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The Phillips File- Push To Eliminate Fighting from NHL Futile

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Does anybody really think that this most recent outcry to ban fighting from hockey is going to change the sport?   I’m here to tell you that fighting in hockey isn’t going anywhere.  The knee-jerk, over reaction from the brawl on Long Island nine days ago has purists up in arms.   Let them rattle their sabers and preach to the masses about how fighting is bad for the sport, but to think that fighting will be completely removed from the game makes me chuckle.

Mostly because the cement heads who run the sport won’t change anything.

Once again, we are seeing the classic overreaction to what was clearly an isolated incident.  How often do we see brawls of that nature in the sport?  Seriously, it’s not as if teams regularly fight in this nature.

I’m not hear to condone what happened between the Islanders and Penguins.  I think the situation got out of hand once the Isles were up big and felt comfortable goading the Pens into what became a throw down of epic proportions.  Had the game been closer in score, this escalation in violence probably would not have reached the palpable stage that it did.

So why eliminate fighting altogether?

Injuries for starters.  I get that.  But you are more likely to be injured when checked into the boards, taking an elbow to the head, stick to the grill or catching some ice when falling. 

Fighting is used to keep goons in line.  Those Tie Domi types who go after the stars of the game.  It’s the sports checks and balances and has been for ages and has its place.

Just not the type of out of control fighting we saw in Nassau Coliseum on February 11th. 

Normally, I’m all for making changes to old ways.  But in this case, I think we are seeing the call for a ban on fighting coming off the heels of an isolated incident. 

Did we hear these same people screaming for change during the off-season?  Where was Mario Lemieux in October at the beginning of the year?  It wasn’t until such a black eye placed on the sport do we hear the howls for making changes sung. 

Do you think if this brawl involved say Atlanta and Phoenix, much would have been made of it?  Would Lemieux have spoken up had the fight been between players from Anaheim and say Calgary? 

I’m guessing no.

Because it involved his team AND took place in the Big Apple, (Long Island to be specific) did Le Magnifique utter such harsh criticism.  Add to it his star players still sits because of a cheap shot to the head, did Lemieux bark like a junk yard dog. 

My question is this.  What took him so long?  Where was Mario during the owners meetings last summer?  Your telling me it took an incident like this to grab his attention and compel him make a statement? 

If fighting in hockey casts such a dark shadow on the sport, why isn’t it being addressed during the offseason when change can be implemented?  Why do we only hear about fighting and why it should be banned when incidents like this occur?

That’s easy.  Gary Bettman and the old guard who run the NHL.

They have no intention of bringing hockey out of the shadows and changing what they believe is something that is part of the tradition of the game.  Heaven for bid they make changes so ‘Americans’ embrace the sport.

Because of this attitude, hockey will get the respect it deserves, which is little and command even less attention from a sports crazed public.  Outside of a handful of cities where the game is revered, hockey is just not exciting enough that people aren’t willing to gravitate towards it. 

If anything, fighting in hockey generates conversation about the game.  When was the last time you heard two guys at the water cooler yakking it up about that Steven Stamkos goal? 

How about…never, unless you live in Tampa or Markham, Ontario.   

Besides, hockey has bigger issues to fix, like the lack of scoring.  The game is boring.  Nobody wants 2-1 games.  The high-flying style of hockey played in the 80’s is what the sports needs more of and fast, not a ban on fighting. 

Nothing is going to change fights taking place during a hockey game.  Nothing short of somebody dying from fighting at least.  But even that might not work.

Not when you can package the fight, put it on DVD and sell it for $12.95 plus tax and shipping.

John Phillips is the author of this article and most recently was appointed Deputy Commander of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police.  When asked, Phillips hosts weekend talk-shows and anchors sports updates on 93.7 The Fan. 

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