Maybe it’s because the NHL is involved in a strike-shortened season. Maybe it’s because there’s a push to end fighting in hockey.
Regardless of the reason, SI.com reported that there is a worrisome trend in hockey fighting. Players are not fighting fair — or following the unwritten code of rules in these battles.
An entire unwritten “code of honor” has grown around fighting. You can even buy a book about it. There are rules of engagement the participants follow: an invitation to go often precedes fisticuffs; you fight within your weight class; you only take on players who have the same role on their team as you do on yours (tough guys fight tough guys, scorers fight scorers, goalies fight goalies); you fight fair and always remember that captains are untouchable. Fighters are only supposed to fight fighters, unless a non-fighter needs to be taught a lesson.
But the code was put to the test last week during an incident between the Flyers and the Lightning.
Early in the game, the Flyers’ Zach Rinaldo took on the Lightning’s B.J. Crombeen and, while Rinaldo gave away 40 pounds to Crombeen, he outpunched him. But as Crombeen was crumbling to the ice, Rinaldo kept hitting him.
Debate raged throughout the sport. Some condemned Rinaldo, saying he seriously broke The Code by hitting a man when he was down and there’s no honor in that. Some excused him, saying that those who fight for a living can’t allow an opponent an opening to get back in the brawl, adding that enforcers can work themselves up into such a frenzy that they don’t even know when they should stop punching, and until you’ve been in that situation, you have no right to pass judgment.
It subsequently came to light that Rinaldo might have been avenging Crombeen’s going after Flyers captain Claude Giroux in a game last month, something Rinaldo denied. And then later in Tuesday’s game, after the Rinaldo-Crombeen fight, Lightning captain Vinny Lecavalier fought with the Flyers’ Max Talbot and kept hitting Talbot when he was prone on the ice.
– Bill Bradley, contributing editor