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The rebirth of fighting in Detroit and why, despite what we know, you should be OK with it

Just 16:11 into Tuesday’s game, Jordin Tootoo had fought two times and earned 10 minutes in penalties. In six games he has averaged 8:17 of ice time and 4:10 in penalties, with three fighting majors.

Thanks mostly to Tootoo, the Red Wings are currently fighting .67 times per game (four in six games), almost four times the pace of last season, when the Red Wings drop the gloves just 15 times in 82 games (.18 fights per game).

We’re seeing a lot more fighting out of Detroit nowadays. And at first I wasn’t sure how to feel about it.

We know too much now.

Fights used to be unadulterated fun. It wasn’t too long ago that I sat in Joe Louis Arena and watched George Parros take his mustache and start swinging at Aaron Downie. I don’t remember much about that game. I couldn’t tell you the score and actually had to look up that it was Downie who was the Red Wings’ combatant, but I remember that fight.

I remember the split-second of confusion as part of the crowd saw the fisticuffs before the others, alerting the rest of us through that dull, un-annunciated roar crowds always have. I remember standing up and cheering before fully grasping what was going on. And I remember raving about the fight as my brother and I walked out of the doors of Joe Louis Arena and through the tunnel to the parking garage.

It’s different now. I could once cackle in glee at the haymaker that lands square to the cheek. Now, I can’t watch Jared Boll deliver this sledgehammer to the side of Jordin Tootoo’s head without cringing:

Maybe I’m getting older. Maybe I’m getting soft. Maybe it’s a combination of the two.

Or maybe I’ve watched too much SportsCenter and read too many stories on concussions, CTE, and brain damage.  They’re almost unavoidable. I read all three parts of the Derek Boogaard story. It changed the way I view fights and made me question them entirely.

On the other hand, to a certain extent Tootoo understands  the risks. He can get out whenever he pleases, but he chose this.

Have we built a society that rewards this type of behavior? Sure. We heap fame and millions of dollars their way. Kids grow up idolizing the pros and want to make by any means necessary.

But none of this is a change from the society of yesteryear. From the time humans figured out how to build stadiums, we packed them to watch a man get the s#$% beat out of him, whether it be by tiger, lance, or Jared Boll.

If we give as much information to these guys as we can, and they still want to do it, that’s their decision. Plus, who’s to say a couple of shots to the noggin in seven minutes per game of ice time is any worse than the hundreds of hits Henrik Zetterberg will take over the course of the season in his 20 minutes of ice time? How do can we appreciate hockey without accepting fights?

For most of us, watching fights may never carry the naïve bloodlust ever again. Yet, no one is forcing these guys to fight. When they go, we might as well enjoy it.

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