Sunday, October 20, 2013

On Stage(d): Former Players and Current GMs Share Views about Fighting in the NHL

Bobby Orr believes fighting belongs in hockey for the purpose of preventing pests from taking liberties on star players. He said as much in on the Sports Hub earlier this week.

Whether you or I agree with this or not (I believe that we hockey fans have yet to explore other measures for deterring such behavior) matters not. He made those comments in the context of what most people call “staged fighting,” those situations where one player, his team down by three goals, intends to spur his teammates to perform better or at least with more enthusiasm by launching his fists at an opponent’s face and underlying bone structure. On the air, Orr made no bones about ridding these altercations from the NHL.

In his new book, Orr:My Story (by my side and bookmarked to page 249), Orr says, “Of course, no one wants to see a goon in junior hockey. I applaud the graduated scale of suspensions the junior leagues have brought in to deter the chronic offenders.” He adds that suspensions are in order for any player in any league who becomes too focused on intimidation. “And as far as staged fights go,” he concludes, “I’d be in favor of an automatic ejection. There’s no room in our game for any of that stuff.”

In February, Terry O’Reilly said much the same in an interview with James Murphy: “I don’t think that kind of planned fight right after the puck is dropped serves any purpose.”

So if former players are saying this, what about current players? General managers? We know where Tampa Bay Lightning GM Steve Yzerman stands. Carolina Hurricanes GM Jim Rutherford and Pittsburgh Penguins GM Fred Shero agree. Chicago Blackhawks Senior Advisor Scotty Bowman supports these respected hockey people.

Boston Bruins GM Peter Chiarelli believes fighting has a place in the game but seems in favor of eradicating the staged stuff, too. (Listen to the end of this interview with the Sports Hub guys.)

At the very least, we’ve witnessed more agreement about the place staged fighting has in the NHL, but little action will ensue until current players speak their minds. Will the NHLPA, as Bownan has requested, poll all players?

I propose these questions be posed to the NHLPA and professional players everywhere: To what extent do you support stiffer penalties for participating in a staged fight? How open are you to discussing this topic?
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