"What a tilt!" Some of the first words heard exclaimed across the broadcast from the commentator’s mouths after Miles Wood (New Jersey Devils forward), and Jaimie Benn (Dallas Stars captain) came crashing to the ice after an old school hockey fight, and rightfully so. These two gladiators squared up off a draw, and put on a scrappy, haymaker filled headliner of a fight that saw no injuries, no lawsuits and not a single ass in any seat in the building. In a sports world where fighting is under constant scrutiny, and is almost all but gone from the game of hockey as we know it, the fight came at the perfect moment of the game. It provided the perfect jolt of energy the building, players, and fans watching in attendance, and at home all needed. Finally, the fight showed exactly why fighting still belongs in the good ol' hockey game.
All sports come with a level of risk to your body while participating in them. Hockey arguably comes with one of the highest risks. The high speeds, caused by racing around on such a smooth surface, being carried around by what's essentially razor sharp knives attached to the bottom of your shoes. The collisions those high speeds cause when body meets body in the centre of the ice; even the aftermath of bodies flying uncontrollably after impact. Yet, one of the NHLs majors concerns and focuses over recent years seems to be whether or not there is a place for fighting in the game today.
We've seen major changes to the rules to increase player safety while fighting, (most notably not being able to take off your helmet to fight) and the statistics have been showing a downgrade in how often we see a fight per game. But last night should still prove to everyone that a hockey fight is not some barbaric act started for the sole purpose of beating the life out of the other guy.
This particular fight showed us what a captain is willing to do to provide a spark for his team when all other options aren't working in the game. It showed us that two willing combatants can stand toe to toe, throwing clean punches, connecting with solid contact, and walk away fired up. It showed every eye and ear glued to the game that there was something to rise up out of their seat for and support what the two athletes. And that’s exactly what the fans did on a Tuesday night in New Jersey.
Now, the two fighters who answered the bell weren't goons. They weren't even deemed just regular players amongst their own respective organizations. Instead, both were key players on the ice at the moment; Especially Jaimie Benn, who appeared to have started the verbal exchange leading to fight. Benn has been the heart and soul of the Dallas Stars, consistently being considered an elite player in the league. He's proven he can do it on the scoreboard, and he definitely isn't afraid of doing it with his fists. Understanding the risk of potential injury and what his absence may mean to his team, Benn still throws himself into the fire that is a hockey brawl for the sole purpose of providing a spark to energize the people in the building.
And that’s exactly what it did. The crowd was in a frenzy the whole duration of the fight. The ovation afterwards lasted longer than a 2018 Leafs powerplay, and fans around the league took notice. Now, I’m not here to tell you that fighting is the safest thing in the world. But in a planned setting such as this one was, is there anything wrong with two grown adults in agreement to throw a fist or two to get the people going?