Sunday, November 06, 2005

hockey and fighting

OK, here's the deal according to me: other than actual "combat" sports -- fencing, boxing, martial arts, etc -- hockey is probably more permissive than any other when it comes to allowing direct physical action against an opponent.
While the object is to move the puck around, you're allowed to deliberately push, shove, run into, and knock down opposing players. Within some limits, you can hold them against the boards, hit their stick with yours, tie them up with your arms/legs, etc.
With all that direct personal contact happening, and with the line being often a "referee's discretion" type of thing, it's not surprising that tempers sometimes flare, and people get a little worked up.

But more importantly: the physical part of the game is important to success. You win more games if you can dominate your opponent physically and mentally, if you can make him hesitate, if you can make him not want to mix it up with you. (In the words of famous NHL coach Scotty Bowman, "Be first to the puck, and arrive in an ill humour.")

I don't think they allow it just because the players are padded and unlikely to get badly hurt, altho if players regularly got actual injuries I'm sure they'd stop it. For the record, the protocol is that you drop your gloves, and the object is to punch the other guy in the face, so facial cuts and loose teeth are as bad as it gets 99% of the time. Usually each player ends up with one hand holding the other guy's jersey and the other hand free for punching. Ultimate success is when you can pull his sweater over his head and tie up his arms, then you can really bloody his nose or whatever. As for stopping it, the linesmen wait until there's a moment when they can swoop in without getting punched themselves and without giving one player an advantage over the other -- you don't want to grab a player's arms just to have his opponent clock him in the head -- so when both players end up holding the other guy's sweater, or when they go down on the ice, that's when the linesmen dive in.

But anyway, the fighting serves several purposes, listed here in no particular order: it intimidates; it prevents your opponent from establishing mental dominance; it makes your opponent respect your boundaries when it comes to the physical game; it's used to break up the other team's momentum, to distract them from whatever they're doing to beat you; it sends a message that you're here to battle them at whatever level they want to play at.

As I said, in our league and at our level -- it's rec hockey, and the stakes are microscopic -- actual fighting is pointless, so all we ever end up doing is jaw at each other. But in its place, that can accomplish most of the things listed above. If you get in the face of their guy when he messes with your goalie, he's less likely to do it the next time...

Oh, and PS: we lost tonight, 4-3. I had a goal, but it wasn't enough -- I guess I should have tried fighting somebody...


At Sun Nov 06, 11:39:00 PM PST, Blogger Lisa said...

Hockey.........I love hockey.....

Last night we saw what would have been the start of some great fights later in the game, except that the player in question (Sean Avery, a short guy who is always up in someones face) got a game misconduct, and so we didn't get to see the other player (sorry, can't remember who) follow through on his threat of "I'll f***ing kill you".

Oh, and personally, I like the new OT rules. Saw my first shootout -- Very Exciting!

At Sun Nov 06, 11:53:00 PM PST, Blogger bryan torre said...

several changes this year to increase scoring and make the game more interesting to watch, including:

- smaller goalie pads
- smaller neutral zone (so the puck stays in one zone or the other more)
- two-line pass OK
- automatic icing (no touch-up needed)
- new OT rules
- referees calling the clutch & grab along the boards

i'm happy to have hockey back...

At Mon Nov 07, 07:02:00 AM PST, Blogger unca said...

Hmmm. Seems to me that football (U.S. football) is just as physical if not more so but extracurricular fighting is certainly not allowed in that sport. The whole thing makes me wonder if anybody's tried to change the rules to restrict some kinds of contact that are now legal so that players would be less likely to fight on the side.

At Mon Nov 07, 07:21:00 AM PST, Blogger jay are said...

what is all this fighting? can't we all just get along? :)

At Mon Nov 07, 03:57:00 PM PST, Blogger blogball said...

Thanks for the heads up on the new rules Bryan. I just looked on the web for more details.
I like the 2 line-pass deal. It should open up the game some. I’m not sure about the shoot out thing. (Seem like they are copying soccer).
Anyway it’s good to see it back again. I hope to get to a Kings game this year.
Hockey is one game where it is much better to be at the game than to watch it on TV.

As far as the fighting is concerned if anyone has ever played a little hockey you can identify or understand the frustration that occurs when you are down 2 goals and you try and move the puck five feet along the boards only to have it knocked back six feet by somebody in your face poking you in the ribs with his stick.
Wow, now I feel like punching somebody.

At Mon Nov 07, 06:32:00 PM PST, Blogger unca said...

Blogball and Bryan -
Hey, easy guys.

At Mon Nov 07, 08:32:00 PM PST, Blogger bryan torre said...

point taken on the american football thing, unca. but it does seem like the contact there -- with the exception of Holding -- is somehow more well-defined, and of shorter duration, or something.

hockey feels like the equivalent of one long episode of rushing the QB, with the O-line constantly holding you just long enough to slow you down without drawing a flag, or almost holding you, or secretly holding you, etc.

or maybe i'm just invoking empty arguments in support of a sport that i like the way it is, fighitng and all.

as to the shootout, blogball, i always thought soccer copied hockey on that one. i think hockey has had the shootout for a long time, but it used to be invoked only in the playoffs after X number of OT periods had failed to produce a winner.

At Mon Nov 07, 10:40:00 PM PST, Blogger blogball said...

Bryan, I guess what I was trying to say when I said hockey copied soccer is that the NHL is getting rid of ties (in the regular season) by creating a shootout. That was always the big criticism with soccer so to draw more fans they added the shootout.
I think the shootout is an attempt to attract new fans to make up for the fans they might have lost during the strike year. Plus if I am reading the new rules correctly they are giving the loosing team a point in the standings even if you loose the shootout. So one point goes to the looser and two points goes to the winner of the shootout I guess you could say loosing in overtime now is like kissing your ugly step sister. It’s always been that in a game you win loose or draw now there is this new twist. It just seems to me that they are trying to add unneeded so called excitement to the game. I think the previous OT rules were fine.…….That’s all I was trying to say.

One more thing now that I am on a roll. Why not just keep playing 4 on 4 hockey till someone scores? Even if it take’s them all night. I know hockey demands a lot more energy than baseball but with the other rules that were changed/ added this season I don’t see a game going on for that long before someone scores?

At Mon Nov 07, 11:09:00 PM PST, Blogger bryan torre said...

I'd also rather see 4-on-4 than a shootout, I think. Altho shootouts can yield some pretty cool replays...

The point-to-the-loser thing was already in place before this year, I think. A regulation-time win was 3 pts, a tie was a point apiece, and an OT win was 2-1.

As to kissing your ugly step-sister: both funny and apt. :-)


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