By Steve Wolfe
I have always wondered in amused silence as I watch Alaska high school hockey. When two hockey players get in an obvious fight, (this happens almost every game), one or both of them are put in the penalty box for two or three minutes. I have wondered amusement because, in all other high school sports, a similar incident would have resulted in both players being suspended from the game. And, according to Alaska School Activities Association rules, would be barred from playing in the next contest.
In other words, for football it could be for as much two games; the same for basketball. Other sports are similar. In wrestling, (another aggressive sport), a wrestler would be suspended for not only that match, but all matches in that event (as many as eight). He or she would also be suspended for the next event, including tournaments, so that could include as many as eight matches the next week as well. Consequently, there is rarely a fight in wrestling — or in any of the other sports.
I wonder why hockey is treated so differently than other sports? It can’t be that such an aggressive sport necessitates such a lax treatment of fighting, because football and wrestling are also aggressive, combat sports. It must be due to hockey fan interest. After all, the joke among hockey fans is: “I was really disappointed. I went to the fights last Friday and a hockey game broke out.”
Perhaps if there were not so much fighting, fewer fans would attend hockey. If that is the case, in all fairness, ASAA and other rule-generating entities should relax the rules on fighting in other sports.
For example, if a player gets in a fight in a football game, he should be suspended from the game with no substitute for three minutes. That would be comparable to hockey rules. There definitely would be more fights, but that would bring out more fans to watch the fights. A similar rule for basketball or volleyball would also bring out the fans.
In wrestling, whoever “won the fight” on the mat would advance in the tournament. Think of the fans who would come to wrestling with that kind of rule change. Ultimate Fighting Championship is, at present, the most popular spectator sport in America. It is true that there may be some collateral damage to high school students in Alaska, but think of the money high schools would bring in from gate fees. ASAA would also benefit from the additional gate receipts at State Tournaments.
Of course, a simpler solution would be to adjust the hockey rules, as far as fighting, to conform to those of other Alaska high school sports. But it would take a lot of courage to do that — so it will never happen.
Steve Wolfe is a retired teacher of 30 years. He coached football and wrestling in Alaska during that time, and continues to coach. He is author of three best-selling Alaska books, “Call Me Coach,” “Call Us Champions” and “Call Us Olympians.”
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