Hockey fights are very good reasons to watch hockey. The sport has gained infamy as the most violent popular sport in North America right now. In addition to violent checking against the boards, players frequently brawl. These are usually one-on-one affairs, however, sometimes the entire team joins in. Sometimes the goalies skate over to center ice and start fighting.

Hockey teams today often have a few players that have mediocre hockey skills compared to the rest of the team, but are good at inciting fights and injuring other players. These enforcers include Tie Domi, Rob Ray, Paul Laus, Donald Brashear and the infamous Marty McSorley. Some of these players' sole purpose is to dish out as much damage as possible, preferably to the other team's best players.

When a hockey fight begins, the two offended players take off their gloves and take off their helmets. They then proceed to pound at each other with their fists, grabbing each other's jerseys to get better punches in. The result of this is ultimately a 5 minute major penalty for fighting, but sometimes they get ejected from the game or suspended for inciting too many fights. Sometimes, other players start to brawl, and the goalies join in. A baseball-style full out brawl is rare, but they are very cool to watch.

Fighting in hockey is an often misunderstood, but necessary, element of the game. Hockey fights serve many diverse purposes in the game.

Many people who do not understand the concept of hockey tend to believe that fighting is a way for a team to take an opponent out of a game, but most often this is not the case.

Fighting in hockey is a bit like an animal urinating on a tree. Just as an animal will pee on a tree to mark its territory to show ownership, hockey players use fights to mark their territory and show ownership of the ice and control of the game. When a team shows that it is prepared to fight, and will win against, anyone who dares to challenge their ownership of an area that team has a strong advantage over the other.

Another purpose of fighting in hockey is for the team to protect their own players. When a team is trying to establish their presence on the ice they try to intimidate the offense (wings and center) of the other team. They do this through forceful checking and roughing the players up in general. It is common for a defenseman to stick up for their wingers and centers in a 'you mess with him, you mess with me' kind of mentality. If the other team 'messes with him' too much a defenseman will drop the gloves and go a round to defend his teammate.

Another purpose is to switch the momentum of the game. When one team is controlling the puck for a significant amount of time sometimes it is good to break that momentum with a fight. It's kind of like when a basketball team is on a hot streak and the other team takes a time out.

And of course another purpose is because it's just plain fun to watch!

Interestingly, some individuals within the league who began their careers interested in cracking down on fighting later decided that letting the gloves drop every once in a while might be a good thing. One example of this change of heart is The Great One himself, Wayne Gretzky, who through much of his career advocated for a tougher line on fighting in the NHL.

Wayne, like many others, changed his tune after observing the effects of fighting crack downs in the NHL and the minors. What happened was this: more people got hurt.

Hunh? But there are fewer fistfights. No one in any other sport is allowed to fight. How could more people be getting hurt?

Consider this: pro athletes in all non-golf sports are bigger, stronger, and more powerful now a days than they have in any previous age. They train more, and they know more about developing strength, stamina, and power than any generation before them. They can pose a pretty serious threat to one another. And sports, being the tense, emotional big money affairs that they are, generate aggression, anger, and frustration.

In any non-hockey sport, the worst thing that you can do with your big, beefy pro-player body is smash it into some other person, either through a punch, a check, or some other contact.

But not hockey.

In hockey, you carry a big freaking stick. One could even call it a club- for what is a club but a big, wooden lever? In hockey, you have blades strapped to your feet. You have a hard rubber puck that you can wing at someone at over 100 M.P.H.

Thus, in hockey, the worst thing you can do is not hit someone with your body, but to come after somebody with a stick, a skate, or the puck. It happens sometimes—often on accident, but not always. Players loose teeth, loose vision, loose blood, and shatter bones when they get hit with equipment. It can get pretty serious; several quite good players have almost been forced into retirement after a close encounter with a puck or stick.

So what The Great One and others have noticed is that when aggressive players don't get their energy out in a fight every few games, they tend to get it out through careless stick work, dirty hits, and even nailing people with the puck. Not a good thing. Much more dangerous than a fist fight, where most injuries occur because someone fell funny, or busted up some knuckles.

And thus the dichotomy; fight in some other game, you'll probably get ejected. In hockey, you get five for fighting and a round of applause from the crowd. Some will argue that the choice between fist fights and dangerous equipment fouls is a false binary—couldn't everyone just elect to be a bit less aggressive?

But that wouldn't be the old time hockey, now would it?

So drop the gloves, pull your opponent's jersey over his head, and get ready for some quality time in the sin bin. Just remember to keep your stick down, and your head up coming across the blue line.

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