When the Adirondack Thunder are playing, I’m usually sitting in the office.

That’s what happens when you grow old in journalism. While other people are out covering the games, you’re back at the plant trying to make the trains run on time.

I usually snag the game summary off the ECHL website myself and set it up for the paper. I’m old-fashioned and I like it properly formatted, meaning the type of penalty (like “major”) should be outside the parenthesis, while the infraction itself (like “fighting”) goes inside.

I may be the only person in the world who cares about this, but I sleep better at night knowing that AP style has triumphed over evil.

I don’t notice the word “fighting” in those summaries as much as I used to. You may have noticed this yourself if you follow hockey. What was once an almost nightly event has become an occasional happening. According to the website hockeyfights.com, fewer than 20 percent of NHL games have had a fight this year.

The NHL seems to be in a state of conflict about this. They’ve spent the last decade building a faster, more entertaining game, yet fighting remains on the books. It looks to me like they’re waiting for it to quietly disappear over time.

Quietly, because much of their core fan base still wants it to be part of the game. The old saying is still true: the fans cheer the fights as loudly as the goals.

And quite honestly, it would be a gamble to suddenly take fighting out of the game. Some of the fan base would be unhappy, and might possibly revolt.

Lots of people say they would watch hockey if it wasn’t for the fighting, but do we really know that? College hockey has no fighting whatsoever, but you need a microscope to find its TV ratings. If you were running the NHL, you might not be in a rush to try out someone else’s theory about expanding the audience.

There are plenty of people who support fighting and they have lots of reasons why it’s good for the game. I should know. I used to be one of the enablers. I wrote things like that it’s a “release value” that “keeps the stick work down” and “protects the little guys.”

All of which, I now realize, is complete hogwash. Especially in this day and age, when every NHL game is covered by half a dozen cameras.

Got a problem with stickwork? Fish through the replays every night and hand out long suspensions to the violators. Players doing illegal things? Penalize them, punish them, banish them if necessary.

No, fighting doesn’t exist as a necessary component of hockey; it exists because fans cheer it on. If fans were booing the fights, does anyone seriously think there’d be a problem getting rid of it?

And that’s what I think they should do: get rid of it.

If you’re an old-time fan who likes it when they drop the gloves, you won’t like this. I’m sorry, but it’s time for hockey to move on. It seems inevitable that fighting will eventually disappear as the game evolves. So let’s get on with it.

Hockey continues to be a laggard among the major sports — on the doorstep of standing equal with baseball, football and basketball, but never quite getting in the door. It’s a great sport, and the only thing I can see holding it back is fighting.

It’s time for hockey to take the risk. It’s time to take the bold leap that the core will stick with the game and others will come along for the ride. It’s time for the confident move that hockey is a great sport without fighting.

It’s time to take both “major” and “fighting” out of the summary.

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Contact Sports Editor Greg Brownell via email at brownell@poststar.com


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