Two seconds into the Rangers' 2013 home opener against the Penguins, New York's Arron Asham and Pittsburgh's Tanner Glass dropped their gloves and squared off, much to the delight of the Madison Square Garden crowd. Asham and Glass -- who'd fought each other last season while playing for different teams -- exchanged punches for nearly a minute before tiring out, at which point they were separated by the linesmen and directed to their respective penalty boxes as the arena roared its approval.
Scenes like this, in which players dropped their gloves mere seconds after the opening faceoff, played out several times during the first week of the NHL season. Detroit's Jordin Tootoo vs. Columbus's Jared Boll, for instance. Or Joe Finley and Matt Martin of the Islanders vs. Pierre-Cedric Labrie and B.J. Crombeen of the Lightning. Indeed, staged fighting has been one of the hottest topics in the early going this season, particularly for those of us who find it hard to get worked up over enthusiastic goal celebrations. (Want to feel old? Theo Fleury's slide across the rink during the 1991 playoffs happened more than two years before Nail Yakupov was born.)
The debate over staged fighting isn't new, but in 2013, it goes beyond a discussion of whether such fights are embarrassing (as argued last week by Ryan Lambert at Puck Daddy). Those of us who believe fighting has a place in the game, as dangerous as it may be, can find ways to justify most fights. But that can't be said about staged fights. They're a different animal, and need to be treated as such.