The Top 5 Dallas Stars Fights from the 2014-2015 Season: Pugilism in Review

There may not be much to talk about, but if you look close enough, the Dallas Stars had an interesting 2014-2015 season in the pugilism department that was light on majors, but heavy on the 'to fight or not to fight' discussion.

I'm gonna start this piece on a personal note, so if you came here for the punch in the face contests (copyright Daryl 'Razor' Reaugh, 1996), the youtube slaughter is embedded below.

Culture has reached a tipping point when it comes to violence in sports. The decrease in Pop Warner participation, for example, is often considered a response from parents who are now more aware of the specific effects in contact sports. And it's hard to stomach the knowledge that the 3000 + penalty minutes Bob Probert amassed throughout his career were modest numbers compared to the eight OxyContin pills he had to take per day as a result of his "hockey role" leading up to his death*.

Grantland's Sean McIndoe wrote a great eulogy for the "goon institution". I share a like-minded nostalgia. My high school library at Nolan Catholic in Texas had the usual cast of literary wizards. Fitzgerald, Tolstoy, and Melville were all waiting to whisper insight into my hormone driven ears from their respective graves. But it was a cover of Stan Fischler's Bad Boys that caught my attention the most. Pretty soon I learned names like Nick Fotiu and Stan Jonathan before Lemieux and Bossy.

A 'colleague' of mine on Twitter wondered aloud if you can 'be forward thinking' and still enjoy a good sanctioned fight. I responded somewhat facetiously that just because fighting is light on metaphors doesn't mean it's not heavy on poetry. The poetry may be bloody, but the valor's as real as a paper full of iambic pentameter.

I may long for awareness, and appreciate the bittersweet goodbye of the goon. But the beer and pizza part of my brain still loves a good fight. In boxing, pundits like to torture the cliche that 'in the ring, there's no hiding from who you are'. This is largely true of the ice too.

So without further philosophical mumbo jumbo ado...the top five Dallas Stars five knuckle meatsoother exchanges (copyright Daryl 'Razor' Reaugh, circa his more Bruce Campbell looking days) of the 2014-2015 season:

5. Jamie Benn vs. David Backes December 27, 2014

Backes didn't actually receive a fighting major, so this is a bit of copout. However, it's a great illustration of what makes Jamie Benn so special.

Why they couldn't get along

Well, because Backes fancies himself the Town that Dreaded Sundown. There's no real rhyme or reason. Eakin beats Backes on the face off. So Backes responds like any normal person, and shoves two inverted crosschecks into Eakin's grill like he's the Jason Voorhees of carbon fiber.

Eakin pushes back, Backes goes further down the rabbit hole, and Benn steps in for a bit of the ole' pick on somebody your own size ultra violence. Unfortunately there's no violence to be had. Backes is content to only appear nuts, since he was sensible enough to avoid actually traded punches with Jamie, who is quite the knucklesmith.

4. Antoine Roussel vs. Andrew Shaw November 16, 2014

Why they couldn't get along

Because they're Andrew Shaw and Antoine Roussel.

Their first scrap is better but this one wasn't exactly Putt Putt. I gave the first one to Roussel, but reluctantly give the rematch to Shaw. Which means they have to finish the trilogy for our viewing pleasure. Don't look at us. You guys started it.

On another note, we all know that Strangis and Razor were great in general. But they really excelled during the hockey fights. Most announcers are either too biased to emphasize the intensity of the moment (see Jack Edwards), or too distanced. I don't begrudge them for not enjoying it. But it's great when the announcers are as caught up in the moment as the audience.

Ralph called each punch, grab, and grimace like he was Howard Cosell. And Razor does a great id impression through it all, sometimes not actually speaking any known language, instead opting for voices connected directly to his basal ganglia. If you think I'm being hyperbolic, it's because you forgot the sound of him going subatomic during the Roussel vs. Rich Clune fight.

3. Shawn Horcoff vs. Patrick Sharp January 18, 2015

Why they couldn't get along

Because Sharp didn't appreciate being scraped off the ice with a spatula after Horcoff absolutely pancaked him outside the circle.

These are the fights that those of us who hate to admit we actually love this stuff consider socially acceptable. These aren't two guys on the roster sitting on the bench waiting to warm their fists on another's man skull. No, these were two valuable roster players settling scores on their own like two Frank Miller characters come to life.

2. Dallas Stars vs. Everyone January 3, 2015

Why they couldn't get along

Because they didn't think Michael Gruber's decision to play the Hawaii Five-0 theme in the building with Dallas up five-0 was funny?

Hard to say. Whatever the reason for Yeo unleashing his roster at the Dallas Stars, pugilism fun was had by all. Vernon Fiddler got his knuckle wagons rolling on Ryan Carter, and Trevor Daley and Jason Demers had to deal with Stu Bickel like two hobbits fighting a Balrog (flames not gloves).

1. Curtis McKenzie vs. Dmitry Kulikov March 5, 2015

Why they couldn't get along

Because Kulikov won the fight versus Tyler Seguin's MCL.

There was a lot of debate about this one. Should the Stars have responded to the Kulikov hit with their own Ghandi rendition? Or should they have gone the crass Woody Harrelson from Seven Psychopaths route?

This has always been one of the central points of contention when it comes to fighting. The whole Charles Bronson debate. "Do fists make you nervous?" one can imagine an enforcer saying. But there's not much debate. Fighting doesn't deter anything.

But there's a very visceral gut reaction to watching your star player get burned in a dirty play. NHL justice doesn't suffice in our hearts, so we ask for street justice. We got the latter, whether we wanted it or not. Thankfully the Seguin-Kulikov incident became a footnote rather than a stain like the Thornton-Orpik fiasco.

*It's important to distinguish correlation from causation. A pro athlete's body is filled with a lot of things your average person doesn't experience. Whether we like to admit or not, drugs are a big part of it. In Malcolm Gladwell's famous New Yorker piece, he noted that some of the brains displaying CTE at the Boston brain bank were connected to players accused of using steroids. However, who's to say that steroids don't in some way exacerbate CTE? Questions like these are why the International Conference on Concussion in Sport in Zurich didn't jump to any conclusions, unlike Gladwell, and concluded that "the authors acknowledge that the science of concussion is evolving, and therefore management and return to play (RTP) decisions remain in the realm of clinical judgement on an individualised basis."