Brawl of Confusion

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The Serenity Prayer says:  Grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, Courage to change the things I can, And wisdom to know the difference.  Yet when it comes to fighting in hockey I am still trying to find that wisdom because I clearly do not understand its complete purpose in the game.

For years I’ve been told by supporters of fighting in the game that you need to be able to beat the snot out of someone in order to keep them honest and make them accountable for their actions on the ice.  Furthermore, I have heard that the instigator rule has made sticking up for your teammates a lot more difficult.

Now, if I have it straight one must have the ability to stand up for oneself or a teammate by engaging in fisticuffs with opposing players.

So, it is no surprise that I was left scratching my head when the Rangers and Devils kicked off their game Monday night with 3 simultaneous fights.  Just what was the purpose of that?  Was it entertainment or just stupid?

I rarely turn away in disgust during a hockey fight.  To be honest, I never really have.  In fact, the only thing I ever I looked away from was one of the early Ultimate Fighting VHS tapes I rented back in the early 90’s, as it was about as gratuitous as violence could get.

Hockey fights though, never seemed that gratuitous because of what I’d been sold for years:

–  Hockey fights breed accountability
–  Hockey fights do not result in anyone getting hurt
–  Hockey fights happen because of the passion in the game
–  Hockey fights are necessary so players have a way to vent frustration

And for years, I bought it…much the same way my parents smoked for most of my childhood without ever giving a second thought to the effects of second-hand smoke.  How were they supposed to know?  It was never drilled into them.

But when I saw 3 scraps of the opening faceoff between the Rangers and Devils on Monday (the 2nd time there have been multiple fights off the start of a game between these two teams), I tried to understand which of the above criteria were met.

Was anyone made accountable for anything?  Was anyone seeking retribution for a teammate?  Was this just a result of a passionate outburst after a big hit?  The only thing I am sure of is what these fights were not about because I am still trying to figure out why they did happen.

Actually, no I am not.  Division rivals decided that after a game earlier this season, it was necessary to get some scrappers out there to send a message and that message was:  We can match you punch for punch and maybe even beat you in fisticuffs.  But when the game was on the line, with just one goal separating the two teams, only 1 or 2 of the combatants might have been on the ice because only two of them actually played more than 7 minutes in the game.

One of those pugilists was Mike Rupp.  Remember back to the last installment of HBO’s 24/7, Rupp was caught on tape telling Jody Shelley he was irrelevant in the game and should not even be on the ice?  Well it turns out Rupp is averaging about 1 more minute of ice time than Shelley.  And, last night at least, other than that fight off the top, Rupp was kind of irrelevant.

Oh, I tell you…the fight game within the hockey world sure is confusing….so I ask….

Grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, Courage to change the things I can, And wisdom to know the difference.


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