By: Jordan Cope, Assistant Sports Editor
The National Hockey League is perhaps the most unique of the four major professional sports in the United States.
Played by men from across the world of different shapes, sizes and ages on a sheet of ice with blades on their feet brings a level of excitement that no other sport can match.
Aside from the obvious, however, the NHL possesses a characteristic that no other major sport does: Fighting.
If players drop the gloves and are willing to serve a five-minute major after their scuffle, they can re-enter the game.
Many old school hockey types think that fighting should be kept in the game, while others think that it should be ousted.
While the argument for banning fighting from the sport raises valid points, this unique characteristic is something that should ultimately be kept in the game.
Many times when players drop the mitts, it is an attempt to try to turn the momentum of the game in their team’s favor.
On March 23, 2012, the Winnipeg Jets trailed the Washington Capitals 3-1 approaching the midway point of the second period.
After an ensuing faceoff, former Jets center Jim Slater and Capitals center Brooks Laich dropped the gloves.
Slater clearly came out the victor over Laich in the scrap, and Winnipeg went on to score two unanswered goals in a 4-3 come from behind win over Washington.
Along with swinging the momentum of a game, fighting in hockey is a way for players to defend their teammates.
Capitals fans will never forget the moment former Penguins winger Arron Asham instigated Jay Beagle into fighting.
Beagle (not known for fighting) was clearly outmatched by Asham (an enforcer in the league) when he was knocked out in a fight at Pittsburgh’s Consol Energy Center in October 2011.
After the fight, as Beagle lay on the ice unconscious, Asham made a “good night” gesture as he proceeded to the penalty box.
The next time the Capitals and Penguins squared off, former Capitals defender John Erskine (another known enforcer in the league) and Asham went toe to toe not long after the puck drop.
Erskine defeated Asham in the scrap, and there was no funny business in the next meeting between the bitter rivals.
Clearly, fighting in hockey is more than just a barbaric and senseless street fight.
By dropping the mitts, players can swing the momentum of the game into their team’s favor and defend their teammates from dirty plays that occur on the ice.
Although critics of fighting in the NHL say that it is a bad influence on young fans and gives the game a bad reputation, this unique characteristic still has a place on the ice.
While fighting will likely remain on the ice this season, it will be interesting to see what the league does with fighting in the future.