Shut up, you can’t ban fighting

Jay Beagle (left): 6-3, 215 pounds. Arron Asham (right): 5-10, 205.

Jay Beagle of the Washington Capitals got his butt kicked in fight last night against Pittsburgh’s Arron Asham. Now people are speaking up louder than ever that the NHL should eliminate fighting.

Help yourself to a few of these. Everybody calm down. The NHL doesn’t need to ban fights.

Let’s review. Beagle starts the incident by knocking off the helmet of defenseman Kris Letang, who had 50 points last season. Asham, known for toughness but necessarily dirty play, makes his way over to say, “Don’t do that,” when Beagle initiates the fight.

Here’s Asham’s quote: “The thing is, I didn’t go up and ask him to fight. I told him to settle down [after Beagle punched Pittsburgh’s Kris Letang in the head]. He challenged me. He wanted to fight me.”

Asham has the experience on Beagle, but Beagle has two inches and a visor. No one would pick a fight with a guy wearing a visor. If he even does a halfway decent job of putting his hands up, his doesn’t get clocked. It’s not cool to see his body fold and go to the ice like that, but at some point you have to assign the fighter some of the blame for not defending himself. It’s not cool when guys get hurt from checks either, but that doesn’t mean something was wrong with the hit.

Look closer at the fight. I don’t know much about scoring boxing, but it looked like Beagle would have been ahead on punches landed. He just left his face wide open and got knocked out when he took some straight shots to the chin. Count the punches. I have seven thrown by Beagle and two thrown by Asham; he just made his count.

The only legitimate gripe against Asham is his little celebration after. I’m with you that you don’t taunt an injured opponent. But you can’t expect someone to just drop his emotions the second he wins a fight.

Have you ever been in a fight? Everything else leaves your mind and all you think about is pounding that punk. You’re pumped up. You have to go a little crazy. Anything less and you’re liable to get the hurt brought on you.

When a boxer wins a match, he jumps up and down and a lot of the time he’s still psycho in his post-match interview. You just won a fight! Nothing pumps you up more than that, especially when the guy brings the fight to you and you lay him down in two punches. You’ve got the adrenaline and the macho juice flowing.

If Asham shows a little emotion after, I’m okay with that. Rob Ray used to do it all the time. Players in the NFL celebrate a first down like it’s two seconds until the New Year and big hits are even crazier. How many times have you seen Ray Lewis flex and do his knee kick while the opponent lays on the turf?

TSN’s Bob McKenzie has the right idea at the end of this segment: “…you can’t expect them, a millisecond afterword, to flip the switch off and not have the adrenaline going.”

Asham apologized afterword, which is all he can really do.

He’s sorry for the celebration, not for the K.O. That’s part of the game; has been forever. The role of the enforcer is diminished in the post-lockout NHL, but the idea is the same: be there to protect the skill guys.

Hockey is a team game, but one guy can do a whole bunch of scoring. A good way to stop him to injure him. Take a run at him. Hit him late or from behind or into the glass. It happens at every level.

Hockey players look out for each other. If you line up a superstar and drill him shoulder-to-chest, it’s understood that that’s part of the game. It still probably won’t go over well, but everyone knows you did it the right way. Enforcers are there to police anyone who thinks it might be a good idea to take a run at a star and land a dirty hit on him.

The players want to be the ones taking care of things, not the league. Getting your bell rung and waking up with a black eye is going to teach you not to take a run at someone a lot more than sitting out the next game will.

I’m not even sure you can really ban fighting. How do you plan on doing that? There are still going to be fights, just like there are at every level, the penalty will just be stiffer. There’s “no fighting” in college hockey, but people still fight. They just get tossed out of the game. Granted, it’s not as frequent, but the NCAA and ACHA also mandate players wear cages. When faces are exposed (NHL, AHL, ECHL, nearly all junior leagues), fists will fly.

Remember the line brawl game against Ottawa in 2007 after Chris Neal went in high and late on Chris Drury? Nobody had a problem with the Sabres taking care of business there. Even a game misconduct penalty would be worth it for Andrew Peters in that situation. You are sticking up for your teammates, your brothers. You have to respond. A lot of fighting is for pride; losing game time for it would only make you a martyr.

If you’re really having a softening of heart and want to eliminate fighting, start in the juniors. We’re past the Dean Youngblood/Racki stage, but a lot of junior leagues have a bad rap for being too much about the enforcers. If you play juniors, it’s almost expected that you’ll need to fight. So start with it there and see if it cleans up the game.

The object of hockey is still to score more goals than the other team, and fighting is just one part of the game within the game. Pitchers will continue to even the score by throwing a hitters, NASCAR drivers and going to bump each other and football teams are going to draws plays designed to go right at specific players.

Hockey has fighting and that’s the way it is. If you still want to “eliminate” the fighting, you need to do more thinking about a league without it.