The GM meetings in Naples, Florida has brought a lot of buzz to the hockey world and to some role players in the NHL these past few days. The biggest buzz being Georges Laraque's reaction to the idea that a staged fight would be a 10-minute misconduct and would be up to the referee to decide if it was staged or not.
Now, Laraque calls the idea a joke and says that it'll take fighting out of the game, as well as destroy the careers of many of the one-dimensional players in the league. Laraque also feels slighted that, as a player who's livelihood could be effected by this rule, he wasn't invited to partake in the discussion of it. Obviously, GM who are there in their little section of the media row aren't on the ice, but it is what it is.
Before I go any further, let me preface the following (which I'm sure you'll figure out what it is soon enough) by saying that fighting shouldn't be taken out of the game. It's a part of the game for a reason, it's what sets the NHL and hockey in general apart from the other sports in the lexicon. The emotion in the game is very high and the physicality of the game should be a selling point of the NHL and other leagues.
With that said, the staged fighting and the fights that happen after a clean hit are pure and utter bullshit. The staged fights are the worst of all, especially since most of them have no meaning to them except for being the sideshow act of the game. Laraque is notorious for these, even with A/V proof when he get mic'd up for local TV games. The staged fight takes away any flow from either team, it sometimes turns into a big hug fest, and just puts a bad face on fighting because it has no emotion, especially five minutes into the first period of a 0-0 game. If I want a staged fight, I'll go to YouTube and watch some WWE clips. Plus, if staged fights were a huge draw, how come there weren't that many people to back the Hockey Enforcers Fight Night gimmick from a couple years back??
The fighting after a big hit is a little more manageable, because it does have something to do with passion of the game and the intensity of it, but when did clean hits become a set-up for a fight?? Didn't people used to love hockey because of the big hits?? Now, you can't have a guy like Dion Phaneuf set a guy up without the threat of him being mugged afterwards for it. The perfect example is Tyler Sloan this year laying out Daymond Langkow, then Rene Bourque flying in for no reason, except to retaliate by dropping the mitts. If it was a dirty hit, sure-- I could understand a little better for stepping up for your teammate, but if it's a solid hit and you do that-- to me it signals you think your guy is weak and can't take a hit and be alright with it. As much as fighting is a part of the game, so is a solid, clean body check.
As far as removing one-dimensional hockey players from the game-- here's an idea, get a new dimension. Get into the two dimensions so you can be equal to the paper that your name is written on when the line-ups are exchanged. If you're a giant oaf who can bearly skate and only purpose is to get less than 30 seconds of ice time, maybe this wasn't the game for you. No offense, odds are I wouldn't be able to do the fight load they can-- but at the same time, you may want to have something to fall back on if fighting doesn't turn out to be the thing for you. I think in the NHL today, you can't be a one-dimensional guy and survive in the league for more than two or three years.
It's all well and good that Laraque wants to step up for his brethern in the hockey world, but at the same time; reality needs to kick into his head and realize that maybe it's time for a new career path in terms of what he can and can't do on the ice. With the way the game is being focused on, the idea that fighting will be the selling hook is not going to happen. Maybe pre-lockout it would have been, but now it's about youth, speed, skill, and scoring. Fighting will always play it's part in the game, but it having to do with the game and not for the sake of fighting alone is the only reason it should still be included.