Hockey is a brutally beautiful sport. People fly at each other wearing knives on their feet, armor on their bodies and sticks in their hands, displaying one-of-a-kind strength and speed on the ice.
It is a rough-and-tumble ballet with hits, fights, and goals, and it is magnificent. People want to look at all the violent parts of the game and discount the sport. But this is a game of precision with a code that polices itself better than any sport out there.
People outside the sport want to look at enforcers as the brutes of the sports world, looking for a fight because that's all they are good at. In reality, they are the glue that holds the sport together. They are the protectors of the ice and deter players from taking cheap shots at their teammates.
It is a noble role that not everyone can take up, but these are the true gentleman of the league. They do the hard work, and get grief from opposing fans, and have outsiders attack their jobs—calling them goons and thugs.
Enforcers may be the poster child of barbarism to NHL haters, but they are the people who get the most support and love from teammates and fans for doing a thankless job.
A lot of people want to get rid of enforcers, but there is one important group who won't let that happen—NHL players.
Some of the biggest stars are huge supporters of enforcers because they know what can happen without them out there. Even with rules in place, professional athletes will bend and break any rule if they feel it'll help them win.
With referees unable to see everything on the ice, players get away with extra contact, grabs, hooks, and slashes that go unpunished. With enforcers out there, its an extra deterrent telling dirty players they have a price to pay regardless of whether a referee sees it or not.
Enforcers are the most beloved players in the locker room because they protect their teammates. That isn't barbaric. That's beautiful.
Watched Ice Guardians on Netflix. Basically about the guys in ice hockey whose sole job is to protect the skill players from getting cheap shotted by fighting the opposing team enforcer. These guys put it on the line every night. Recommended.
How can anyone watch hockey, and not think this is the most barbaric sport? It's a game that weaponizes sticks and glorifies the use of fists to solve problems. There is nothing beautiful about that.
Although the NHL has cracked down on fighting and other penalties, there is still too much acceptable violence for this sport to be taken seriously. There is no purpose to fight anymore, with strict suspensions being handed down for dirty play. Fights are now just disgusting shows that have no meaning. Civilized sports don't need fighting to be legitimate.
Aside from fighting, there is way too much violence on the ice. There is skill in hockey, but it is all dependent on how hard you can knock the other guy off the puck or if you can take the punishment with the puck.
There are some egregious hits that go punished and unpunished. There was one incident that ended a player's career after his head was driven into the ice and another where Marty McSorley was charged with assault after taking a stick to another players head.
Hockey is more of a bloodsport than an actual game.
It's all "honor" and "respect" until someone gets killed. Fights may be entertaining, but it shouldn't take the death of a player to make everyone reassess how barbaric hockey is. People cheer when athletes pound each other, but they don't take into account the human cost.
Stu Hackel and Jeff Z. Klein from the New York Times has more about the story of Don Sanderson:
Don Sanderson, a defenseman with the Whitby Dunlops in Ontario’s top senior amateur league, died this morning in Hamilton after three weeks in a coma caused when his unprotected head struck the ice during a fight on Dec. 12. Sanderson sustained massive head trauma after his helmet came off during the fight, and he and the player he was fighting both fell to the ice.