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March 23, 2007

Comments

Eklund doesn't like watching his boys take a beatdown. Too bad.

nice editorial, can you get anyone in the NHL office to read it?

The Rangers play in NY. Orr's fight is getting plenty of media attention. That alone will perk up the ears of the NHL. Just like when Shanahan spoke out about the abuse Jagr takes...Campbell was approached for comment then too.

And there have been a rash of "incidents" lately, not just the Orr fight...but the Tootoo punch to Robidas...the Simon-ization of Hollweg's chin. I look at this as similar to whenever there's a few shark attacks during a short period of time. All of a sudden, there's a "problem" that needs to be addressed. Unlike in the case of overblown shark attack hysteria, though, I'm glad people are starting to question the need for fighting in the NHL.

I'm not the biggest nylander fan, but it seems clear that he needs to be on this team if Jagr is going to be successful. So if Jagr's got 2 more years, I guess we need Nylander for 2 more. Kinda sad to have to think about having a 37-year old # 1 center.

The players and management all agree that fighting is a part of the game. Physical intimidation is a huge factor in the game and it belongs there. If it boils over, then it boils over. Fighting will never leave the game whether it is banned or not. Then NHL has significantly reduced the number of fights. But you will never eliminate it completely. That is a FACT! It still happens in Baseball, Football, and Basketball. What will end up happening is that EVERY SINGLE FIGHT would then be on TV as an 'incident' with the media still wagging their finger at the sport in general. Sure there would be less fights, but they will still occur. It happens in all levels of hockey where the penalties for fighting are more severe.

The NHL is correct with their approach to try to reduce the number of fights. "Banning" it will only serve as lip service to those that do not care about the sport to begin with.

saget couldn't be more right, a couple strings of incidents occur and now every sports outlet in north america hafta give their 2 cents regarding fighting in the NHL. You can bet your bottom dollar by next Friday this discussion will be MOOT.

Those who think fighting increases popularity in the NHL, you're wrong. Those who think the NHLPA would ever accept a fighting ban in the NHL, you're wrong. If you think fighting can be eliminated and have the refs make more of a presence on those to prevent cheap shots, late hits, etc., you're ignorant and wrong. Refs are only human and they're gonna miss calls each and every game, which is why enforcers are in the NHL in the first place.

Everyone just relax, this topic of conversation will end in a few days as the playoff races become more dire

If the NHL is REALLY looking into fighting, it wouldn't be the first time. Or the last. Just keep in mind that the NHL is run by the owners and not the officials in the NHL's offices. The commisioner takes orders from the owners.
If the owners are looking into banning fighting, that would be a story. And if it were the latter, and the owners give in, I will have watched my last NHL game.Here in North America, we spent 50 years killing socialism and now it seems to be reinventing itself in sports. Disgusting.

If they take fighting out of the game I'm done with the NHL. Bettman and his ilk have ruined this sport. The puusification of the league is almost complete. If you don't like fighting then cover golf or tennis.

Nearly 20 years ago, while working for a wire service, I did a huge package on fighting -- stats, quotes, stories, etc. Remember, these were the days when the average was about one fight per game. Fast forward nearly two decades and the blather is still the same - some want it out, some don't, and 50+ percent of fighting majors are taken by 5% of the players.

In the vast majority of cases today, a fight is a sideshow. It's not hard to find a fighter; it's hard to find one who can actually play (if Colton Orr, who can fight, had any ability, he'd be a top-six forward instead of a spare part; Chris Simon and George Laraque, among others, have had a career because they're not totally useless offensively).

The "crackdown" on holding, hooking, etc. that helped cut down fighting is over - just watch the games and look at the power-play numbers. As they go down, the fighters will get more ice time, since fourth lines are the ones who lose time to special teams. The owners and GMs have decided that they've taken too much fighting out of the game, so they're allowing it to creep back in.

Actually, what they're taking out is the hitting and physical contact - most "enforcers" can fight, but they're not good enough to play 15-20 minutes of physical hockey on a nightly basis.

What I'd like to see is something akin to the instigator rule - pile up a certain number of fights and you get suspended (e.g. get 5 fights, you're suspended one game; 5 more, 2 games, etc.).

Great comment on Weekes - funny how he has made $1.8 million doing that and less.

If you like fighting so much, go watch boxing, or the Jerry Springer Show. Whoa, what a good comeback -- I can't believe I thought of that line! Gotta run -- Tiger's making a huge comeback at Doral today, and Mickelson just wrapped his driver around Ernie Els's head for stepping in his putting line.

Dubi and others who object to fighting (or the NHL's stance on fighting),

Let me first say that I enjoy your work and frequently agree with your viewpoints, but I take it you are serious with your opinion about fighting.

With all due respect, have you ever played hockey at an extremely high level, such as at the Division 1 level or above, where the players are big and possess enormous competitive drive, not to mention those playing professionally for millions of dollars and eternal glory (i.e., etched in silver)?

I would love to debate you on this, but wonder if you would be willing to hear the other side.

I have not played hockey at a high level but I think I still have an opinion. Fighting is neccessary in hockey because ref's could not call the game close enough to eliminate the need for an occasional fight. Hockey has fighting and our other big sports do not for a reason hockey is totally different then those sports. the speed, playing with 2 potential weapons(stick and skates), and the level and amount of collisions..

I use to think the words respect and police themselves were baloney but after watching hundreds of games over the last 3 yrs. I think fighting needs to be part of the game. I do think it is ridiculous when I see fans cheering as if they are in Rome 1200 yrs ago watching gladiators but then again why do people have to drink to watch a game..

Fighting should stay as a part of the game, the amount of fighting is way down, the amount of serious bad situations(Simon) would remain low if they eliminated the instigator rule.

BTW Toronto lost a real tough one tonight.

smitty, I carefully worded my column to say that I don't like fighting "myself". I know I'm not going to change anyone's opinion on this, I just wanted to state my piece, especially about the impact on clean checking, which as far as I know has never been discussed in the context of fighting. Also, I think it's crystal clear from what I wrote about this particular fight, both in yesterday's recap and in today's column, that, in the absence of protection from the refs, what Orr did had to be done.

Also note that my personal position is not to ban fighting altogether, but to reduce fighting (and to reduce the need to have fighters in the game) by reducing cheap shots and by reducing the game misconduct rule from three fights to two, allowing the fights that are important enough to use up the one allowable fight.

That said, my stance remains the same -- I'd prefer intimidation through body checking, I want zero tolerance of cheap shots, and I believe that fighting reduces the physical element of the game that we all love. Ryan Hollweg is the epitome of my stance -- I don't think I've ever seen Ryan start a fight, although he has always accepted invitations to fight when game circumstances allowed him to. Ryan hits hard and hits often to intimidate opponents, and he hits hard to exact retribution from opponents -- which he is respected for around the league, even if that respect is in the form of being hated by opponents and their fans. Ryan also absorbs hits and rarely reacts to them in any way other than to pick himself and keep playing -- and keep hitting. If the guys Ryan hits try to get back at him or his teammates through clean body checks instead of fights (and sticks to his face), then we would see more clean hard hitting and fewer fights. Again, let me ask, what is wrong with that?

To answer your question, I have only played recreational league hockey, but let me tell you, we get into our fair share of scraps even though fighting is not allowed in our league. The rule is major, game misconduct, and one-game suspension for fighting. Still, we have the occasional fight, and it is always invariably in response to cheap shots that are not called by the refs. We may not be ex-pros or former D-1 college players (although some of us -- not me -- used to be), but my league is highly competitive, highly emotional, and gets very physical (even though it's a no-check league). And I am positive that if the punishment for fighting was less severe, fights would be frequent and routine -- it used to be that way before they tacked on suspensions to the major-misconduct penalties that were once the rule. I would not be able to play under those circusmstances -- at my age, with two young children at home, I wouldn't want to fight even if I could (I'm a weakling, I'd get slaughtered).

So even though my personal stance on fighting comes from watching and covering the NHL, my experience playing hockey at the recreational level no doubt factors into it.

Smitty

Does being a professional soldier allow me an opinion on fighting? After all would not a trained US Infantry soldier know a bit about fighting?

Hey how about growing up in Jackson Heights does that count as having a POV on fighting?

My point being just because I grew on the streets fighting, just because I was an infantry soldier, just because I played ice hockey or roller hockey or air hockey does not mean I would not know or realize what is at stake when hockey players fight.

The point I am trying to make is when it comes to fighting in the NHL it has nothing to do with what level of experience one has to be able to understand why it happens or whether or not it belongs in the game

What does matter is what one has seen or experienced to understand whether or not fighting belongs in the game. Do we see fighting in the Olympics where some of the best hockey was played?

I for one think that it is not fighting that draws fans it is the game itself. Fighting is in truth a minor part of the game but sadly those like ESPN want to keep showing the fights and those plays where someone gets hurt as the only thing that ever happens in hockey.

Maybe we should simply ban poor media from covering hockey

Jess, great point about the Olympics. Still remembering the 1980 Gold team. I was glued to the TV and not once did I ever think about any player having a fight.

Jess-
I don't believe you can use the Olympics as an example. There are FAR less teams and many MORE high quality playes vying for the few roster positions of each country. The NHL is overepxanded and there is not enough talent to go around. You bet your butt that if a country began to employ that part of the game, others might follow suit.

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