There are some things I just don’t get. And hockey fights are at the top of my list.

imagesBy Lisa Sugarman

So I’ve wanted to write about something for a while now, but the subject, especially around here, is a touchy one. And I know that the second I yank back the curtain and toss my thoughts into open view, some of you are gonna be pissed.

Well, then, I suppose this would be the perfect time for me to remind you that this thing I write every week is called an opinion column. And it’s called that for a reason.

That being said, if you can’t handle an opinion that’s different from your own, I’d suggest you put the paper down now and turn on HGTV, they’ve got 100% benign programming that’s completely non-controversial.

For those of you who are choosing to stay behind, willing to hear what’s on my mind, good for you. I like someone who can accept that we can agree to disagree.

So here it is. I hate hockey.

Ok, let me clarify.

I just can’t let another season go without expressing my bafflement over how a sport that has such a blatant moral flaw can exist within the framework of our modern culture.

Understand, I in no way have a problem with the people who play hockey. The players have little, in my opinion, to do with the rules of the game. Those were defined decades before any contemporary hockey players ever picked up a stick. They’re just playing the game they love the way it was designed to be played.

All of my negative feelings about hockey as a sport stem from only one rule of the game—the rule that allows two players to beat the living @#$% out of each other until one of them hits the ice. That rule, or lack thereof, is where things fall apart for me.

The fact that someone can maneuver that gracefully around a 200-foot rink, on skinny little blades, at super high speeds, chasing a teeny little puck, is just plain beautiful. That, I believe, takes true talent. Talent I only wish I had. (I shouldn’t have brow-beaten my mother into letting me quit taking skating lessons when I was 12. I could’ve been a phenom by now.)

What I just can’t process is the idea that two people in dispute—over, of all things, a game—are allowed to handle their disagreement by beating the living hell out of each other. It just seems incredibly ass backwards. It feels like society took an ethical backpedal.

I mean, considering how we’ve evolved these last 50 or so years, it’s just a little shocking to me that this kind of behavior is still tolerated. I mean, we’re not swinging from trees anymore. We’ve got lights and running water almost everywhere now. We’ve stood on the moon. The majority of us recognizes that bullying is bad. We’ve figured out how to do successful sex change operations. At least one state gets that legalizing marijuana makes absolute sense. And super couponing has finally hit the mainstream. All of these important advancements are undeniable proof that we’ve grown as a society. So it’s just surprising to me that such an advanced culture, with such high sportsmanship standards, can allow something so blatantly wrong.

Let’s be honest, no parent I know is telling their fifth grader to yank someone’s sweater over their head and start beating them in the face if someone grabs their Crayola. Why, then, would we be supporting a rule that condones that kind of behavior in a sport?

And I know I’m not the only one out here who’s confused about why, in our culture of anti-bullying and preaching tolerance, a rule like this still exists. I mean, I read stuff. I do my research. So I know that this issue has been in dispute since way before my time and it’s bigger than me and my itty bitty opinion.

I guess what really disturbs me is that the fighting aspect of hockey has become the biggest part of the appeal of the sport. Fans celebrate it and it’s probably the biggest part of the sport’s entertainment appeal.

I mean, I know why the players do it. It’s all about intimidating your opponent, I get that. But what I don’t get is that in a world this civilized, why a governing body of any professional sport would feel that their game needed to be played that way? Has everyone forgotten that kids make up a huge slice of hockey’s demographic pie? Is this the message we want to be sending as they watch their NHL idols, that cracking someone in the head is ok? Cause that’s what it is in its fundamental form. And there’s nothing sportsmanlike about it.

Just because I’m a Sheila doesn’t mean that I don’t get the honor and pride factor that’s in play when players face off. And I understand that most fights, at least to some degree, are consensual. It’s also understood that anyone who plays the game of hockey, like anyone who gets into a boxing ring or walks onto a football field, does so willingly and with a full understanding of how the game is played. And of the risks involved.

But why would a rule that totally undermines the actual moral rules we all live by, be ignored in the name of sport? I would actually have expected the opposite, to be honest. I would’ve thought that we’d want the rules we govern our sports by to mirror how we conduct ourselves in real life.

Look, I’m by no means judging anyone for choosing to play hockey or allowing a child to play. So you don’t need to check me into the dairy doors at the market when you see me. That will most definitely not get your point across. In my world, the only thing it’ll get you is on the 11 o’clock News.

I guess I’m just confused over why the rules are the way they are. That’s all. And I’m just starting a dialogue. A harmless, one-sided dialogue that infects the world with my opinion.

I mean, you have to admit, if you saw a woman in the market sucker punch the lady who grabbed the last ciabatta loaf, you’d call the cops (right after you started live streaming to YouTube on your iPhone.) You wouldn’t cheer them on until one of them hit the linoleum. We just don’t do things like that in the real world. So why would we do them on the ice or on a field?

Since most modern sports embody a certain level of integrity and code of ethics, it makes me wonder how this rule has survived. I’m pretty confident that the sport of hockey would endure if fights were broken up right when they start. Because fighting, we’re taught, serves no good purpose. And anyone, child or adult alike would be given consequences for solving their problems by elbowing someone in the face. It would be a time out for a kid and time served for any grown up.

So at the end of the day, will my little 1,200-word opinion affect change in the grand scheme of the NHL? Most likely, no. But a girl can dream, can’t she?

Lisa Sugarman lives in Marblehead. Read and discuss all her columns at OR follow her blog at


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