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    • I love the game of ice hockey. I think the players are the most underestimated athletes in all of sports. Speed, hand eye coordination, fitness, and determination to mention just a few. But I have to ask myself why hockey remains 4th in all the stick and ball sports in the US.

      Is fighting one of the reasons more people don't appreciate and hence tune in to hockey? As soon as a fight hits the media, many people just think "goons" and write off hockey.

      Recent history shows that the number of goons and fights are down in the NHL (https://www.hockeyfights.com/stats). But it still persists and I think it persists to the detriment of growing new fans. I get it that fights can "motivate" a team and it's a way to get back at a team who takes cheap shots at the opposing team's stud players.

      But is fighting really necessary? A good clean hard hit sends the same message without turning off potential new fans. It may actually grow new fans when people see the action. Think NFL linebacker hits on an unsuspecting QB type of action. That's excitement and within the rules of the game.

      So how could the NHL "fix" fighting. Severe penalties and I mean SEVERE. Something like first fighting penalty in a season, 5 game suspension. Second fighting penalty, 15 game suspension. Third fighting penalty out for the season. I know that there are collective bargaining issues, but those could be addressed at the bargaining table.

      I recognize that some fans really like fighting and that some may actually be lost at the implementation of rules like the above. But I think they would more than make up for that loss with new fans and better press.

      And is fighting what we want our kids to see as a means to solve a problem? Whenever I see video of 8 year olds fighting on the rink I shudder.

      With disincentives like the above, would teams invest in goons or just go for talent?

    • I confess, I'm one of those guys who thinks of hockey as goons missing teeth who fight a lot. It feels like the NBA does a much better job at having no tolerance for fights, but then I guess some players try to fool the refs and draw fouls, which I also hate.

      But honestly, does anyone really know why some sports catch on in some nations and not in others? I kinda think it's a miracle that hockey is doing so well in the U.S., considering how poorly soccer is doing, given that it's the world's most popular sport. And American football seems to be a complete non-starter everywhere but maybe Canada, no? Rugby? Cricket?

      It feels like hockey is mainly popular in frozen countries and the U.S. (half frozen).

    • I hear you. But I do think your experience may be driven by the media and pics like the ones SI posted. From my perspective, I stopped being a fan of the other 3 "big" stick and ball sports because of the players themselves. I liked the games, but I didn't like lots of the people playing them.

      When I think of American football, I think of multiple felons and sometimes murderers. People who make big money and take little responsibility for their actions. Like a player knocking out his girlfriend in an elevator and lying about what happened.

      When I think of basketball, I think of a player choking a coach, a player saying he isn't being paid to be a role model.

      When I think of baseball players, I think of way overpaid and often, the least athletic of the big 4 stick and ball sports.

      But when I think of hockey, I do think of the fights, but more, I see players who give their all 100% of the time, play hurt, bleed and continue to play regardless. When the game is over they have left it all on the ice every time.

      I don't think of crimes that the players have been involved in or other similar drama. The one time I recall a hockey player being arrested was Slava Voynov who hit is girlfriend, took her to the hospital, publically repented and was summarily thrown out of the NHL.

      As to why soccer and rugby don't make it in the US, I do not know. I think rugby is a tough sport and they wear little to no protective gear. Seems that would be attractive in the US, but maybe it's too similar to American football and there's already a tradition here for it. Trying to gain new fans over existing NFL games, tough one.

      Soccer, I can only suggest that there is too little scoring, the games can be fairly long and the fans don't know when the game will actually end even though there's a game clock. The players are extremely fit, but they are not known for being rugged. It seems that with the slightest contact, a player rolls in anguish on the ground, stops play and then is often ready to go 5 minutes later with no seeming injury. In the US it seems that we need stimulation now and waiting 90 minutes and perhaps not seeing a single score leaves us wanting more.

    • Yeah, soccer is such a mystery to me in so many ways. It's the world's most popular game, fans are incredibly devoted, it's one of the most popular youth sports in America, our women's world cup team is immensely popular, and yet...

      Some people I know in the sports entertainment bus say it's the money: you can't monetize soccer because no commercials. So the teams and networks are starved of promotional dollars. In order to make it a commercial success in the U.S. on the order of football, basketball and baseball, you have to provide timeouts.

      Back to your original topic, Hockey, you got me watching highlights and damn, what an incredibly fast game!

    • You make some interesting point s that I never thought about and now I get it. Monetization does seem to be the key and without commercials, no big tv money. I wonder if they implemented a version of soccer that used say 15 minute periods in stead of 45 minute halves if they could cram commercials in during the breaks between periods? Perhaps throw some in, when there's a stoppage of play like when the ball goes out of bounds? They do that in hockey. If there's a stoppage because of a penalty of the puck goes out, boom, commercials.

      I hadn't thought about the money aspect and that makes sense to me.

      Glad to hear that you checked out hockey! 😀

    • so I have several friend who have played hockey at various levels and one friend who's in the NHL as an executive.

      I ask this question about fighting sometimes since as a non hockey player I have trouble wrapping my head around what punching another athlete has to do with hockey... one common answer is that they all believe it allows bad actors to be dealt with in a way where 2 - 5 minute penalties may not be sufficient. Each team has an "enforcer" or two who's job is sometimes to right a wrong.

      Te NFL and NBA seem to do just fine without enforcers but from those who have played at high levels of hockey they think it helps protect players. Fighting off ice = assault? Fighting on the ice... five minutes in the box.

    • I hear you. Those "enforcers" have been a part of the game since forever. And I take the point that enforcers might be able to right a wrong in the mind of their teammates.

      But I still think that righting a wrong can be done on the ice within the rules. It takes skill but it certainly can be done. Open ice hits that follow the game's rules inflict just as much pain/learning as a fist fight. I could argue that it does a better job of punishing an offender because just fighting someone is about ability to fight and nothing else. A good open ice hit, says "I just kicked your a$$ using my hockey talent". Your goon tactics stink at making points and game wins. The goon just looks less talented.

      When a big guy hits the ice from a hit from a smaller guy, the message is indeed sent and the fans see that the smaller guy has more talent. Frankly, IMO teams hiring goons are just wasting roster space. Goons are often one dimensional and good teams need players that can contribute to points and wins.

      IDK, if the league thinks 2 - 5 minutes are not sufficient, then they should up the penalty along the lines I suggested above. That would surely be enough. My $.02 is that the league likes the fighting, it's a show of macho-ness that they think the fans like and some fans really do. But I'd be willing to wager they could substantially grow the sport to non-current fans at the risk of alienating a few old fans.

      I'm no expert, and a league exec obviously knows more about the league than me. But I hope they really take a look at whether fighting really helps the game.