By Colin Dunlap

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PITTSBURGH (93-7 THE FAN) — Saw a captivating story today from the other side of the Commonwealth.

It was about high school hockey. It was about fighting. It was about the law.

It was — really — about the intersection of the three.

Long story short, five former high school hockey players will stand trial on various assault charges for an on-ice brawl that occurred between Ridley High School and Central Bucks West earlier this year. The way the narrative reads, five Ridley kids (all seniors) knew it was going to be their final game and they couldn’t be suspended, thus, they planned a fight against the CB West kids – three of which got tuned up pretty good; broken noses, busted eyes and the sort.

Defense attorneys for the Ridley kids say fighting is “just part of hockey” and there’s an arraignment set for January so who knows where all this will go.
What we do know is it has gone this far in court.

As I was reading that story on the Internet, I glanced over to the other side of the page I was on and there was a story about the whole Aqib Talib v. Michael Crabtree bout wherein the two NFLers decided to have a boxing match in the middle of a football game because they had some sort of personal beef.

Was it entertaining? I guess, for some. I could take it or leave it but, I will admit, I watched it when it happened over the weekend. I then rewound it a few times and kept watching. It captivated me. I couldn’t look away.

All that said, however, both in the case of the high school hockey players and the NFL guys, the crux of the matter is the same here: Should a level of legality be introduced where there is a fight on a playing surface? In one instance it was, in another none will ever happen.

I generally fall on the side of keeping the courts out of the court — that is to say letting sports be its own domain and province, one free from the confines of our legal system. I’m generally OK with such a structure unless someone turns to behaviors that are so egregious they cannot be ignored.

Case in point, if you come off the bench at a hockey game and use your stick — in blindsided form and unbeknownst to the victim — to bash a guy in the face 10 times, then I’m probably not going to have a problem if the authorities decide to charge you with a few things.

But that’s just me.

All that said, who decides where that line is? That’s the tricky part here. For some, an assault is simply an assault — it is that black and white and anything so much as two guys squaring off with their fists up resulting in some thrown and landed blows should constitute charges as far as they are concerned.

For others, an all-out riot could break out and as long as it is confined to the playing surface (or even just stays in the vicinity) they are totally fine with it being “part of sports” and no legal intertwinements. Again, that’s where I normally come down on it, letting sports be their own prefecture and realm in a bubble removed from the “normal” laws.

But I can see both sides of it. I can. And I definitely can in what has become this overly-litigious society where it seems people want to sue each other for the most minute and infinitesimal reasons.

So where will this all end up? Who knows. I’ll tell you what, I do find it intriguing as heck. Again, I’m all for an occasional fight being part of sports (and I might have been in one or two in my day) but if you want to try to sell to me that some charges should be levied sometimes, I don’t know if I can shout you down.

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