Recently the fighting debate has come back into the forefront. Derek Boogaard's actions of teaching children how to defend themselves on the ice has brought the debate back up to a boiling point, with no end in sight. I have a hard time with fighing because, as much as I love to watch a good fight, I can sympathize with those who feel that it has no part in the game.
I, for one, do think that it's part of the game, unfortunate as it may be. I also feel like it is getting somewhat out of control. I do agree with a good portion of the arguments brought against it. It slows down the game (there's nothing that frustrates me more than a good, fast-paced hockey game being broken up by a fight in the middle of it), players are getting hurt (case in point, Todd Fedoruk), someone could get killed (case in point, Todd Fedoruk). All of these are very valid points brought against fighting. But there's also something to be said about a sport where players police themselves, keeping themselves honest while on the ice. Now, I don't think anyone will be saying that fighting decreases penalties anytime soon. Players are going to get penalties regardless of what happens. Hooking, tripping, roughing etc. are all going to be part of the game. What fighting does do, however, is lend some sort of justice to the ice that the referees simply cannot offer.
One argument that drives me crazy against fighting, however, are people saying that the fighters get off scott free. This simply is not the case. The fighters are both penalized with major penalties; the most severe punishment without getting kicked out of the game. Is it a deterrant? Absolutely not. So you get two of your least skilled players in the box for five minutes. No big loss on either side. But my question is, why not penalize the team? In most cases, those who are fighting are generally out on the ice for that express purpose. As it stands, however, the penalties are considered coincidental and neither side loses a man from the ice. What would be the detriment to penalizing the teams and bringing the players on ice down to 4-on-4 for five minutes? It actually makes it detrimental to the teams to send their goons after one another, it could cut down the needless fights that take place once the game is already out of hand and it could actually make fighting relevant to the sport again as opposed to two giants pawing at each other just because they can. In all honesty, would you rather see yet another Donald Brashear/George Laraque fight (as exciting as they may be) or another Vinny Lecavelier/Jarome Iginla fight? Personally, I'd rather see the two captains going at it as opposed to two heavyweights. It just seems to mean more.
I think this rule change would also appeal to the demographic of NHL fans that do not enjoy fighting. With this rule change, after a fight the teams would go down to 4-on-4, which would increase the speed of the game considerably for those five minutes. In my opinion, this gives the NHL the best of both worlds. It keeps the fighting in the game (while also making it more meaningful) and would also provide increased action for the five minutes that the two offending parties are in the penalty box.