Put up your dukes

The NHL is back, and the players seem to be in a foul mood.

When the National Hockey League was locked out many people debated whether or not they would care when it returned, and how good would the hockey be, when it came back?

In Canada, at least, as always, we forgive and forget how upset we were that they took our game away.

Players have returned to the sheets of ice in NHL arenas and seem to be in a foul mood based on the number of fights that have been happening. For years the debate has been there, about when the NHL would come out of the stone age and finally ban fighting.

Part of the debate is the effect that fighting has on the participants. Years of scrapping and being little more than a policeman for the team is argued to have a detrimental long-term effects on players. Deaths last year, once again, brought the debate to the forefront with people claimng links between the way these men played, and what happened to them at the end of their lives.

Added to this is the constant threat of concussions and other serious injuries which come from fighting. To say that fighting is safe would be a foolish statement. Two people fighting in any situation can lead to serious injuries. Recently, Boston Bruins enforcer Shawn Thornton found out he was going to miss between seven and 10 games after being in a fight with Buffalo Sabres (six feet, seven inch, 270 pound) John Scott.

Practically every highlight reel I have watched this year has included one, if not more fights. After years of decline the game has taken a step back depending on your opinion.

So why is this happening now?

It could be argued that the NHL is trying to lure back fans on both sides of the borders, and one way to do that is to reinforce the idea that hockey is not only a fast paced game filled with skill, but also one where at any moment a brawl will break out.

There are many fans, who can be seen jumping up in the stands who love a scrap, fight or old fashioned Donnybrook. If you go on Youtube and watch some of the bigger fights over the past few years you even get to hear announcers talk mockingly about how people hate fighting, while people scream in the background.

The thrill of a fight will bring some people back to the arena.

Over the past few years teams have proven that being tough, and occasionally dirty, can yield results. Los Angeles won the cup with four tough lines and no one in B.C. can forget how Boston knocked the stuffing out of the Canucks until the they finally could take no more. Aggression and pugnacity can work in the NHL and lead to championship glory.

So for anyone who thought the NHL had calmed down it looks like the days of the tough guys have returned  and the idea of fighting disappearing forever is nothing more than a fairy tale.