This week's best illustration of the utter pointlessness of fighting — and of the enduring myths used to vouch for its role in hockey — did not involve Connor McDavid punching the top of the dasher board.
Instead, it came during the Chicoutimi Saguenéens--Baie-Comeau Drakkar game on Thursday, where play was stopped four times by fights over a 2½-minute span late in the second period. None of the combatants are NHL first-round picks or integral to Team Canada's gold-medal prospects at the world junior championship, so it goes without saying their safety isn't not in the public interest to the same degree (/sarcasm).
Regardless, it was the kind of ugliness that doesn't exactly advertise all things junior puck.
The Sags had just jumped into a two-goal lead when Fight No. 1 broke out between Chicoutimi's Landon Schiller and Baie-Comeau's Nicolas Leblond.
Fighting apologists will often claim that a good scrap holds everyone accountable and acts as a deterrent to dirty play.
That would explain why it took all of 22 seconds of game time before Baie-Comeau's Anthony Beauchamp cross-checked Chicoutimi's Scott Carrier from behind into the boards, which was only assessed as a two-minute minor penalty. That touched off Fight No. 2 between Jérémy Bouchard and Simon Chevrier.
The Saguenéens scored on the ensuing power play to go up 4-1 , which probably did little to defuse the tension. The league's two most frequent fighters, Chicoutimi's Reid Halabi (11 fights already this season) and Baie-Comeau's Bokondji Imama (eight), engaged in Fight No. 3 just 15 seconds after that goal. How could that have changed the tenor of game when pretty much anyone familiar with the teams likely knew what was about to go down?
Both players were assessed additional penalties for a staged fight. Imama also has an automatic suspension coming to him for removing Halabi's helmet.
Surely, by this point, everyone was punched out. Twenty seconds of game time later came Fight No. 4 between Chicoutimi's Brian Lovell and Baie-Comeau's Alexis Vanier. At least the best scrap was saved for last. So there is that, if you like that sort of thing.
The most happening place in Chicoutimi, by this point? The penalty box. And you thought the pub at your university or college got crowded on Thursday nights.
Sept joueurs des Sags sur le banc des punitions en début de 3e période. pic.twitter.com/7Nz9quDr95
— Mikaël Lalancette (@MLalancetteTVA) November 14, 2014
The third period of Chicoutimi's 7-3 win mostly passed without further incident, aside from four players receiving misconducts with 2:06 left in the game for "failing to clear the area." There likely will be some player suspensions and fines handed down to each team.
In the big picture, that's not as paramount as the larger point. Using McDavid's injury as an opportunity to make an anti-fighting argument is counterproductive. I understand being topical and striking while the iron is hot, but it comes off like having a star system for player safety concerns. Doing so runs the risk of losing some of the room since it is, so clearly, an anecdote-based argument. That is unnecessary since the empirical evidence is strong and getting stronger.
Basing the argument around the individual and the sensational with McDavid just makes people get their backs up and makes those in the middle say, "Really?" It also ignores that McDavid fighting is part of the culture. The above, involving more anonymous players, points up that despite the rules in place, this can still happen under the guise of sport and entertainment.
From a QMJHL perspective, it should ponder what it means that Halabi has more fighting majors than four other teams in their league, along with six in the WHL and 11 in the OHL. The latter is the only league of the three with (a) a 10-fight cap and (b) a fine schedule if a team has more than two fighting majors in one game.
It's conveniently timed for editorializing purposes, illustrating there are much sounder anti-fighting arguments than having the best junior in the world get hurt in a freak occurrence. The reality with fighting, as Gregg Drinnan points out, is that "it is disappearing because neurologists and others who are researching brain injuries have discovered the painful toll that athletes (and others) who have suffered such injuries can end up paying, some of them immediately and others later in life. It is disappearing because lawyers are filing lawsuits and more are surely to come."
Or put another way, it's important to stress that every junior player's health is important, not just Connor McDavid's since his presence on Team Canada increases their gold-medal chances and means more people consume media coverage of the world junior. And that goes for trying to reduce fighting and checks to the head.
Neate Sager is a writer for Yahoo! Canada Sports. Follow him on Twitter @neatebuzzthenet.