by Navin Vaswani Thursday February 5, 2009

As a larger than life hockey fan, I've managed to somehow keep a low profile when it comes to the debate over fighting and its place in Canada's game.


After co-producing tonight's program with my esteemed colleague Stavros Rougas, I feel like there's no time like the present to come out of the proverbial closet.


I admit it. I enjoy watching fighting in hockey. Now, wait a second, hear me out. It's not because I lust for blood, or enjoy watching violence. Not at all. I truly believe it has a place within the game.


That being said, the death of Don Sanderson has really made me think long and hard about fighting, and whether the time might really have come where it needs to be abolished. My heart goes out to the Sanderson family. Needless to say, I feel more torn about the issue than I ever have before.


I've always found hockey fights entertaining. I've been to dozens and dozens of hockey games, and when two guys drop the gloves, you'd be hard pressed to find anyone sitting in their seat. It's exciting. I mean, there's a reason why Mixed Martial Arts is one of the fastest rising sports in terms of popularity.


I do, however, believe that there are two types of fights. Good fights and bad fights, if that makes any sense. I really don't have time for the goons of the NHL, who play three or four minutes a game, but rack up fighting majors like nobody's business. If a player can't be trusted to step on the ice after the first period, he doesn't deserve to be on the team.


The type of fight that does belong in hockey, in my opinion, is when a guy like Jarome Iginla drops the gloves. Iginla is one of the most skilled players in the game, but he never backs down from a physical challenge. And hockey is a physical game.


This debate makes me think back to 1993, when the Toronto Maple Leafs and Los Angeles Kings squared off in the Western Conference final. Kings defenceman Marty McSorely nailed Doug Gilmour, the heart and soul, and best player, of the Toronto Maple Leafs. Gilmour was crumpled on the ice, and Wendel Clark, another of the Leafs' great offensive players, stepped up and challenged McSorely to a fight.


As ridiculous as many people think it is, there truly does exist a "code" in hockey. If you go after another team's player, you will have to pay the price for your actions. Wendel stepped up, and McSorely accepted his challenge. Two consenting adults agreed to drop their gloves and fight. In the end, for me, that's what it comes down to.


Hockey is a physical game. The toughest sport to play, in my opinion. There's a reason why guy like Tie Domi and Darcy Tucker were loved here in Toronto. Canadians are known to play the game hard. And to play tough. And they are, like it or not, known to fight.


While I am torn on the issue, in the end, I'm still leaning towards fighting being allowed to remain a part of the game. To remove it would alter hockey as we know it.


What are your thoughts on the issue? I'd love to know. Please share, and I hope you enjoyed the show.