This is going to be sacrilegious to some, but in order for hockey to survive the sport needs to change.

I know Iím in the minority, but when I watch hockey I watch it for the skills it takes to play the sport, not for the sidebar of fights. I love mixed martial arts and boxing. I donít want to see hockey games turn into boxing match.

That may shock some and it may make me a softie, but let me be the first to tell you, fighting in hockey is more than likely on the way out.

To the traditional hockey fan thatís a pretty hard pill to swallow, but it gets worse. Hockey not only needs to end fighting, the sport needs a boost given to the offensive side of the game. Scoring points needs to be the focus and fighting should become a rare occurrence.

The current trend in all sports continues to shift toward making them safer for athletes. I believe that the implementation of rules geared toward punishing perceived dangerous actions will persist. Pro sports leagues want to protect themselves from lawsuits.

The NFL just settled a concussion lawsuit by paying over $750 million to former players. Hockey needs to pay close attention to that ruling. The landscape in sports is changing. Pro leagues have a responsibility to protect their players. Allowing hockey players to fight on the ice is a future lawsuit waiting to happen.

Iím just as guilty as any other. There are few things more exciting than watching players from opposing teams square off on the ice, but Iím willing to give it up for the longevity of the sport. Just like the NFL is changing the way playerís tackle from little league all the way up to the pros, hockey must do the same. The culture of fighting on the ice has to end. Penalties and fines need to become a part of the game.

When the NFL started making changes to make the game safer, it took fans time to get use to, but the end result is the NFL is continuing to grow and secure itís future success. The NHL needs to do the same. The game needs to protect its players in the pros and set an example to every level of hockey below. Thatís not always the easy course to take, but hockey needs to make that transition.

Hockey doesnít need fighting to survive and prosper. The sports world has changed and so have fans. The NHL needs to catch up.