Before I type a word of this column, I have to provide you with the following disclaimer: What I know about hockey wouldn't fit in a thimble. The only reason I say that is because more than one person is going to take me to task regarding my opinion about hockey and fights. Technically speaking, I know a lot more about hockey than a thimble's full. But if I don't approach this topic with more humility than I normally have to use, I'm going to get crosschecked, tripped, slit with a skate and pounded into oblivion with my sweater pulled over my head as someone drags me off to the penalty box.
More than one person is going to point out that my ignorance about hockey is based solely on the fact that I'm a Yank, totally ignoring the 32 years I've punched as a Newfoundlander and Labradorian. Me and the other fellers have debated the pros and cons of both the NHL and the NFL over those 32 years. I've learned to enjoy a good hockey game in spite of the fact that I was raised on football and not hockey. The only thing that I can never understand about hockey was the need to tolerate a good fight during the game. If I wanted to watch a fight, I'd turn the channel to boxing, where I think it belongs.
I provided all of the information above to express the opinion that I watched just about the best game of hockey I have ever seen when the Canadian women's team took the gold against the Americans in the Olympics. It was an intense, edge-of-your-seat performance by two superb, fast skating and hustling teams, which was made all the more enjoyable because there was no interruption due to the guerrilla warfare normally associated with the men's game. All hockey games should be as testosterone free as the women demonstrated.
The American women's team really had nothing to be ashamed of in their loss to the Canadians when you consider the quality of the play that both teams provided. I have seen many Stanley Cup playoff games that were just as intense or more, but I can't say that they were all fight-free. I don't understood why many people believe that fighting is a necessary part of the game, especially since the women have proven with their play that a fight-free game is as equally intense, fast and enjoyable as any seven game Stanley Cup series.
In our friendly debates about the differences between the NFL and the NHL, I always made the argument that football players have just as much testosterone as hockey players when it comes to fighting. Fighting is not tolerated in football and is immediately stopped by the officials. If the degree of fighting is serious enough, players are ejected from the game. That way, people who have tuned in to watch football get to watch football. The same cannot be said about the NHL.
Those who insist that fighting is a necessary part of hockey never stop to think that it doesn't have to be that way. The only defense to that pronouncement is that people like a good fight. You have to ask yourself why it is that the women's teams can put on a tremendously entertaining display of good skating, nifty moves, daring shots and absolutely beautiful defensive play without being punished by some goon mainly because the other team has a better or faster skater that needs to be brutally stopped.
Don't get me wrong. I will continue to watch and enjoy men's hockey. But I take my hat off to the Canadian women's team, as well as the American women's team for a gold-medal match that, if watched critically for the expertise in the sport that was demonstrated, could serve as a model of first-rate hockey that does not need to integrate fighting in order to be entertaining.
If it ever goes the other way and the women start to fight as much as the men, I'll have to give up watching hockey altogether and take up knitting. Take me to task if you want, but don't make it about me being a Yank. Make your argument about what it is; the difference between hockey and fighting.