Last January 29th, the Battle of Alberta took place for the second time this season. The anticipation of this game had been all the hype around the hockey world since Calgary and Edmonton last met during the Battle of Alberta on January 11th. As it happens, “Late in the first period of the most anticipated game of the NHL season, Matthew Tkachuk gave Zack Kassian, the fans, and the hockey establishment exactly what it wanted.” This statement from a SportsNet analyst brings up the question of fighting in the sport of hockey. Is fighting in hockey always anticipated? Why was this certain instance expected to be an overly exhilarating and possibly violent game? And should fighting be a part of hockey at all?
The rivalry between Calgary and Edmonton has always been one of the strongest in the league however, their second meeting this season had some extra emphasis on it due to their previous meeting. Tkachuk had thrown two massive hits on Kassian in the previous game between the two teams on Jan. 11, preceding the second hit laid on Kassian, Kassian went after and Tkachuk, violently throwing him to the ground. These events of the game on Jan. 11 led to the ensuing anticipation of the game on Jan. 29. The anticipation of the game was met with a fight breaking out between Kassian and Tkachuk. As Tkachuk stated, “It was just kind of a way for me to stick up for myself, it wasn’t about owing anybody, or anything. I was doing it for myself.” This statement brings up the question of fighting in sports that is highly debated. It is not considered deviant within the sport to fight someone, and from Tkachuk’s point of view he was standing up for himself. Many people think from Kassian’s perspective as it being a revenge play, this anticipated fight was a show of respect from Kassian’s perspective; “I always said he was a good player. I respect him for stepping up to the plate like that.”
Fighting in hockey is viewed as both positive and negative; fighting is a way to stand up for your team, show an individual’s passion for the sport. But is this why people attend NHL games? If the attraction is just the fights, what does this say about sport morals? Studies have been done to look at how sports are used for development, specifically on how sports are used to develop social structures between children, youth, and adults while promoting health and wellness. Fights should not be a main motivator for attendance at a sporting event but they are going to happen. The question is whether they should be part of the game when they are for the right reasons.