„I don’t think there are any major trends, as far as fighting is concerned, either way,“ says Hakan Loob, CEO of Färjestad BK of the SHL, told ESPN.com in Swedish. „I think the situation in Sweden today is what it’s been like for a long time. We’ve never had a fight culture here. The players have accepted the fact that if you throw your gloves, you get a match penalty…We won’t sign players that are just tough guys if they don’t fit our style,” Loob says. “The game has got so much faster in recent years. There’s no room for a player whose only contribution to the team is to play tough. The players we sign here come from the AHL or college hockey, and they’re often good but small players. You have to be able to skate here. You absolutely must be able keep up.”
Since I’ve been on a real kick learning about ice hockey leagues and their cultures in European countries, this article was really interesting! I’ve known for a long time the European game also seemed to include more emphasis on finesse, goal scoring etc. which has always drawn me to want to explore it more. I’m torn on the fighting issue & can see what it adds to the game, but also hate to see teams (particularly mine, I am a Flyers fan after all…) throw away pivotal opportunities and get suckered into brawling. I much prefer watching a player perfect the deke and burn an opponent with a goal.
This will surely be a hot issue for a while, thanks to the focus on concussions in professional sports, it won’t be going away anytime soon. Maybe the NHL should up the penalty for fighting, such as in other Euro leagues and make it a match penalty, leaving the offenders out of the rest of the match and even the next. Either way, I agree we need to take a serious look at fighting in the NHL and how it affects the game and players’ health in the long run.
I can’t say that I understand they way fighting is used in NA. Using it as a tool of intimidation seems unsportsmanlike to me. And from what I have seen in the NHL it’s very staged and ritualized with the other players and the refs giving the two fighters space. In the KHL you see a lot more mass confrontation (this thing is known in German soccer under the name “Rudelbildung” (pack formation)) and the refs go all in. They throw themselves on the fighters and try to break things up.