Despite what the numbers tell you, and in recent years they have been quite consistent, fighting has persevered in the NHL. Year to year, goons or enforcers in the NHL have diminished, thus the numbers of fights per game have also dwindled.
During the 2012-13 season, the league average of fights per game was 0.48. Up to this point of the 2016-17 season, the league average is 0.30, in fact the 2015-16 season saw 0.28 per game.
Now, just because the number is lower doesn’t necessarily mean there isn’t purposeful foul play at hand. Heading into Wednesday nights game against the Winnipeg Jets, Penguins GM Jim Rutherford made an interesting minor league call up. Human wrecking ball Tom Sestito dressed as a precaution, if the game were to get out of hand.
And it did.
Keeping your personal bias aside, Blake Wheeler was introduced to Evgeni Malkin elbow last month which caused an uproar. Rightly so.
Sestito’s sudden promotion obviously, was in direct relation to protecting Malkin’s well being. Geno sits among the leagues highest scorers with 70 points.
But hockey has a lot of unwritten rules, and despite your status, that doesn’t exclude you from street law.
Winning, by unanimous decision, was Mr. Wheeler. Soon thereafter, Sestito dropped the gloves with Chris Thorburn in another, rage filled dispute.
Don’t fret, the shenanigans didn’t stop there, Sestito left his final mark on the game by delivering a cheap shot to Toby Enstrom.
So, after the dust settled, it was just another day at the office for Mr. Sestito and a man who brings nothing to the table besides a professional knack for face transformation.
So, what we have learned this past week is that despite fights per game on the decline? Hockey clutches to their spades. That of course being fighting in the form of street justice. Had Malkin and Wheeler squashed their beef and simply gone on with the rest of the game, perhaps it would have ended there.
Now, this potentially leaves the door ajar for general managers to make these types of unwarranted call ups. To which I argue, with the number of fights on the decline clearly the players who pride themselves in fighting are being faded out of the game. Therefore you have two combatants, on average, not well versed in fighting. Sports should leave these types of things to its players, with little or no interference from those who no longer play.
Make no mistake, fighting and violence are never going to go away, but the days of the heavy weight bouts are seemingly long gone. For the better interest of the sport itself.