Monday, 18 February 2013

Game Changers - Fearsome Fighters

Drop The Gloves:

This is a question that will be asked all year, and likely for years to come... Can a fight change the course of a game? Can winning or losing one good dust-up change the momentum of a game enough to win or lose it? I submit for your consideration, my take on the issue from last night's Toronto game against the Florida Panthers.

A Slow Start:

This game didn't precisely explode out of the starting gate. It was back and forth for a little but eventually Florida took over, leading 12-6 in shots on goal and definitely outskating the Leafs. Toronto's game suffered like this until Phil Kessel scored at 17:04 of the first period but what's more important is what happened less than three minutes before. That would be this:

Definitely a decisive bout.

After this point, the Toronto game really picked up. We saw bigger hits, better passing, and more determination in the offensive zone to maintain puck control and put pressure on the Florida defence. This increased effort eventually led to Kessel's marker late in the first.

Throwing in the Towel:

Many people are trying to have fighting taken out of the game which I think is simply ridiculous and I believe it's a bad idea for a few reasons.

My primary focus here is on the psychology of the game. If you put 12 men on an ice rink... Tell them that millions of dollars depend on their scoring against the other team, and allow for a decent level of physical contact as 'part of the game' but take away the fighting you have tantamount to a pipe bomb. fights allow for the release of tension and the last major steps to eliminate fighting only brought in more frequent use of dirty hits, headshots and clipping. We began seeing players targeted very specifically and no one to back them up. Players would go after another team's star forwards, their playmakers and even their goaltenders as Toronto fans know extremely well. This trend is going to keep getting worse so long as fighting is pushed from the ice to the history books.

Second, and almost as importantly, I DO believe that a good scrap can change the pace of a game. It's not necessarily so simple as if you beat a player his team will fall apart, however YOUR team can be inspired by your actions especially if they've been sluggish. Watching your teammate take matters into his own hands can spur a player, lacking in energy to step their game up.

The Unchanging:

There is however, one force that will most likely persist in their fight against fighting in the sport... But don't worry folks, odds are that this won't be going away anytime soon...

Proper signage IS key.
Because who doesn't love seeing him get his ass kicked? Precisely. Take that as one extra bonus when it comes to leaving fighting in the game, someone gets to lay his ass out cold every now and then when he shoots his mouth of... That, or we get to watch him dive like an Olympic 10m competitor.

Enjoy your swim folks, and as always, feel free to weigh-in.

Joshua J. Taylor

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