The National Hockey League will never exist without fighting.
Tuesday night opened up the NHL 2013-14 season with two matchups of Canadian teams. Already, the detractors of fighting in hockey have ammunition.
In the first game of the night, between the Toronto Maple Leafs and the Montreal Canadiens, there were five fights through three periods of hockey.
As usual, the fans loved it. The home crowd cheered for their big boys as they skated towards the penalty box after the punches stopped.
The second time Montreal’s George Parros and Toronto’s Colton Orr fought, the melee ended in silence from the crowd.
After exchanging a few scattered blows, Orr lost his balance. He was holding onto Parros’ jersey as he fell backwards. Parros swung his right hand forwards and fell overtop of Orr, landing face-first on the ice.
Players like Parros don’t wear visors, nothing was there to break his fall.
Orr quickly got up and signalled for the Canadiens medical staff.
Parros was still until trainers got close. Then he tried to get up, concussion and all.
Parros is out indefinitely.
With three games on opening night of the NHL, it’s too bad that the biggest story is about the sport’s violence and its effects.
NHL enforcers are an anomaly. No other sport has a position focused only on intimidation and retribution.
The deaths of three enforcers drew deserved attention to the suffering that hockey’s tough guys experience. But that attention faded over the course of last year’s shortened season.
Fighting does not enhance the game, from a skill perspective. It is a measure of checks and balances, a way to make sure the game doesn’t get out of control. For every big, tough guy in the NHL, there’s a little speedster who got there by scoring. The very nature of the game is uneven.
That’s why enforcers are there. Fighting is not essential to the sport; it’s essential because of the nature sport.
Fighting wasn’t implemented in the past decade. It has been there long enough to be embedded in the fabric of the game, like hitting.
Hockey is a violent sport. It’s a full-contact game where players wear blades on their feet and carry a piece of lumber. When two players agree to drop the gloves, remove each other’s helmets and exchange punches, anything is possible.
Parros wasn’t injured by a fist, stick or puck. It was the ice that hurt George Parros.
And just like fighting, you won’t ever see the NHL without ice.
All Times-Herald editorials are written by the editorial staff.