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Orr and McLaren and the NHL fighting debate: I really don’t know what to say

It’s easy to say, after the fact, that we are “horrified” when a player (as in the case of the young Ottawa player who fought Frazer MacLaren the other night) is seriously injured in a fight. Yet we all go back to waiting for the next time two players go toe-to-toe. 

I realize there is an element in all this that is simply human nature.  (It’s like "hitting from behind" in hockey.  No one wants to admit it is almost human nature to take advtange of someone in a game situation when they are “vulnerable”.  Heck, friends react that way when they're fooling around with one one another.  Can I get the upper hand on my buddy if I sneak up from behind?)  I remember cross-checking a guy from behind when I was playing a pick-up shinny game outdoors forty years ago.  I was maybe 20.  He was much bigger than me but that doesn't excuse the action on my part.  Unfortunately,  the temptation is always there to 'take advantange'.  You want that puck.

That is why it requires a major shift in attitude, a true culture re-adjustment, to get rid of that from our game.  Unless a serious punishment is handed out by the various hockey leagues with real consequences (other than the possibility of injuring someone else), it will continue.

While these kinds of things -fighting, hitting from behind, always seeking that 'edge', whatever-  seem to be in our “human nature”, it doesn’t mean we have to like it,  or that any of us should condone it.  And the NHL certainly shouldn't. 

When it comes to specifically to fighting, some folks do support it, however.  To be clear, I’ve never liked the concept of physical intimidation.  If two people want to have a fair go at it, one-on-one, based on some kind of built-up issue between them, perhaps that’s one thing.  I don't know.  But success in any field of endeavor—business, sports or life—based primarily on the ability to physically intimidate your opponent is, well, nauseating to me. (You’ll get a clearer sense of some of the reasons why by clicking on an earlier VLM post here.)

Look, as I’ve said here at VLM countless times, I enjoy physical hockey.  In fact, it is absolutely essential to success for any team.  You may not have to fight a lot, but you need to have guys who play hard.  Every team needs players who will work the boards, the corners and the front of both nets.  That’s the sport.  You have to be willing to take physical punishment and accept the reality of physical danger in hockey.  It’s a tough, violent sport.

Who have been some of my favourite players over the years (guys I may have hated, but liked the way they played, and wished they had been Leafs—or had been Leafs for a longer period of time)? Well, here are some of the names that come to mind: Bert Olmstead, Bob Pulford, right, Brian Spencer, Terry O’Reilly, Bob Nystrom, Bob Gainey and Brendan Shanahan. These guys all hit hard but usually “clean”, they finished their checks and if they had to defend their actions could fight as well. They were hard to play against but could also play the game.

But this business of being in the lineup solely because you can beat up the other guys is not for me.  The Flyers did that in in the ‘70s (yes, some of their guys scored goals, too, but I maintain that was mostly because the opposition was so frightened that players like Don Saleski and Dave Schutz skated around unfettered.  At least “Mad Dog” Kelly could skate and create havoc with his play and not just fight…) and they were hated—with good reason.  I recognize that the Flyers had some immense skill, too, in guys like Barber, MacLeish, Clarke and Leach, but their operating mantra was physical intimidation.  The “Big Bad Bruins” were very much that way in the '70s, too, though not quite to the degree of ‘thuggerry’ exhibited by the Broad Street Bullies.

Closer to home on the current Leaf team, Colton Orr and Frazer MacLaren represent, I’m sorry, something in hockey that apparently has to exist but I wish didn’t.  Nothing against them personally. In fact, both have obviously worked hard at trying to be "all around" players and both have certainly contributed to the team’s success this season.  (We can debate that impact, but I'd argue they deserve some credit, at least...)  They go to the net, work the corners, all things you’ve heard me say are important parts of the arsenal for many players who hope to survive and thrive in the NHL.

But we’re kidding ourselves if we think they are here because they can “play hockey”.  It’s just not so, at least as far as I can tell.  They are enforcers, there to fight and beat up the opposition—full stop.  If they were more than that, they surely would have played more than four minutes each against a good Pittsburgh team the other night,

You can trot out the old Conn Smythe line: “If you can’t beat them in the alley, you can’t beat them on the ice”, and I understand that thinking, sure.  There is, I recognize, a long history in hockey of accepting brutality because “it’s part of the game” and always has been.  Hockey is a battle, yes.

But c’mon, the current argument that guys don’t get hurt fighting is just not true. Guys do get hurt fighting.  It’s obvious.  One Senior A player died from the consequences of a fight a few years ago.  Countless guys suffer serious head trauma, not to mention other more “minor” injuries- the type that would send the rest of us to a hospital ward for a long time.

And yes, some lose their careers.

Am I writing today because of one “incident” against Ottawa the other night?  I suppose that’s a trigger, just like Marc Staal being hit in the eye with a puck resurrects the demand for visors for all players.

But the outcome of the MacLaren fight just reminds us that hockey, while a “game”, still has a lot of Neanderthal in our thinking.  And I mean a lot of us, not just a few people.  Don Cherry is right when he says “no one leaves the room” when a fight breaks out.

We can’t oppose fighting only when no one gets hurt.  These are mostly big men fighting each other because they feel they “have” to—to protect their own individual honour and that of their team and teammates.  I guess delivering a big-time open-ice hit is no longer an acceptable form of “retribution” in hockey.  Or can these players, like Orr and MacLaren, not manage that because they don’t have the actual skill required to do it?

I’m not just picking on our “fighters”. It’s obviously a league-wide phenomenon and has been for ages.

But does anyone think that when MacLaren asked the Ottawa kid to fight the other night, that there was a legitimate in-game reason for combat at that point in the contest?  Had the Ottawa player run one of our guys from behind?  Had the passion of the game spilled over into a natural, spur of the moment battle?

No.  MacLaren was simply doing what thugs do—asking for a fight because that’s what these guys typically do, then beating up someone because they can. And in the NHL, it is not only “legal” but embraced and applauded by the league, Cherry and all those who support fighting as “part of the game”. 

If we think that's not so, we're lying to ourselves.

I’ve never looked at myself as a pacifist.  But I'm hardly a tough guy and I realize we now live in a world of “Mixed Martial Arts”.  But man, we’ve made progress in so many parts of life over the last hundred years. All individuals being allowed to vote is one simple example.  It took a lot of "changing minds" to gain that basic human "right" for all.  (Can you imagine the prevailing "opinion" about that issue two hundred years ago.  Yet few if any challenged it?  Wow.)

We’re far from perfect now but we have progressed in terms of human rights, personal freedoms, democracy, the ability to express ourselves, understanding sexual orientation—it’s a long list.  We are aghast when freedoms are repressed, when free speech is hampered in any way.  We educate our children and society to ensure people make as informed decisions as possible about their health and well-being and the health and welfare of their children.  We don’t smoke like we used to, for example, because we know it's not healthy.  Some do and yes, that’s their choice.  No problem.

But we use our research, we use education, we use gentle suasion to try and make the world a little better, a little safer, a little healthier.

Football players, in the most violent sport in the world (football has its own issues, I realize) do not fight.  If they do, they’re tossed out of the game.  Do rugby players fight every night?  Ever?  I think that’s a pretty tough sport.  And they’re not brandishing sticks and wearing skates.  They're not "men"?

I used to go to a ton of Canadian college hockey games in the early 1970s.  It was outstanding hockey. Fast.  Great passing, tough play, spirited as all get out.  But never a fight.  It was still fabulous hockey.  When I worked around Junior hockey for a time in the early '80s, I loved a lot about that level of play, too.  The energy was fantastic.  But the copy-cat behaviour of young players trying to make the NHL through fighting (and almost none of them did- and what long-term damage did they do to themselves?) often left me cold.

Yet in professional hockey, it is our clarion call, It is part of what distinguishes us, sadly. It's seemingly what we want to "teach" our players.  That it takes being willing to "fight" to be a hockey player, a man.

I don’t know what I feel about rats  “ruining the game”.  I'm not on the ice.  But if they are ruining the  game and they're the reason we need to keep fighting around, then those "rats" should be dealt with severely by the NHL.  And then we’ll get rid of “rats”.

But in 2013, our best response is the same response we’ve had for decades?  Encourage two behemoths to grapple, because it entertains us?  And, supposedly, gives teammates a lift?

I'm among those who do feel the presence of Orr and MacLaren has given guys like Kadri more room out there.  But wouldn't we prefer that the "protection" come from guys who can play 15 minutes a night- every night?

Again, I’m all over the map because I don't really know what to say.  I know that, sometimes, a spirited bout, a “good fight”, seems to give a team a lift.  But what’s the human cost?  We only care, I guess, when our ex-enforcers start dropping dead (often taking their own life) and some critics attribute their death to the injuries they suffered relating to the demands of fighting as part of their "job".  We think, nod- and move on.  We’re sad for a few days, say kind things about them, then line up for the next go-round.

Does a big (tough, but clean) hit not achieve the same thing as a fight?   And isn’t that way more of a skill thing (skating, timing, etc.) than trading fists?  Doesn’t a big, clean, hit inspire a team? (Like the hit by van Riemsdyk on Malkin the other night.) 

That’s why, in part, we don’t have many fights in the payoffs.  Guys are pumped already. They don’t need phony “inspiration”.  And the first round of the playoffs, 16 teams battling for every inch of ice, is the best hockey we see all year.

I’m the first to say the Maple Leafs have to be able to “match up” against tough teams, like the Bruins.  But does that mean senseless fighting? Is that the only way the Leafs can play inspired, skilled, hockey—if we beat the hell out of someone first?

Do I want a tough team?  Of course.  Do I accept that, given the current state of the game and the “rules”, we need to be able to defend ourselves if “provoked”?  Absolutely.  Mark Fraser and McQuaid fighting in Boston.  That seemed within the context of the game.  I can handle that.

But to do this night after night, two minutes into a game, with no real reason and no provocation?  I just don’t know.  If that’s really the only way the Leafs (or the NHL) can be successful in this day and age, I wonder.

I'm conflicted. I admit that.  Again, I’m an old-timer.  I saw some of the “baddest asses” in hockey in person.  John Ferguson, Orland Kurtenbach.  Reggie Fleming.  I realize fighting was big back then too. But those guys could play and take regular shifts every night.  Ferguson helped Montreal win Cups.  Fleming scored 20 goals in the old six-team NHL.  (By the end of his long career Fleming was one-dimensional, yes, but my question is: where was the support for players like him to adjust to life after hockey?)  Kurtenbach was a team captain.

But the kind of stuff we’re seeing now?  Constant staged fights, seconds into a game or of a shift, when no one has even hit one another beforehand?


We’ve gone to great lengths over the past ten years—symposiums, think tanks, everything short of a Royal Commission on hockey whenever we lose a major International event or a player gets a concussion—to educate ourselves and to eradicate things like hitting from behind and head shots.

Yet we encourage guys to stand on skates and whale away at each other, for no earthly reason much of the time other than “I’m a fighter, and that’s what I do to get my team started”.  And we try to rationalize by saying, “but they play the game, too.  They don’t just fight…”

Really?  Bob Gainey played four minutes a night? Bob Nyrstrom?  Terry O'Reilly?  Those guys played the game.

Are we barbarians (and I'm including myself here)?  We’ve learned nothing in fifty years?

So here's my "solution":  at the very least,  the NHL should ban this senseless un-provoked, ‘staged’ fighting.  Everyone (except Cherry, if I understood him this past Saturday night) claims they’re against it, so just get rid of it.

If two guys drop the gloves within seconds of a game or a shift, boot them out.  Don’t analyze it.  Kick them out.  And the coach, too. And for the next game as well.

Then, we would eventually get back to more old-time fighting (if we have to have it), when there was at least a semi-legitimate, passion-fueled reason for dropping the gloves.

By all means have your say.  A lot of us will likely disagree on this one, and we all have a right to our own views.  Let me know what you think.


  1. I am somewhat in the same camp as you. There are some fighters that I have really liked. Bob Probert was the champ, but had a soft set of hands in front of the net. I liked guys like guys like Tiger Williams, Nystrom, the modern era I sure covet Lucic.

    I follow the tough guys pretty closely. I don't fool myself with childish delusions about the purity of the game. I recognize that people will do some pretty ugly things to win, be it sports or business and you have to be prepared for that.

    I don't mind the presence of Orr or McLaren. In general, I am in favor of them being there. Where we mostly agree is about staged fights. Other than the Domi vs. Probert, king of the hill fights...I'd rather not see the staged fights. I actually think both Orr and McLaren are more effective when they play hockey and do some policing if events call for it...if somebody takes liberties with Kadri or Graboski....or if their presence just facilitates a guy like Kadri playing bigger.

    I like the tough guys but I want them to be good hockey players. I sure like Mark Fraser. Last year though he could be a good, tough third pairing guy. I am not so confident about Jamie Devane for the Marlies. He is slipping and not developing as I hoped.

    I think our fuure hope might be Leaf prospect,David Broll. He is a monster at 19 and 235 lbs, strong as a Ox,( he can lift 315 lbs) but his skating and most of all, his play making and passing is way above average for someone tabbed as a potential enforcer. Take a peek at some highlights. Orr and McLaren don't pass like number 17:

  2. Michael,

    We are in total agreement on this issue. I have no need to see the sideshow that some players seem obligated to put on. There was no reason for the McLaren fight vs. Dziurzynski. Unless of course intimidation was the goal. Wendel Clark is my all time favourite Leaf. He was also a damn fine hockey player as well as tough as nails.

    I am sad to say that we will likely have to watch these guys, who are paid to fight primarily, and play hockey secondarily. At least until one of them dies as a result of the punch to the head he received in a hockey fight. Then, we can all embrace the change that is long overdue.

  3. Thanks DP. I'll always most appreciate guys who play tough but can play the game. (We both mentioned some of those kinds of players in our respective posts.)

    For me, Orr and McClement just can't. I get that they have a role right now. But if they can only play four minutes a night, for me that's not hockey.

  4. I sense we're maybe in a minority (though a poll or something came out last week suggesting a majority of Canadians - not sure if they were "hockey fans" - were actually opposed to fighting in hockey).

    Your last sentence is the trigger- surely action should be taken before that happens.

    1. Sadly Michael, I don't think that there is enough impetus for the league to change its ways without having someones death broadcast for the nation. It is supposed to be about the hockey, and when some of the players have no business being on the ice with the best in the world, it belittles the game in my mind. And can anyone please explain to me why if two players choose to fight, they get to stay in the game? An automatic game misconduct would stop a lot of these shenanigans.

  5. I actually think the OHL has it in right in this area.

    Their new rules against the serial fighters, 10 games and then come suspensions, seem to have some merit and have cut down fighting by 27%?

    Perhaps the NHL can do something similar, though I understand the union has opposed past efforts...lots of enforcers are union reps Parros, etc.

  6. For me DP it's not so much frequency but when. Those fights that start on the first shift of the game have no place, to me. But yes, the OHL rule may be a start, as you say.

    And Jim- you and I would see our views dismissed by a lot of fans, I guess. Oh well, you speak up. Not much else we can do. The NHL could change the culture. The league clearly does not really want to.

  7. I cannot deny that many players feel much 'safer' with Orr and MacLaren on the roster, but I do wonder if they would feel 'stronger' in a triple overtime game where those guys have only eaten 8-10 minutes of ice time... Of course, that's an extreme sample, but it begs the question of why they are on the ice at all, if their role is so limited. I was pleased to see Orr step up on the 3rd line, crash, bang and head for the net for career high territory minutes for a few games... he can play a bit and so can MacLaren (just not to the level that we will see them very often during many games.

    The role seems so limited and the consequences (potentially) so devastating (Wade Belak and others) that I don't know how we're going to effectively transition to a game without the need (or place) for the enforcer. When emotions 'spilled over' during some high intensity games and skilled guys like Sittler, Clark or Iginla would drop the gloves, I didn't 'feel' the same as when guys drop the mitts less than a minute into the game for a sideshow.

    I'm not questioning the character of the guys in those roles... I'm questioning the roles themselves (which is the point of your essay, Michael). I would much rather see a 4th line with guys playing 10 minutes a game, who can play like Komarov... I have even enjoyed the non-fighting shifts of Orr and MacLaren, just can't see them playing more than 5 minutes most games. I agree with you, Michael, why can't a big open-ice hit BE the 'retribution' in the game, rather than the trigger for a staged fight. I wish these enforcers didn't have to play that role at all and I can't imagine living their role for 400 games (hoping for a limited pension when my mind could be mush by the time I collect on it). For having reached such a milestone, should anyone have to pay with a shorter and diminished capacity to enjoy life?

    Guess I'm not really adding a lot to the debate that hasn't been said before, just saying I hope we find a way to diminish that role in the NHL. I hope we will transition to a tough team (from the makings of a 70's Flyers team). I see this as a possibility as I anticipate the potential injection of some players with skill into our lineup who might also fight on occasion (like Biggs or Ashton), whereby we may still have one of Orr/MacLaren as the 13th guy who would come in against other teams (like we have now). Given the current makeup of the team, this may have been necessary 'transition year', but I do hope we become tough for different reasons (with skill).

    How can you not respect a guy that is willing to stand up for others, for reasons they think are honourable. When the whole game is 'rigged' as a sideshow more often than not, it's kind of like the soldiers who sacrifice and go into battle for personally honourable reasons who don't realize the rigging, manipulation and profits that are accruing to those who foment wars, but would never fight for their gains themselves. Somebody always comes out ahead, but it's rarely the guy who makes the sacrificial/honourable decision to participate for reasons that satisfy them in their youth. They might receive temporary respect and honours, but we're not living their quiet 'hell' when nobody is around and they struggle to carry on...

  8. I wonder how many exceptionally gifted players never make the NHL because they just won't participate in a sport that allows thuggery? Are we devolving into a society that requires gladiators to do battle for our entertainment?

    ...It seems to me that the Roman Empire crumbled from within - perhaps our response to these staged fights is our best hope to avoid such decay in our own society. I like (and care about) the fighters... not the staged fights.

    I can live with the situational fights, but I always cringe and hope the skilled guys won't lose any of the skills I so enjoy, just because they so engaged in the fisticuffs...

  9. I've made my views clear on the whole goon issue, which in my mind is something different from fighting. Two guys fighting because of something that happened is a good thing from my point of view. The staged fighting is just ridiculous. They may as well have McClaren or Orr skate out to center ice before each period starts have their stupid litte dance and be done with it.

    DP mentions how Orr or McClaren protecting Kadri and I call BS. What you see is Kadri getting roughed up and then Orr comes out on the ice and fights the other teams tough guy. How on earth does that protect Kadri? If your so called police man can't play a regular shift he isn't protecting anybody. Heck even this year Kadri got into a fight against Hedman from Tampa Bay with Orr on the ice. Nice job of protecting him. This is perhaps the biggest myth in hockey today. The second factor in all this is it is the so called policeman that are usually the ones creating all the havok in the first place. I'll take Chris Neal tonight in Ottawa. Neal is a guy we can probably say is actually on the high end of the goon scale, yet there he was tonight after getting absolutely rocked sticking his knee out into a Boston player a couple of shifts later. All you have to do is look at the suspensions, espicially the longest ones, to see it is the goons who actually need the policing. I refer you to Tie Domi, the dirtiest hockey player ever in my opinion, who single handidly cost the Leafs game 6 and ultimatly the series against the Devils with an unprovoked attack on Nidermeyer.

    Oddly the biggest factor in this isn't the league but the union. A couple of years ago the NHL wanted to change the rules to make the staged fight illegal and it was the NHLPA that refused to go along. Like I say I don't want to see fighting gone, I just want to see the pure fighters gone. Watching guys like Shannhan, Iginla, Lucic and Chara fight is perfectly fine by me. Watching guys like Orr and McClaren fight, well I'd rather masturbate with sandpaper.

  10. I absolutely agree, the staged crap has just got to go. I've probably evolved in my own thinking as I've gotten older, but I don't have an absolute hatred for the existence of fighting in hockey. That said, my defense of fighting has always been that it is a necessary evil. Emotions are high, a lot goes on out there, and stuff happens. You had mentioned that there is no fighting in football. I would submit that the emotions do not rise to the same level in football, violent as it is, because of the constant stoppages in play. Also, when you think of some of the dirtier players in football, particularly linemen, I wonder what might change if they were called onto the carpet for some of the stuff they pull.

    As we know, the increase in roster size created an evolution from the 70s tough guys who could actually play, to the 80s goons who racked up countless penalty minutes and not much more. It seems to have decreased since then (I don't have stats to back me up, but I do believe that the number of penalty minutes has decreased a lot since the 80s). Teams have evolved into depending on four lines to play the game, at least in the first two periods. Yet we still have this elephant in the corner of the room.

    Anyone who watches this game can tell the difference between a fight of passion and a staged fight. MacLaren himself is an easy example, think of the clearly overmatched Canadien player taking him on as MacLaren laughed at him, and the fight the other night. I can understand the frustration in the Canadiens that night. I see zero value in the staged fight 26 seconds into the game. I do not buy for a second that it gives a team a "lift". No player in the NHL would ever admit that his teammate just lost a fight as he taps his stick on the board in tribute to his fallen warrior. Or even if it is obvious his teammate got pummelled, well, his teammates would feel that boost for him standing up for himself anyway right? Point is, it doesn't give one team an edge, plain and simple.

    The NHL does not want to be honest and admit that they want to keep the fighting in the game simply because it is a guilty pleasure of a large number of fans. They instead will make excuses and say it's impossible to govern the cheap fights out of the game. I don't believe that for a second. Referees have discretion to hand out majors, misconducts, and match penalties for what they see as particularly unsportsmanlike or dirty play. So why can't the league use discretion and say that they will suspend a player for taking part in what is decidedly a staged fight?

    I also have no issue with the OHL's stance, tallying up fight majors and suspending players after so many. I thought the same thing years ago. My thinking was that, as I stated earlier, fights do happen, and a player at times does need to rise to the challenge this way. But how many times during a season? Five? Ten? The line needs to be drawn somewhere.

  11. Very well said, InTimeFor62. It's not, as you write, a matter of questioning those individuals who "do the job", as much as a society that places emphasis on that role when it is so limited.

    In the "real" world, coming to the aid of a defenceless person is courageous and noble. I'm just not sure hockey fits that equation. Again, I'm not suggesting all fighting in NHL hockey be banned, but surely it is not unreasonable to try and draw a line in the sand somewhere?

    Thanks InTimeFor62.

  12. I share some of your abhorence for staged fights, Willbur. (And yes, Leaf fans well remember the Domi play that cost the Leafs so much in that playoff series...)

    I, too, with the NHLPA would take a stand that helps the game and actually protects the health of the players, not protect jobs for players with limited skills.

  13. We're thinking very much along the same lines, Pete. "Guilty pleasure", indeed. And the NHL essentially looks the other way. Thanks for chiming in.

  14. Total agreement. There's nothing worse in the NHL than the boring, perfunctory fights that happen seemingly every game. The goon on Team A fights the goon on Team B because....well, no reason, really. They're just doing what everyone expects them to do. Like two minutes into a game, they drop the gloves, grapple at each other, then go off the ice for their five minute majors or whatever, then the game resumes as if nothing ever happened. It's like randomly throwing a bit of a boxing match into a hockey game. What's it doing there? I don't know. No one knows. It's just there.

    I've always thought it was funny that in the most important part of the season (playoffs), fighting almost totally disappears. If it's so important for the game, how to explain this state of affairs? Do the Don Cherrys of the world have an answer for that?

  15. For me, BlueJayWay, the best hockey we see all year is the first round of the playoffs. So intense, every team fighting madly to survive to the next round and the dream of a Stanley Cup.

    It's tough, hard-edged but usually clean, smart hockey. People love it. Virtually no fighting but it sure is "tough" hockey.

    Fighting is not necessary for us to love the game, the passion and the intensity. I can live if necessary with legitimate spur-of-the-moment stuff. The fights that you describe in your thoughtful comment , those I can do without. We agree. Thanks BlueJayWay.

  16. Wow. I get the feeling that you're saying you dont't like fighting, BUT if you play the game well enough then it's OK. If there is a fight, does it matter who does it? Colton orr is a "goon". Gordie Howe was known for handy "stick-work" around opponents ears. Just because he could pick a corner doesn't make it OK. Orr is not known for any such thing. The fighters do ASK their opponents to "Go". If there is a yes, they go.

    I don't think anyone forces someone else to fight (other players, coaches, management). A player only fights if he wants to. If they are only fighters, it was their choice ti become a "goon". Guys do it because they choose to. Some like it, some like it alot. If a bullfighter gets mauled, it's because he was standing in front of the bull - his choice.

    I'm ok with fighting, it's entertaining. Do we have to have it? No. Does an NFLer have to get up from a nice tackle and pound his chest and scream like an idiot? No. Does a basketball player have to stand over his opponent looking at him on the ground after dunking over him and hanging for 5 seconds on the rim? No.

    I linked an article here a couple of weeks back about the leafs and our fighting ways this year that basically says it has no bearing on momentum or the outcome of a game. And I do agree.

    As for staged fights, I think it's awful. But someone would eventually find a way around a rule that bans it. We could see a rush or good oportunity interrupted by to guys fighting at the other end 10 seconds after a face-off because they had ti wait fir the right time. It could actually get worse. As it is now, they drop the puck, fight and get it over with, not killing any actual play. It tricky.

    So what i'm saying is, for me fighting is entertaining, has no actual impact on the game and those who fight, fight because they want to and they fight with someone who feeks the same. Thy are not forced to do so.

    Banning or regulating it, will be very very tricky.

  17. The first out of town game I attended happened to be in New York. It was on the occasion of my sixteenth birthday and we enjoyed a beautiful weekend in the city and evening at Madison Square Garden. When a fight broke out and the crowd stood and cheered, those of us in the family unused to 'away' games were all horrified. It was not as if we were strangers to fights, but in Toronto, in the sixties, the crowd sat in a collective horrified silence and the women said, "Oh goodness." While we were always schooled in the idea of defending oneself and not leaving your mates to be clobbered, it was seen as necessary evil that referees were duty bound to break up. The hockey purists in our midst, saw it as a frustrating distraction and we often heard, "get back in the game," shouted by the Smythe men. Conn's oft quoted saying, "You can't beat 'em on the ice, if you can't lick 'em in the alley," sprung from the very real experience of growing up as a small boy in the streets of old Cabbage town. Divided into street gangs of Irish Catholics on one side and Irish Protestants on the other, when the schools were let out, they lined up in a gauntlet that had to be faced daily. My uncle, the late Dr. Hugh Smythe said, of the saying, that while his father was often accused of being somewhat responsible for all the mayhem in hockey, he really used the phrase to explain that one must never be intimidated, and must never give into it. As Conn was the son of a Pacifist, when many of his grandchildren began trending back to the foresighted philosophies of his father, he told us, with exasperation at times, that peace is only possible when others are afraid to fight you.
    Ideally, an opposing team should get a cramp in their stomach as the plane lands in Toronto. This doesn't mean that our Leafs should be a bunch of thugs. They should have a proven toughness that others will think twice about challenging. However, I would never want our game to turn into some kind of cheap and cheesy side show and be about fighting rather than fast, beautiful and brilliant play.

  18. I hear you, portuguese leaf. Some fair points.

    Yes, I'm torn on the issue of fighting. Too, I wonder if players being "forced" or not to do it is more nuanced than we might think. I remember a player years ago (Mulvey in Los Angeles, I believe, but I could be wrong) basically being isolated because he dared to turn down his coach's request to go out and fight an opponent. So while it is "unspoken", the pressure is definitely there to fight. Yes, some guys "like" it but Im not sure that is a reason why we should condone it.

    We're together on the issue of staged fights. And yes, it would be difficult to enforce bans, but it could be done. Referees have discretion. You wouldn't be kicking Bobby Orr out of any games. These guys who play four minutes a night are out of the game, anyway.

    Thanks portuguese leaf.

  19. I enjoy fighting in hockey. And I feel ashamed that I enjoy fighting in hockey. I get the calming influence it has on dirty play when two big men go toe to toe. Unfortunately however, as it did with smoking, the science is now coming in. The effects of these unnecessary blows to the head are extremely serious. If not now, then later, fighting kills. It has to go, as soon as possible.

    Also, I do not believe that full cages obstruct vision. The resistance to full cages is cultural. There are too many unnecessary facial injuries. I am in favor of mandating full facial protection as well.

  20. I appreciate your sharing a perspective today, Elizabeth. It's a difficult subject for me with lots of shades of grey.

    As the grand-daughter of Conn Smythe, you understand the history of this franchise and this sport better than anyone. You well describe the contextual background of the famous "alley" statement from your granddad.

    We agree: we want to see the Leafs be a tough team, for sure. And yes, if we're tough enough, other teams won't try to instigate dirty play - or fights.

    We also agree that we don't want to see the side shows! Fast, skilled, tough hockey is what we never want to lose. Thanks for sharing that, Elizabeth.

  21. That "admission" Bobby C., (that you "enjoy" fighting) is one a lot of us need to face up to- and it's one I was trying, in part, to convey in my post today, Bobby.

    We've learned some things in the past fifty years. As in other parts of life, there is no reason we can't apply that "learning" to the sport we all love- for the benefit of the game, and the individuals who play it for a living. (And those who play it at every level, for that matter.)

    Thanks Bobby.


  23. Anon, I don't recall saying that I spoke for "the masses". In fact, I was pretty clear that this was my view only, and it is a nuanced view at that. For the record, I was not suggesting a full "ban" on fighting.

    I appreciate that you took the time to vent.