What’s With All the Preseason Fighting?

Posted September 26, 2013

Eric Nystrom, left, and Jay Beagle skate to the penalty box after their fight. (Caps Outsider)

No matter what anyone thinks of fighting in hockey, one thing is for certain: It’s hard to turn away. While criticism of the age-old practice is understandable, I’ve yet to meet anyone who stopped being a fan because, dammit, ‘there’s just too much fighting in hockey.’

Then there’s pre-season fighting, which doesn’t necessarily serve the same purpose as regular season fights. Many of these skirmishes are about the bubble players, or ones who certainly won’t suit up with their NHL parent team once the preseason ends. A youngin’ like Michael Latta, who fought Rich Clune only 25 seconds into Wednesday’s victory against Nashville, wants to show coaches and teammates how tough he is, and fighting is a relatively easy way to do it (perhaps he also wanted to send a message to the team that traded him away).

In six preseason games so far, the Caps have fought 12 times. Throughout the course of a regular season, that would come out to 168 fights, or 840 penalty minutes, not including instigator calls and misconducts. To put this in perspective, the Caps had 16 fights in the shortened 2012-13 season, 26 in 2011-12, and 45 in 2010-11, according to hockeyfights.com.

While fights (and instigator penalties) from guys like Latta, Tom Wilson, Joel Rechlicz (and what a fight he had against Milan Lucic!), Dane Byers, Steve Oleksy, and even Aaron  Volpatti are understandable in the preseason, Jay Beagle dropping the gloves with Nashville’s Eric Nystrom – whatever the reason may have been – doesn’t resonate as having the same purpose. Of course, this is nothing compared to the all-out brawl that happened between Buffalo and Toronto.

So what’s with the preseason fights this year?

We answered that. Players try to leave an impact with coaches and teammates to show how tough they are. But there’s an even simpler answer that makes just as much sense to those of us who watch the game.

The simple answer is this: Because it’s hockey.

Now let’s enjoy this again, especially Jack Edwards’ moronic commentary: