Jeremy Gilbert

Connor McDavid and his right to fight

By Jason Herring, November 20 2014 —

Long hailed as the next Sidney Crosby, 17-year-old hockey prodigy Connor McDavid was on pace for a record-breaking year in the minors. Producing nearly three points per game for the Ontario Hockey League’s (OHL) Erie Otters, McDavid was proving again why he is such a highly-coveted prospect.

And then McDavid got in a fight after Missisauga forward Bryson Cianfrone checked him into the boards. During the scrap, McDavid missed a punch and hit the top of the boards, fracturing a bone in his right hand. He’s slated to be out for 5–6 weeks, making his status questionable for the upcoming World Junior Championship in Toronto.

While fights occur on a semi-regular basis in the OHL, you rarely see a skilled player take matters into his own hands. Like the NHL, the vast majority of fights are between enforcers, who are expected to fight to mediate further conflict.

This is why it’s so impressive to see McDavid drop the gloves himself. While his teammates would be more than willing to defend him, the kid stood up for himself and proved that he is not to be pushed around.

When Sidney Crosby was asked about McDavid’s situation, he said that he was “sure [McDavid]’s got a target on his back,” and he speaks from experience. Crosby has been in the same situation all his career. When there’s a player as skilled as McDavid on the ice, the opposition will use whatever means necessary to defend against them.

However, Crosby himself never got in a single fight during his time in juniors, only doing so once he got to the NHL.

Perhaps McDavid’s fight will serve as a statement to his opponents, showing them that they will have to answer for those hits.

A fight lets two willing players settle arguments in a controlled way. Without fights, tensions would spill into the game, creating dangerous plays as players take out their frustration through illegal hits or slashes. Fighting is an outlet.

Among the critics of McDavid’s decision popular Hockey Night in Canada personality Don Cherry, who said “there’s no way [McDavid] should’ve ever been fighting.”

This argument centres around the potential for injury during brawls, but it’s ridiculous.
An awkward slide into the boards or a slapshot to the leg could take McDavid out. Cherry’s attitude suggests that McDavid should be covered in bubble wrap until his draft day.
McDavid is a 17-year-old kid whose temper got the best of him. Though the result was unfortunate, the statement sent by his fight will serve him well in the long run. He’ll be a superstar in the NHL in the near future, and he shouldn’t be blamed for making the decision that he did.

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