Sunday, March 25, 2007

Brett Hull's #1 Fan

I've pretty much stayed away from the whole argument that has surfaced on the heels of Colin Campbell's declaration that the role of fighting should be investigated. Frankly I don't consider myself much of an expert on this particular area and I doubt I could add anything to the discussion that hasn't already been said by people smarter than me. I haven't even read The Code (although it's on my nightstand waiting to be read).

I did, however, happen to tune into ESPN earlier today - right as someone who I had never seen before started talking about fighting and its place in hockey. He sounded very intelligent and pretended to know what he was talking about, but I found myself shaking my head as I listened to him prattle on and on. Among other things he compared Carmelo Anthony's sucker "punch" and the suspension that followed to NHL fights and claimed there was a double standard. He then called fighting in hockey "WWF tactics" and said that keeping it in to increase viewership wasn't working since nobody was watching.

Sorry to burst your bubble, Mr. ESPN commentator, but it's not just a hockey thing. If you put NBA players on skates, gave them sticks, and allowed more contact then just the odd chest may see fighting in basketball. The fact is that hockey is a game where you have 200+ pound men running into each other at high speed. Hitting is part of the game and a good clean check is encouraged - you take that out of the game, you might as well watch curling. When you have that much adrenaline, that much speed, and that much strength, its not surprising that occasionally blows are exchanged.

And to say that the NHL allows fighting simply to increase viewership is completely ridiculous and shows a lack of understanding of both the history and the nuance of the sport. Of course it was ESPN, so why am I surprised?

Anyways, here's where me becoming Brett Hull's #1 fan comes into play. I'll be honest, for all his ability he's never been a player I enjoyed watching, on or off the ice. In fact, I found him downright obnoxious. But since he's become a commentator on NBC I've actually started to enjoy listening to him. He's surprisingly well-spoken, very matter of fact, and often right on target.

So naturally the issue of fighting came up in today's NHL on NBC broadcast (also known as the I Heart Sidney Crosby Show, but that's a different topic for another day) and Hull did a little editorial piece on it. Basically he blasted the media for jumping on the bandwagon, for being so hypocritical as to only cover hockey when fighting is the issue while ignoring everything else about the game.

He said what most real hockey fans have said - it's not the fighting but the cheap shots, sucker punches, and head shots that need to be eliminated. Both he and Ray Ferraro both went on to say the Campbell statement couldn't have come at a worse time, that what the media should be focused on is the fact that 6 teams are currently battling for 2 playoff spots - that's the game, that's hockey.

I honestly couldn't have said it better myself...and I've taken considerably fewer blows to the head.

The fact is that if the American media didn't show every fight - in fact if they didn't show any fights - the US perspective of the game would change dramatically. Show the great hits, fine. Show the amazing saves, fine. Show Crosby's latest goal for all I care, fine. If you watch hockey enough you know that while fighting is a part of the game, it's only a small part. We understand why it is there but it is not why we watch. Show the rest of the country what we already the speed, the grace, the skill of a game played entirely on ice.

Of course, I'd be happy if Comcast would just show the freakin' faceoff every now and then. I'm such a dreamer.


Biff said...

"The fact is that if the American media didn't show every fight - in fact if they didn't show any fights - the US perspective of the game would change dramatically."

Likewise, if the NHL didn't have fights, the mainstream media couldn't show them, thus solving your problem.

CapsChick said...

That's true too, but I really don't think fighting should be banned - just because US producers are too stupid or too ignorant to find anything else in a 60+ minute game to show doesn't mean it should disappear.

For one thing, I don't know that it's possible - it's too ingrained in the game. For another, I think at times fighting can serve a purpose. I don't consider it barbaric and provided that it's not some sort of set-up fight, I think it's generally not a bad part of the game.

Think of this - people pay big money to watch two boxers beat each others brains in for hours at a time. Why is that okay but fighting in hockey, something that has been happening since the inception of the sport, is not?

Caps Nut said...

Look up Kermit Washington.

When the NBA was on the same plane as the NHL in the 1970's. It was for the same reason.

CapsChick said...

I think JP said it best when he called fighting the "abortion rights issue" of the NHL - no one agrees and the majority of people fall in the middle.

On that note, here's an interesting discussion of NBA vs. NHL (granted, it's based on the modern NBA, not the seemingly more violent NBA of the 1970s, but I think it's still an interesting viewpoint):

Caps Nut said...

Interesting post. Strip away the usual evasions and red herrings and his entire argument boils down to, "it's "ok" to fight in the NHL because the rules allow it. It is "not ok" to fight in the NBA/NFL/MLB because the rules do not allow it."

That's like saying, "so what I killed a guy? It isn't against the law!"

I can't speak for Canada but the NHL gets a "pass" for its gratitious violence not because it is "white" but because it considered "business as usual" which allows the "unbiased" media to ignore the league except when things get really out of hand.

Furthermore, the NHL has had its share of DUIs and vehicular manslaughter and lets not talk about the pseudoephedrine issues they have.