Wednesday, 18 April 2012

Take Back Our Game

If you are a hockey fan you can’t open up a newspaper or sports website without being subjected to the numerous acts of violence in the first round of this year’s playoffs.   I’ve seen too many online comments and tweets from fans who say they are turning off the TV, and being turned off the sport.  Instead of giving up, we need to take back our game.

We need to get organized and implement a systemic approach to letting the NHL and NHLPA know how we feel, and become just as vocal as the Don Cherry fans and pro-fighting crowd.  This blog lays out a strategy and some ideas that I hope fans will read, help improve through feedback and then contribute to raising awareness that the league and the players must clean up hockey.

Stay In Touch

I want to encourage fans to follow this blog to stay on top of recent posts, share their comments or communicate support for any collective actions taken.   Choose one of the options below that you are most comfortable with:
  • Email – Simply fill out the Follow By Email box on the right hand menu.  Email addresses are not used or shared with any organization.  If you are not comfortable with this option (and many are not) then choose one of the other options below.
  • RSS Feed – Select the Subscribe Now: Feed Icon in the right hand menu, and choose your news reader.
  • Twitter – I announce all new posts on Twitter, and try to send out updates to followers on news and articles that I think help spread the message that the game must change.  You can follow my account: @NoFightinginNHL.
  • Facebook – Updates on blog posts and feeds from Twitter automatically end up on

Comment on Media Sites

Anytime you come across a story about fighting or violence, take the time to leave a comment.  Too often the comments sections of these media sites are dominated by those who enjoy a punch to the face or a blind side hit, drowning out those who want to see a cleaner, more exciting game.  Make your voice heard by adding a comment whenever you can.

If you have the time to contribute more to this cause then think about using news alerts.  You can set up alerts in Google very easily that will send a daily email on any news article that contains “hockey fight” or “NHL fighting”.  You can then review the stories by following the URL in the email and comment on those where appropriate.  Set up your own search words and expand the number of places where we can spread awareness about cleaning up the game.


If you have a Twitter account, be active in supporting any fan that also wants to see the game cleaned up.  Retweet articles that call for action, links to any positive announcement about NHL changes or from those with good ideas on what should be done.  Promote the idea that hockey fans need to raise their voices and make the NHL hear what we have to say. 

You can also set up and save searches on Twitter as well.  This will alert you to any tweets with your keywords and you can reply directly to the individual.  Don’t bother engaging the pro-fighting fan.  You are not going to change their minds and there is no need to attack someone for their opinions on the game.  Stay focused on positive change for the sport of hockey.

Don’t forget to forward tweets to NHL (@NHL) and NHLPA (@NHLPA) that you think they should see.  It can be articles supporting our position or, as I have done, outrageous tweets from pro-fighting fans that should embarrass the league and players.  I'm sure they've blocked me, but I keep sending them.

Send Emails to NHL and NHLPA

Let the league and the players association know how you feel about the current level of violence in the game.  Keep it relevant and professional but most of all send a note every time there is an incident that you feel should be addressed.  One letter can be ignored but thousands sent after each illegal hit or disgraceful fight will make a difference.  Both the NHL and NHLPA have online email submission forms, and they can be found here:

Get Active on

Any fan can create an account on and participate in the fan message boards.  Once you create an account you can actually visit any NHL team site and, with some restrictions, post comments where appropriate.  Some sites require you to set up a profile on that team site and you may have to participate for a short period before you can start a thread.  I have done some limited posts on a few sites (Toronto, Detroit, Colorado) and have been in the minority with my opinions.  Sticks and stones.

Once you are on a team’s fan message board, you can search for any posts or comments on fighting or illegal hits, and then post your opinion.  Again stay positive and let other fans know that the league has to change. 

“Do’s and “Don’ts

Do – be positive and professional when you post comments.  Profanity and insults will weaken any argument and are not needed to make a point.   State facts, cite important references and suggest positive ideas for change.

Don’t – try to convert the pro-fighting fan and don’t post comments on the various hockey fight websites or forums.   They are not likely to change their view and we don’t need fans fighting with each other.  We need the NHL to listen to our message that hockey has to change for the better.

Do – use the material contained in this blog, or from other media articles, to make your points.  I have tried to take the position of discounting the myths associated with the fighting culture.  Use the studies and stats to show that fighting does not change momentum, does not police the game and certainly does not lead to success by teams who employ enforcers.  Post links back to this site or to media sites with relevant information and educate more fans about what must happen.

Don’t – get discouraged.  The NHL and NHLPA are not progressive organizations and their members have grown up and played in a culture of enforcers and policing themselves on the ice.  It will take time to make a difference.

Do – leave comments on this post about what activity you have undertaken.  Provide feedback to the group and suggest other ideas for raising awareness.  Share your experience with everyone and draw inspiration from others.

Let’s Take Back Our Game….


  1. Do you know what I do when I see something I don't like? I WATCH SOMETHING ELSE. I don't complain, bitch, moan and create ridiculous website about it. Can you get that through your head?

    Oh yeah, the ratings are up and more non-hockey people than ever are now interested in these playoffs - and it's not because they want to see Euro-style hockey where the players and fans are all wearing skirts.

    - Lifelong player and fan.

  2. Thank you for visiting the site and complaining and moaning about something you don't like. I appreciate it. I am also a lifelong player and fan, and I believe that the game is being ruined by violence. So I'm not watching something else, I am adding my voice to others that want to see change. If you have read the comments on the numerous articles on this year's playoffs you would see that many fans don't think that fighting, illegal hits and cheap shots belong in the sport. Besides, I think I might look good in a skirt.

  3. The impression I get from a lot of the posters that like to call us sissies and tell us to watch ballet is that they fall into one of two categories: 1. goons themselves who know no other way to approach life or sport. and 2. scrawny pencil neck, fish belly, voyeuristic cowards who've never had a fist or foot laid on them in anger and have no idea how it feels but thinks it makes them manly to watch.

    Good job here. I'm looking forward to the worlds.

    1. Dana, don't blame the fan, blame the league. Our challenge is to convince the NHL that they have to clean up the game, it's not with the fans. The pro-fighting crowd may not share our point of view but if fighting is significantly reduced or eliminated, most of them will continue to watch the game. Any response to them should be factual or humorous, but not emotional. Let's focus our efforts on the NHL players, coaches, general managers, owners and league executives.

  4. Not actually emotional, simply contemptuous.

    I don't see much difference between a howling hockey fan during a line brawl and a howling Roman citizen watching the gladiators kill one another.

    I fully expect that one day a player will die on ice from intentional violence. It's already happened from an accidental incident. When that day comes these yobbos will be high fiving one another and screaming for more.

    And when the trial comes they'll be protesting on the streets and telling the widow and families of the deceased to "suck it up" it's hockey.

    I've already written more than once to the NHL and NHLPA. No responses of course.

    1. I agree. Someone is going to be killed on the ice in an NHL game one day if this violence isn't stopped. There seems to be some willingness on the NHL's part to severely punish some lesser skilled players like Raffi Torres. But not until they are willing to do the same with stars such as Shea Weber will the violence go away. The Nashville Predators just eliminated the Detroit Red Wings in 5 closely fought games. Tell me we get the same result if Weber is suspended 20 games - or better yet he doesn't wipe Henrik Zetterberg out of the playoffs.

    2. PS - is there some way to comment here without having to prove I am not a robot every time? I have a hard time making out the letters in the proof box. Thanks.

    3. I have disabled the verification tool (I hate them too). However if spam comments start showing up I'll have to turn it back on.

  5. @Dana: Your sweeping generalization of hockey fans that like fighting are not only incorrect, but completely ignorant. There has been fighting in hockey since day one. Do you not remember the days of the broad-street bullies? Or how about the brawls of the 60's? Your really should be watching croquet.

    @Paul: While I agree that head shots should be banished, fighting should not be illegal. There are media reports that do support ending fighting in hockey how ever that does not represent the fans that pay the bills. Clear evidence of that is with the ratings of the playoffs. These players are adult professionals that are paid millions of dollars that know the risks going into the start of their careers. Not only that in a recent survey of the players only one out of 300 surveyed said fighting should be banished from the game. If we as fans are judging what is and is not safe for the the players, don't the players themselves get a say?

    1. True, fighting has been tolerated by the league from the very beginning but it has always been penalized and therefore not part of the game. Fights prior to the 70's were rare, about 1 every 4 or 5 games, and the stars fought their own battles. The Flyers changed the modern game by introducing fighting as intimidation. In 1974-75 the players association asked the NHL to ban fighting and the league refused. Since then we have had 30+ years of a fighting culture and every player, coach and general manager has grown up with that culture.

      True, players have voted 98% and 99% in recent HNIC and Sports Illustrated surveys, respectively (and it was 200 players in the SI poll, not 300). So players support punching each other in the face, and then complain that they don't respect each other. In time that will become obvious and you will see those numbers change. I think that will begin next year when junior hockey bans fighting, and the culture starts to change.

      True that ratings are up but don't attribute all of that gain to on ice violence. This is the first year that every series is being broadcast by a national network. And not every fan is happy with the violence, as seen in the comments from those media sites that call it a disgrace. The NHL is also getting calls from advertisers and sponsors who don't like the game that they are associated with. If the NHL does not clean up their act they will find it difficult associate themselves with major brands.

      Good points but like all reasoned discussions there are two sides.

    2. @Anonymous: punches to the head *are* head shots. How do you reconcile your assertion that head shots should be eliminated, but then say that some head shots should not be?

  6. Busch, great piece on the history of fighting in the NHL. I learned from you for the first time here the Players Association tried to ban fighting in 1975. I had no idea. I remember the Big Bad Bruins of the late 60's early 1970's. As a kid I adored their stars such as Bobby Orr and Phil Esposito and hated that they were labeled the Big Bad Bruins. Then quickly along came the Philadelphia Flyers of the mid 1970's and violent intimidation became a real factor in the game. If it wasn't for those superbly skilled Montreal Canadien teams of the late 1970's who knows where the game would have went. Probably into obscurity as people turned away in droves from watching players the likes of Dave "The Hammer" Shultz and Bob "Mad Dog" Kelly beat up teams to win Stanley Cups. What Bob Kelly did to Borje Salming alone should have gotten him jail time. You're absolutely right about where and when it started and how it still affects OUR game today. If every once in a while in the heat of battle players lost their cool and pushed and/or wrestled one another - and were sufficiently penalized - I could live with that. It happens in all contact sports. But the fist fighting today is almost all staged by players who actually practice their "art". Fighting and gratuitous violence has no place in MY game.

    1. Gord, that tidbit came up in some research for an upcoming article, "How Did We Get Here". I was first surprised that the players had asked for a ban, then disappointed that the NHL didn't make the right decision.

  7. I just sent this to the NHL and the NHLPA: "I used to be a Rangers fan. I also played hockey as a youth and also all the way through college. In both youth hockey and in college, fighting was not only unacceptable, it was reprehensible and punished by year long or lifetime suspension. While I love the game of hockey, I can no longer bear to stomach the level of violence presented by the NHL. Egregious violence as seen in this year's playoffs is not and never has been part of the game. Hockey at the professional level has become a spectacle and is no longer a sport which I can support personally, nor is it a sport that I would be able in good conscience to show to my children or encourage them to play. I fear that the lack of enforcement of basic rules in the NHL will lead to violent acts in college and youth sports. Mark my words: you will, in the near future, see injuries and, god forbid, death, in youth hockey as a result of copycat play. At this point the NHL will have no choice but to reckon with this issue. Please do something first. A game without rules isn’t game; it’s just a spectacle. For the sake of the game, for the sake of the fans, and for the sake of the future, please eliminate fighting from NHL hockey.