Ice hockey should be about finesse not fighting says Streatham Redskins’ star Sean Scarbrough


Fighting has been described as an ‘established tradition’ of the sport.


By Kit Sproson

Fighting is an almost inextricable component of ice hockey in North America.

It may come as a jocular surprise to those unacquainted with the game – particularly outside of the continent – but many fans attend games primarily for the fights.

Fighting has been described as an established tradition of the sport. A quick YouTube search will generate countless hits of mass brawls with padded hockey stars throwing admirably accurate punches considering they are on skates.

Indeed the physical side to the game has been popular since the sport’s rise popularity rise in 19th Century Canada. In 2012-13 there were a total of 347 fights in the NHL (compared to 546 the season before), while B. J. Crombeen contributed to 14 of those.

No wonder people say many of the fights are pre-meditated.

However, there are a growing number who would like to see fighting given the boot.  Sean Scarbrough, Streatham Redskins’ 27-year-old American import, is one of those people.

“We’re not in the gladiator age anymore. The game needs to be more about skill and finesse and I’d like to see it more that way,” the forward said.

This is Scarbrough’s second season in the UK, having initially joined Cardiff Devils from Australia before signing for Redskins in the English National Ice Hockey League. He says that he is a pacifist, but despite his idealism he retains a sense of reality.

“I don’t think that there will ever be a way to stop fighting in hockey but there’s got to be a progression with how you deal with people who are constantly targeting players.

“It’s never fun watching your team mates go down due to a dirty hit, or watching a friend from another team get in a fight and fall on their head.”

Scarborough cites how ‘gruelling’ the sport is regardless of the violence – he mentions the frequent occurrence of players yanking out teeth on the bench following nasty collisions.

He admits though that he used to think differently.

“I have changed my opinion on concussion in recent years.

“I used to think that there was a place for fighting in the game, but now I see it’s people just bullying each other as opposed to the game being about getting the puck and being aggressive with your shoulders, not your fists.”

Many would assume that violence in ice hockey is not quite as prevalent in the UK as it is in America.

But Scarbrough has his own example of this belligerent trend catching on in the UK.

“There’s a guy in Cardiff right now, his name is Andrew Conboy, he has just been banned for 12 games for eye gouging.

“It’s a 12-game suspension in a 56-game season and this is the third time he has been suspended.”

Indeed Conboy, another American, had already received bans for head-butting and abusing an official. His team, Cardiff Devils, took a bold step and released Conboy from their roster last week, citing a need for consistency and squad depth as the reason behind their decision.

Opposition to fighting in ice hockey has been present for a long time, but as the statistics show fighting remains both widespread and popular. Most recently, in 2009 Don Sanderson of the Whitby Dunlops died a month after receiving a head injury during a fight in Major League Hockey. Inevitably this provoked renewed calls from critics to ban fighting.

As the case of Conboy shows, the saucy nature of the game remains a major ingredient in ice hockey.

Photo courtesy of ArtBrom, with thanks.

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