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Five for Fighting: An in-depth analysis of fighting in the NHL — Part IV

We've explored all the facets of how fighting impacts players and teams in the NHL; now it's time to tie it all together.

Jean-Yves Ahern-USA TODAY Sports

In this series of articles, we've examined the many different ways in which fighting impacts the NHL: on a physical level for individual players; the actual effect it has on a team's puck possession stats, and how it inevitably can hamper a team's overall record.

The overall theme has been that fighting in the NHL has little to no positive impact in any way, outside of possible fan excitement. Now I, like many other fans around the league, find the spontaneous show of fisticuffs to be an exciting event in hockey. However, once you delve into the damage it can do for a player's well-being, it sours you on it overall.

Naturally, removing fighting from the sport of hockey won't come without some heavy resistance from both players and members of the media. In an older interview current Arizona Coyotes enforcer John Scott said:

"There are not many concussions if you watch fighting. I think it's the easiest target that people go after. 'Get fighting out of the game and it'll solve everything.'"

There are a few issues with this quote due to the fact that, a) there's a 25% chance for a concussion in every fight, and b) no one has ever said removing fighting will solve everything. Naturally there are also prominent members of the media who are set in their old-school ways. Don Cherry once infamously called Jim Thomson and two other former NHL enforcers "turncoats," "hypocrites," and "pukes" because they wanted to see fighting eliminated from the sport. Not exactly what one would call a progressive mindset in the modern NHL.

John Scott celebrates after fight
Photo credit: Rick Stewart/Getty Images

There are however, numerous general managers and former executives who want the fighting sideshow eliminated entirely. Current Tampa Bay GM Steve Yzerman is among those leading that charge, and, in an interview with Darren Dreger, he made his feelings very clear.

"I believe a player should get a game misconduct for fighting. We penalize and suspend players for making contact with the head while checking in an effort to reduce head injuries, yet we still allow fighting."

Yzerman makes a very strong point with that quote. The NHL has cracked down on hits to the head in the past few years, yet will allow two players to willingly suffer brain damage with only a five minute stint in the penalty box as punishment for it.

The NHL is at a crossroads right now, they want to reduce the amount of head injuries in their sport, but they currently refuse to eliminate a major contributor to said issue. Gary Bettman has said recently that there is no link between concussions and chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE), and it's this sort of mindset that will keep the NHL from making necessary advancements in player safety. We've seen how negatively fighting affects players and the detrimental effects fighters can have on their teams' overall performance. What else is needed to prove that fighting isn't needed in this sport anymore?

When all is said and done, fighting in hockey can be seen as a pyrrhic victory; you may win the fight, but at what cost?

Part III: The Impact on Record Part IV: Conclusion