy who initiates the fights within games. Their objective is to deter the opposition from doing dirty things, thereby creating a scenario in which a fight is the only justifiable way to solve the issue.

People go to hockey matches as much to see fights as they do the competition, mainly because it’s so cold and so hard to see the actual puck that they may as well focus on the thing they can actually witness.

The worst part about this is that the whole thing is hyped up and promoted by the biggest organisations in the sport, with the NHL not actually outright ejecting players for engaging in this kind of behaviour. Call us party poopers, but we’d still like to believe that the athletic competition involved is what should determine a winner and a loser.

Hockey fans get very defensive when it comes to the debate on fighting on the ice, which is exactly why the NHL will never grow to the heights of its rivals. We don’t care whether or not you think it’s ‘more manly’ to get down and dirty because it just reeks of them trying to be different in order to try and compete.

Interestingly enough the Europeans are much stricter in terms of fighting, which is quite ironic when you think about it. After all, the most popular sport in the world is football aka soccer, where there’s no tolerance for foul play whatsoever.

If you want to see a brawl go watch a boxing match or an MMA fight because ice hockey is dying a slow death and they need to be highlighting the athleticism above anything else.

Focus on how difficult it is to control the play or how tactical the teams need to be in order to score, because right now all people are thinking about is the school-boy mentality of “which guy can hit harder than the other”.