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Monday, February 11, 2008

NHL Violence: Now TV commercials are a problem? PLEASE...

Talk about a polarizing subject in sports and fighting in hockey emerges like a sneaky right cross from George Parros. The volume of opinions on the matter diminish the vastness of the Milky Way while overemphasizing what amounts to a single snap, or pitch in football and baseball respectively. Does punching a man in the groin, or throwing at someones' head not glaringly eclipse the inherent danger in a good on-ice tussle? Surely objective readers will acknowledge fighting at the very least to be a necessary evil in the game of hockey.

What motivated me to take on this unresolvable debate? It wasn't a decry to thwart fighting in the NHL, but oddly, stern condemnation of their marketing partners. Plainly, a well established columnist from Vancouver, Mr. Tony Gallagher, is pissed about the NHL's associations and somehow erroneously links this with diminished interest and viewership in the game itself.

This piece from the Montreal Gazette. I'll save you the trouble of reading it with the following summary:

- I don't like UFC, and Montreal shouldn't be so excited to host the first UFC event North of the 49th.
- UFC and WEC (World Extreme Cagefighting) are advertising on NHL broadcasts. This is bad for hockey.
- The commercials feature real-time fight highlights, which turn off families and woman from hockey...
- If this trend continues to larger national broadcasts, all woman will stop watching hockey.
- Kids will beat the crap out of each other after watching UFC-type commercials.
- Reverse this trend or hockey ratings will be sunk in the bottom of the can forever.

Wow. Slow news day Mr. Gallagher? There are several elements to this that bother me just enough to waste time writing about it.

For starters, the topic has been discussed on the most listened to sports radio show in Canada (Bob McCown PTS on the Fan590). They joked about it weeks ago and brought up the merits of coupling the two forms of entertainment. This illustrates not only the lack of originality, but brings up the possibility that this column evolved over several weeks of meticulous research and planning. Those who read the article will quickly realize my facetiousness as it pertains to the latter statement.

To say that violence and its associations with hockey are spoiling the sport for families is misguided and foolish. This can be verified by simply contrasting the relative fraction of on-air time received by the sum of all violent content to that which is non-violent. Fighting and the commercial advertisements that were the focus of Mr. Gallaghers' grievance are equivalent to a cliché-laiden pre-game interview: even though a certain demographic would rather not bear witness, its mere presence doesn't sufficiently reduce the quality of the overall product.

Not surprisingly it appear this piece was published in the Montreal Gazette, which is heavily circulated in a region rich with European ideals. Among these principals is a general distaste for fighting in hockey, evident in the lack of physicality and fisticuffs in the QJMHL, as well as their NHL franchise. I'd like to see the reception to this article in Mr. Gallaghers' native West, where they not only play tough hockey, but willingly endorse all the potential repercussions of a heightened degree of physicality.

If you need ways to improve the game targeting the commercials is a laughable prospect. If you are serious about increasing the following for the NHL, just read this and get on with it.

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