Hockey Fights- A Player’s Perspective: Steve Oleksy

Apr 4, 2013; Washington, DC, USA; Washington Capitals defenseman Steven Oleksy (61) stands on the ice against the New York Islanders in the third period at Verizon Center. The Capitals won 2-1 in a shootout. Mandatory Credit: Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

The fighting in hockey debate can be looked at from many different angles. One angle we don’t see a lot of is the players’ angle. This is the forth installment in this series, Part 1: Chris Thorburn, Part 2: Eric Selleck, Part 3: Jared Boll, where I ask players questions about fighting. There will be new interviews going up throughout the season so keep coming back. It is time we got the players’ perspective.

In this installment I talk to Steven Oleksy of the Washington Capitals. Last season was his first playing in the NHL. He played 28 games with the Capitals in which he had the second most fights on the team with 3. Before going to the NHL however he was in 11 fights in the AHL that season.

Here is what he said:

There has been a lot of controversy surrounding fighting in hockey lately, as a player who has been in numerous fights, what is the purpose of fighting in hockey?

“I think it’s an important part of hockey. A lot of people watching and a lot of people outside the locker room don’t really understand what it stands for and what it does for the game. It can be a huge momentum shift. A lot of times when guys do drop the gloves, there is a reason behind it, whether it’s letting the other team know that we’re not happy with something they did or standing up for our teammates. It’s definitely a very important thing and it’s a good part of the game.”

How does the game change if fighting were to be taken out completely?

“If fighting were to be taken out, to be honest from a spectator standpoint, I think quite a few people would lose interest. Obviously hockey being the only sport that does allows fighting, I think if there is no fighting a lot of guys won’t think twice about bumping somebody from behind or getting his stick up, things like that. When you know there is no backlash for it, I think guys would play a lot more fearless out there.”

Why do think fighting gets all of the negative attention in terms of injuries and there is less focus on injuries caused by big hits?

“I think it goes back to hockey being the only sport that allows fighting. Honestly if you look at the statistics, I think high sticks and pucks cause a lot more injuries than fighting. Fighting is a pretty small percentage. Obviously there is a respect factor that comes with fighting. All of the guys that are dropping the gloves are doing it with a purpose, they are not doing it with an intent to hurt anybody. I think they blow it up a lot more when there is fighting because there is that discussion of should it be allowed or shouldn’t it be allowed. When you look at it in hindsight, everything else in the sport of hockey is a lot more dangerous than fighting. Going back to the respect factor, when a guy is down, a guy is down. You don’t see anybody continuing to throw punches when somebody is on the ice or when the refs get in there. The guys know when it’s over, it’s served its purpose, and it’s done.”

*Note* I would like to thank Steve again for answering my questions and Pace Sagester for setting up the interview.