Friday, March 30, 2007

Flyers Versus Rangers Saturday Night for Fights!

Let's get some hype built up for this game. A lot has been said. A lot has been written. So let's take a look at a game that has the potential for some FIREWORKS!

The last time these two hooked up, we had the infamous Colton Orr KO of Todd Fedoruk.



The hockey world shook after the KO as images of Fedoruk being carted on a stetcher filled television screens across North America. Ben Eager, the NHL league leader in penalty minutes, later took on Orr and edged him out in a spirited battle.



The two teams meet again, and for the final time this regular season, Saturday night in the City of Brothely Love. There is no doubt in my mind that the house will be rocking. The boys over at Fried Chicken's are already building up the hype for this game. And Todd Fedoruk's replacement in the lineup, Riley Cote, has been very candid in his comments about the game. From Flyersphans:

"As a role player, my job is to start stuff," Cote said. "I’m an energy guy. If I can’t find a fight, I have to bring a hit. The last couple of games ..I haven’t been finding fights. So this is a good challenge for me."

Cote, 25, who never scored much at any level but found no problem cranking 200-plus penalty minute seasons in the depths of the Central Hockey League, the East Coast Hockey League, and then with the Phantoms, is willing to take on all challenges.

"I’ve got a lot to prove here," Cote said. "This is a great opportunity the way it works out. I want to show this team that I can fill (Fedoruk’s) shoes in his absence.

"I’m not going to start calling guys out, because it’s a hockey game, not a boxing match. But I’ll play physical and get in people’s faces. And whatever comes, comes."

It was a fair fight between Todd Fedoruk and Colton Orr and an undisputed butt-kicking by the Rangers on the Flyers last week. But that isn't going to change what will happen when the teams play their final game this season at the Wachovia Center tomorrow, according to Riley Cote.

So, does that mean heads up New York?

"Well, yes, kind of," Cote said. "It was a fair fight and every time you fight there's a chance of getting knocked out or getting injured. But as a role player, everybody knows the consequences. There was no cheap shot or anything like that, but it is my teammate. I am a role player and I am a new guy. So I've got a lot to prove here. It's a great opportunity against a tough guy like [Orr].

"I'll get my name out there and show the team I can fill [Fedoruk's] shoes while he's absent.

"As a role player, my job is always to start stuff. I'm an energy guy and if I can't find a fight, I gotta bring a hit. The last couple of games I've found the hits but I can't find the fights. Playing these next couple of teams, they've got guys that are gamers and it will be a challenge."

So just who is this Riley Cote character? Well, take a peak:



And the other combatants for Saturday night? The fight card is as follows:

Flyers:
Riley Cote
Montage
Ben Eager
Fight 1
Fight 2
Fight 3
Brad Richards
Fight 1

Rangers:
Colton Orr
Fight 1
Fight 2
Fight 3
Ryan Hollweg (-vs- Eager)
Fight 1
Fight 2
Jason Strudwick
Fight 1
Fight 2
Sean Avery
Montage
Ryan Callahan
Fight 1
Fight 2

And before we get too pumped up about tomorrow night's game, keep in mind that the Devils are none to pleased with Ben Eager for his treatment of Scott Gomez last game. Eager's action even led Claude Jullien to say:
"Certain things happened that we can deal with the next time we see them."

Eager was also accused of turning down fights from David Hale and Mike Rupp. Eager's response to Jullien:
"I can't even remember the hit," Eager said. "If he gets hit, he gets hit.

"No one is not allowed to get hit out there. I just played hard and finished my checks. If they don't like it, that's their problem."

These two teams meet tonight and I fully expect Cote to find Janssen for his first NHL fight. Said Cote:
"He's a tough dude and it would be good to get my first (fight) under my belt," Cote said. "I'm surer (Eager) will be stirring it up, too. If those guys want to kill him, Eags is doing his job. He gets under people's skin."

Rest assure, Friday and Saturday night should be entertaining for Flyers fans.

Donald Brashear and Capitals Fans Talk Fighting

Kudos to Eric McErlain over at Off Wing for his interview with Donald Brashear following the Pens game. Brashear. Brashear obviously seems upset over the treatment that enforcers get when they step foot on the ice. Brashear said the star players get away with a lot more. I can vouch for Brashear on that one as I seen him get hit with a number of loose penalty calls this year including one where he whistled for tripping when his stick was four feet aware from the opposing player's skates. I am sure the treatment is no different than what other enforcers around the league are getting.


Eric also took it to the streets (or the first level concourse) to grab some Caps' fans takes on fighting in the NHL. The response was overwhelming with most saying that fighting belong in the game to deter players from taking more cheap shots.

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

The NHL Players Have Spoken - Keep Fighting in Hockey

The Hockey News released the results of the NHL players' poll. The players reiterated their support for keeping fighting in the NHL. Specifically, 97% of the players voted to keep fighting as 5 minute major. Of particular interest is not a single player thought that fighting should be penalized by a Game Misconduct. Here are some more interesting questions and player responses:

What is an appropriate penalty for fighting?
1) 5 minutes (273) 97%
2) 10 minutes (5) 2%
3) 20 minutes (3) 1%
4) Game misconduct (0)

Would you rather see a fourth-line roster spot go to:
1) An enforcer (177) 66%
2) A skilled player who can play the power play and participate in theshootout (93) 34%

How do you feel about the NHL schedule format?
1) There should be more games against the other conference (248) 89%
2) Like it the way it is (25) 9%
3) There should be fewer games against the other conference (6) 2%

Who is the most respected player in the NHL?
1) Joe Sakic (166) 63%
2) Nicklas Lidstrom (30) 11.4%
3) Brendan Shanahan (19) 7.2%
4) Martin Brodeur and Chris Chelios (7) 2.6%
5) Rod Brind’Amour, Jarome Iginla and Scott Niedermayer (6) 2.2%
6) Sidney Crosby and Jaromir Jagr (3) 1.1%
7) Teemu Selanne and Mats Sundin (2) 0.76%
8) Zdeno Chara, Rob Blake and Martin St. Louis (1) 0.38%

Who is the most hated player in the NHL?
1) Sean Avery (168) 66.4%
2) Jordin Tootoo (14) 5.5%
3) Darcy Tucker (9) 3.5%
4) Jarkko Ruutu (8) 3.1%
5) Marc Savard (7) 2.7%
6) Chris Neil (6) 2.3%
7) Sidney Crosby (5) 1.9%
8) Donald Brashear and Matt Cooke (4) 1.5%
9) Matthew Barnaby, Jason Blake, Zdeno Chara, Ben Eager, Steve Ott and Brendan Shanahan (2) 0.79%
10) Derek Boogaard, Dany Heatley, Ryan Hollweg, Sean Hill, Cam Janssen, Paul Kariya, Ryan Kesler, Kirk Maltby, Dominic Moore, Steve Ott, Michael Peca, Dion Phaneuf, Chris Pronger, Maxime Talbot, Raffi Torres, Ryan Whitney and Brandon Witt (1) 0.39%

Who is the most overrated player in the NHL?
1) Sean Avery (17) 8.5%
2) Bryan McCabe and Brad Richards (16) 8%
3) Pavel Kubina (9) 4.5%
4) Marc Savard (8) 4%
5) Jaromir Jagr (7) 3.5%

What’s your position on the visor issue?
1) Keep it optional (214) 77%
2) Grandfather it for all players entering the NHL (44) 16%
3) Mandate it for all players (20) 7%

Jeff Gordon Supports Fighting!

Okay, okay, so it's not NASCAR's Jeff Gordon. What a way to kick off my first post at Two Minutes, with a nice little misleading headline!

St. Louis Post-Dispatch writer Jeff Gordon wrote up an article in support of fighting that also proposes an interesting method of keeping fighting in the game while also limiting the injuries from punches. The idea? Gloves for the fighters!

"Once a player gets into more than a few fights in a given year, the NHL could force him to wear lightweight fighting gloves under his hockey gloves," writes Gordon. " One-dimensional players who fall into the enforcer category would lose some manual dexterity while wearing fighting gloves under their hockey gloves, but they would retain their ability to throw body checks."

Interesting proposition really. But at the same time, I have to wonder, will it really work? Does adding a light glove really reduce the force of impact from a punch by enough of a degree that it's worth wearing these extra gloves?

And what about the skill players who are good for a few fights each year, like a Derian Hatcher (Good heavens, did I really just use "Derian Hatcher" and "skill" in the same sentence? Okay, a 1998-ish Hatcher), Jarome Iginla, Joe Thornton, or Vincent Lecavalier? How long before they have to put the gloves on?

"The big guys with ability around the net -– Donald Brashear and Georges Laraque come to mind -– would have to think twice about fighting just for the sake of fighting," says Gordon. Essentially, it's a variation on the instigator suspensions. Start a fight too many times and you'll get kicked out, or in this case, get in too many fights, and lose some playing ability.

Adding gloves may be an interesting idea, but it will make fighting viewed more like a sideshow than it already is viewed. Severe injuries in fights are still rare, with only a handful occurring each year. While there have been injuries in fights, there are just as many from hits into the boards. And I don't see anyone clamoring for a layer of Nerf padding to be added over the boards.

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Bettman Chimes in on Fighting in Hockey

The Commissioner is alive! Well, really that statement is just a product of how few interviews our great Commissioner actually gives, and even more so, how many interesting interviews he actually gives. From Monday’s Globe and Sport, Gary Bettman has spoken and said that fighting isn’t going anywhere. Are you surprised? I’m not. Last week, league disciplinarian Colin Campbell said fighting was something the league should take a look at. The statement was blown way out of proportion. What people forget is, it is Campbell’s job to look at everything and anything hockey related. So chatting about fighting is just an added bullet to the list. And there shouldn’t be any worries, the debate starts with the league’s General Managers. You know, the same General Managers that just voted to increase the number of instigators from three to five before a player is suspended? Yeah… that debate should go far.

As for Gary’s comments... Gary isn’t going to say anything that will get him in trouble. And since the GM’s (an extension of team owners) have already had their say on fighting, Uncle Gary is going to be right in line with what they say. Why? Because Gary is an extension of the owners too… what some might call a puppet.

Some quotables from the Globe article:

Bettman told reporters at the CBC that fighting is actually down over the long term and that the fighting-related injuries in the past few weeks may be an "aberration, not a trend."

"Fighting has always had a role in the game and the amount of fighting is determined by how the game is played," Bettman is quoted as saying on the CBC website.

"From a player safety standpoint, what happens in fighting is something we need to look at just as we need to look at hits to the head," Bettman said. "But we're not looking to have a debate on whether fighting is good or bad or should be part of the game . . .

"Players have gotten bigger and we at least have to look at the consequence of that on player safety."

"My view on fighting hasn't changed," Bettman said. "We've never taken active steps or considered eliminating fighting from the game. I've always taken the view that it's a part of the game and it rises and lowers based on what the game dictates."

"The PA [National Hockey League Players' Association] obviously is going to have to be involved," Bettman said. "This is something that's going to have to be discussed with the managers, with the competition committee . . . and ultimately the board of governors."

Response from one of the league's biggest enforcers, Buffalo's Andrew Peters, was
definitive.

"How long has fighting been around the game of hockey? It's part of the game, the fans love it and there's a need for it, for someone to protect their teammates," the 6-foot-4, 230-pound left winger said.

Simply Drew Signs with Two Minutes for Blogging!

Stop the blogosphere! Two Minutes for Blogging and Simply Drew have agreed to join forces to create the premier hockey enforcers blog on the net today! Details of the merger are still in the works. But Drew’s agent, Scott Boras, has said that the deal is in the 10 year, $252 million range. Two Minutes for Blogging owner, Sig, commented that the contact will stretch his resources thin, but the addition was one he couldn’t pass up. Sig will reportedly have to dip into his Google Adsense “profits” to pay the brunt of Drew’s contract.

Drew Pelto has run a successful sports blog over at Simply Drew for a few months now. While he will continue to maintain his blog, Drew will start posting enforcer articles at Two Minutes for Blogging. Drew is an excellent blogger and will contribute a lot of original material. If you haven’t checked out his blog already, please do so. There are a couple of great entries on autographs and Donruss wax boxes that any sports fan could appreciate. Drew is also a founding member of Sportsfansonline.net. Drew joins a team that consists or sporadic contributors that go by the name of Huard (a former hockey enforcer), Bill (the old school professor of hockey fights), Haymaker (added to capture the abundance of articles blessing and loitering the net these days), and Nach (our elusive contributor).

As always, if you have any interest in submitting articles, I find that the more you write, the less I have to. And, sometimes, that can be good for everyone. As well, please feel free to comment to the blogs. You do not have to be a member of the blog to comment. Finally, direct any emails to me at twominutesforblogging at gmail dot com.

Monday, March 26, 2007

Globe and Mail Hockey Fight Poll Rigged...

The Globe and Mail has been running a poll on fighting. It seems that the poll is adding No votes every few minutes and removing Yes votes as well. I have tested it personally and can verify that the poll is indeed dysfunctional. On purpose or not (and it is difficult to have a faulty poll), this is slightly embarrassing for the Globe.

NHL Stars Throw Cheap Hits Too

Forget the tough guys and agitators. Star players throw cheapies too. Have a look at some of protected stars of the NHL throwing some elbows and laying the lumber.

Ovechkin:


Kovalchuk in the Olympics:


Phaneuf:


Kyle McLaren:


Cheechoo:


Neidermayer (Olympics again):


Forsberg punches Cloutier in the nether region:


Hatcher:


Jagr:


Hatcher (again) on Roenick:

Mel Angelstad versus Darcy Hordichuk

I mentioned the Mel Anglestad/Darcy Hordichuk toe-to-toe scrap in the Maxim entry. Might as well give you a taste. Here are their two epic battles:

Round 1:


Round 2:

An Open Letter to Ed Moran

Mr. Moran,

I saw your article online this morning. I am sure you have received quite a few of these emails. Here’s my take.

You use Todd Fedoruk’s knockout to partially justify ridding fighting from hockey. Do you not realize that Todd would lose his job if fighting were not a part of the game? Or do you realize it and use his knockout to your benefit anyways?

Fighting isn’t going anywhere. I write about it all the time at my blog (http://twominutesforblogging.blogspot.com/). I won’t bore you with the repeated anecdotes as to why fighting is good for the sport. I will say that, when used correctly, it serves a very important purpose to incidents that are much more problematic than fighting. It also serves a purpose to a fan base that has said time and time again that they have no problem with fighting… and, if anything, they’d like to see more fights.

Mr. Moran. The GMs have spoken; they want more instigators before a player is suspended. And as you know, the GMs are an extension of the owners, who we all know, are an extension of our puppet Commissioner. The players have spoken in a player’s poll; 97% support fighting. The fans speak in countless polls; they routinely say that 8 to 9 out of 10 fans support fighting in hockey. And even research displays that fighting has a positive correlation with fan attendance, something that cannot be ignored.

This isn’t PCU. Hockey cannot afford to cater to a handful of writers/fans that say fighting isn’t good for the sport. The NHL has heard all of the arguments, specifically those that center on what you covered in your article (someone is going to die and the Olympics). What you fail to mention however is that there is a much higher chance that someone will die from a hit from behind or a puck or skate to the throat. Remember that hockey players skate at break neck speeds with razor blades on their feet. Clint Malarchuk will never forget that. Players also shoot 100 mph slap shots that players feel compelled to dive in front of.

And don’t forget too that comparing Olympic or NHL playoff hockey to a regular season NHL game is comparing apples to oranges. There is so much more at stake in the Olympics or playoffs. What is at stake is what drives the action. A regular season game doesn’t come close to that drama. Regular season games absolutely need the intensity that culminates in fights. Without that intensity, and without the fights, the NHL will lose more of its fan base. And although Colin Campbell will say that they will look at it, anyone that has followed the business side of the NHL will let you know that that removing fighting the NHL is not a business decision that the NHL will make. Simply put, they cannot afford to.

Maxim Online Ranks Their Top Ten Hockey Fights

Maxim Magazine, known for man gadgets and super hotties, found some space for hockey fights in their March edition. No complaints here as they were able to put together ten solid scraps from years past. Let’s just hope Paul Laus doesn’t get his hands on this issue though. Maxim was a little shaky on the spelling of his name. We won’t hold it against them. Tasker -vs- Senn is a little known minor league fight. It's probably one of the best toe-to-toe scraps you'll see with Hordichuk -vs- Angelstad giving the two dynamo middleweights a run for their money.

Sunday, March 25, 2007

TSN Article on Fighting in the NHL

TSN ran some pro-fighting material finally. I am happy to say that someone has finally talked about the overwhelming image, of carrying someone out on a stretcher, has on hockey fans.

"The notion that because one player got knocked cold in a fight, that's going to touch off a debate about eliminating fighting, to me is silly," said the Anaheim Ducks GM (Brian Burke).

"The stretcher and all that was probably blown out of proportion, they were just taking precautions," Fedoruk told CP in an interview Friday. "Obviously I was knocked out, but the day after I was fine."

The "someone is going to get killed" arguement was also brought up:

"I think it's possible," acknowledged Fedoruk, who had facial bones smashed in by Derek Boogaard earlier in the season. "You know I think it's something where guys now are 260, 270 pounds, and they're hitting bone on bone. It's getting worse and worse. I don't know if the initial hit is going to kill somebody, but maybe falling to the ice and smacking his head off the ice could do it. I think it's something that you have to take into account now, just because of the size of the guys.

I despise this arguement. In a game that sees players skate with razor blades on their feet at break neck speeds and dive in front of 100 mph slap shots, I think that a death will happen from another aspect of the game before it happens in a fight. Just ask Clint Malarchuk...

Now to the realastic quoatables:
"Taking fighting out of the game is definitely not a solution," said Fedoruk. "You just can't do it. It's ingrained in the roots of hockey."

"If the players know that there's no fighting and there's no retaliation, you can be pretty sure that guys will start running guys from behind along the boards now." (Hurricanes GM Jim Rutherford)

"Fighting has been systematically reduced in the NHL," said Burke, who had Fedoruk in Anaheim and phone him this week to make sure he was OK. "You are more likely now to not see a fight than you are to see one, through instigator penalties, suspensions and fines for fights in the last three [actually five] minutes of a game. It's been reduced to, in my mind, its proper place. It's no longer utilized as a tactic.

"But the notion that we ever get rid of the players' ability to regulate what happens, is silly to me."

"The game is a great game the way it is," said [Andrew] Peters. "The guys that are willing to do that, the guys that drop the gloves know what the risk is, know why they're doing it. I do it for my team and I'm willing to do it.

"What's going to happen if we're gone? Is Daniel Briere going to fight his own battles? Is Chris Drury going to fight his own battles? You have to have someone there to protect your teammates.

"If you do remove it I think you'll see guys run around and take even more liberties."

To the Polls! Hockey Fight Polls Offer Reassurance

Let me just get a couple out of the way in one entry. To access more fighting polls, click on the "Polls" label at the bottom of the page.

http://www.wgr550.com/?vo=1

Should the NHL consider banning fighting?

Yes - 13%
No - 87%
1664 votes

http://midatlantic.comcastsportsnet.com/

Do you like fighting in hockey?

Yes, it's part of the game - 81.5%
No, it's not necessary - 18.5%
275 votes

http://www.ottawasun.com/Sports/poll_results.html

Do you enjoy a good hockey fight?
Yes - 85%
No - 15%
Total Votes for this Question: 792

And an update on Yahoo's poll (http://sports.yahoo.com/nhl):

Fighting in the NHL:
There's too much - 10%
It's not an issue - 52%
There should be more - 38%
43164 Total Votes

Don Cherry Talks Fighting

Stop the presses... Don Cherry talked fighting today. Cherry mentioned a players' poll that came back saying 97% of players and 84% of fans want fighting in hockey. Cherry also mentioned an interesting rumor that Colin Campbell has asked commentators to be kinder and gentler when there is a fight on the ice. Folks... it's the NHL... it's believable.

Saturday, March 24, 2007

Another Fan Poll; Another Win for Fighting

Yahoo Sports is devoting their front page to the debate on hockey fighting. Another poll... another win for fighting in hockey.

Fighting in the NHL:

There's too much 10%

It's not an issue 51%

There should be more 39%

29836 Total Votes

As it stands... 9 out of 10 fans think fighting is good for hockey. So what's the issue?

Friday, March 23, 2007

Rebirth of goons puts hockey back on U.S. map

Stephen Brunt, from the Globe and Mail, weighs in on fighting in hockey. Brunt's article is fairly accurate, although I don't much care for him pointing out incidents that are not good for hockey and making them out to be somewhat positive because they draw attention to the sport. I, for one, am not a believer that any publicity is good publicity. Seeing guys being carted off on stretchers in not good for a sport that wants to repair its image in my opinion.

But Brunt takes it a step further and asks the question, are these images actually a positive for the NHL? Says Brunt:

Here's where the Don Cherrys and Brett Hulls are unquestionably correct. Have a few big brawls, such as the Ottawa Senators-Buffalo Sabres melee, and you'll get noticed. Have a few players carried off the ice on stretchers — such as Tomas Kaberle and Todd Fedoruk and St├ęphane Robidas — and you won't just make the evening sportscasts, you might make the evening news as well.

Provide highlights like Chris Simon's stick swing or Jordin Tootoo's one-punch, glove-on knockout or Colton Orr crunching Fedoruk's surgically repaired face with his fist and people are going to pay attention even in a world of sports overkill — because you sure don't see that in any other mainstream game.

Blunt goes on to say that the NHL has a decision to make. Curb fighting or promote it? But there are two things here. One, the NHL has already made some sort of a decision. The GMs have voted to increase the number of insitigator penalities from three to five before a player is suspended, a display that GMs are more concerned about cheap shot artists than enforcers beating up random players. And two, the NHL doesn't have to make a decision. As has been pointed out, this has been a relatively calm year when it comes to suspensions. Campbell handed out 31 supplemental suspensions in 2003-04 (not counting automatic suspensions). That dropped to 21 last season. A mere 9 supplemental suspensions have been handed down this season.

So why all the complaning? My thought is the lack of coverage for regular hockey fights (goals, clean hits, and saves) and the overwhelming coverage of fights, brawls, dirty hits, and guys being carted off on stretchers.

The image the league is creating now is out of the NHL's hands. It was out of their hands as soon as they failed to secure themselves a respectable television contract where hockey would have received regular highlights broadcast to millions of viewers. Now it is "hockey in a minute" highlights. And what is more exciting to see during that minute? A player scoring a goal? Or a player being knocked cold from a punch? I know ESPN's answer...

Ban Fighting in the NHL? I Think Not...

More drivel from TSN. TSN is about as anti-fighting a source as you will find on the net. So this article doesn't really come as a surprise. Dragging on the tails of the Colton Orr KO of Todd Fedoruk, TSN strung together a pathetic attempt at an article aimed at banning fighting in the NHL. The article comes up short from their end, however, as they were unable to get a quote from any of the players saying that they think fighting should be banned. The closest they could get was a couple of quotes from League Disciplinarian, Colin Campbell, saying the NHL should take a look at it.


''I think it's time to ask the question,'' Campbell told The Canadian Press on Thursday. ''I think you have to ask the question because of what's happening out there. It's incumbent on me, because of my position, to ask the question.''
You actually can't blame Campbell for saying this. It is his duty to ask questions like this. And just because you ask a question doesn't mean that the answer is going to turn out like Damien Cox wants it to.

Campbell adds:

''But now I think because of the size of our players, where we're at in sports and in life, I think we have to look at it.''

''This year we've had two players carried out on stretchers because of fair, consenting fights that had taken place. . . . It scares you,'' said Campbell.

Again, he isn't far off on this one either. I myself have asked whether guys like Derek Boogard are good for the league. It's not a fair question though as you can't blame a guy for being too good at his job. But seeing guys getting carted off on stretchers isn't good for the image of hockey. Seeing guys hold their crushed orbital and cheek bones isn't good for the image of hockey either.

''Guys being carried off on stretchers was never a common occurrence,'' he said. ''It's happened too many times already this year. I think we have to ask the question, is the risk worth it? Is this part of the game worth it?''

On the point of stretchers, it was quite clear that Todd Fedoruk didn't want to be carted off the ice the other night. But the Flyers' tough guy had little choice. While I agree that it is best to get guys stabilized that have taken a significant blow to the head, I believe carting them off contributes to the anti-fighting cause. Simply put, it didn't used to be like that. Even Clint Malarchuk, after taking a skate blade to the jugular, was able to skate off on his own. And if you were to cart off every single NFL player that suffered a head blow, the games would be four hours long. So not much has really changed in the NHL when it comes to head injuries; a lot of hit has to do with the image of seeing guys being carted off today instead of skating off in the past.

''I think you're going to lose fans,'' veteran Coyotes centre Jeremy Roenick said. ''As much as I hate to say it - because you'd like to think everybody comes to see the exciting players do their thing - but there's a large amount of people who love the physical, tough aspect of our sport. And fighting is a favourite of a lot of people.
Roenick speaks the truth hear. If you think that fighting will not hurt ticket sales, you are sadly mistaken. Hockey wouldn't even be able to claim the title of "niche sport" if the league was to ban fighting. No chance... not when 24 of 30 teams reside in the United States, the United States that has displayed time and time again that they crave an element of violence in their game. And, no, hitting is not enough. Besides, that is where the majority of head blows have come from this year anyways.

''I worry about what would happen if there wasn't a way to let out the frustration with a fight,'' said Roenick. ''Because let's face it, there is absolutely no respect in the game any more, with the way guys are taking runs at people and with the cheap shots and the late hits. Guys are getting hurt. If you take fighting out all of a sudden these guys are going to take even more liberties because they don't have to be accountable for themselves.
Again Roenick hits the target. There are less occurences of players fighting today just to fight. Hockey players fight for a reason. They do it to swing the momentum of the game toward their team. We have seen it so many times this year. The next day, you read an article that singles out a fight by a player the swung the momentum of the game. Players fight to stick up for teammates. Again, I can't even fathom how many times this has happened this year. I've watched the Washington Capitals stick up for each other all year long. That is one reason they have earned the reputation as a hard working team that never gives up. You see players fight for retribution of a dirty hit. The Senators/Sabres brawl is an example of this.... you know, the brawl that garnered hockey the most attention it has received in two years? Players fight to deter. Let's face it, there are way too many cheap players in the league today. How many times have we heard it that respect is at an all-time low in the game? You have to be able to police the game directly on the ice as soon as an incident occurs. After the fact discipline is certainly a deterence, but not nearly hte deterence of knowing that you could have your butt kicked if you don't knock off the cheap hits.

Folks... fighting isn't going anywhere. The deciding factor is that it would be a disastrous financial decision to ban fighting. And we all know that the owners are most concerned about their pockets being full... why else would Gary Bettman still be the Commissioner of the NHL?

And I have said it before, the players want fighting, the GMs want fighting, the owners want fighting, and most importantly, the fans want fighting.

Sunday, March 18, 2007

Mike Modano Should be Suspended

Let's see how Colin Campbell reacts to this incident. Jordan Tootoo levels Mike Modano with a clean hit. In comes Stephane Robidas. Tootoo feels him coming and levels Robidas with a full gloved punch to the face. Robidas goes down like a sack of potatoes and has to be taken off on a stretcher. The gloved punch was similar to Donald Brashear smoking Brendan Witt a few weeks ago... no suspension was handed out.

Now here comes the interesting part. Right after the punch, Stars Captain Mike Modano swings his stick in full force and it lands across Tootoo's back. This isn't in the Chris Simon league. But the swing was dirty and, more importantly, it was dangerous. Just like in the Simon incident, it should not be condoned by the league. Mike Modano used his stick as a weapon last night folks. And star player or not, he should be suspended.

Youtube...

Thursday, March 15, 2007

Inside The Heart: Home of the Tough Guy: CHAPTER 2 - My first ever hockey fights and I'm lovin it!

Chapter 2 - My first ever hockey fights and I'm lovin it!

Fighting is not something you are forced to do at a young age in hockey; it's something you choose to do; either to add an extra element to your overall game or because its in you and you wouldn't know any other way. I was 15, and for the first time in my life I added some SIZE, going from 140 lbs to 155 lbs. What it did was help me around the net, fight off defenders and score more goals. It also helped me hit harder, gain confidence in hitting, and gain confidence in starting to fight in hockey. You see, this was Mike Hartman, Rob Ray, and very soon Gord Donnelly, and a rookie named Brad May time in my life. As a Sabres fan watching these guys play hard, fight, and generate excitement and good team comradery, I decided that I could add this element to my game. I wasn't sure if it was in me or not; I guess I wouldn't know until I had my first. Kind of like your first time with a girl; you're all nervous and are not sure if you can perform and if you will be good at it; and if she will like you after... And then you do it and your realize, it wasn't that bad after all, easier than you thought!

That's what it was like in my first hockey fight. It was no slug fest of course. It never is. It just finds you and before you know it, you are in it. I remember it was a home game, and I had the added bonus of one of my teammates fighting at the same time in a seperate fight away from the scrum. I was still in the scrum after a couple of the opposing team's players took a shot at our goalie, so the two of us came rushing in. My teammate was paired off and fighting, and I wound up on the bottom of a scrum and this little twirp was on top of me trying to get my helmet off so he could punch at my face. I could feel this guy trying to force my helmet off but I kept my head tucked and flat to the ice to prevent it. I had 2 or 3 other guys on top of me at the time and was pinned. I then mustered up all the energy and strength I had and managed to flip him over and get on top of him. This time he was at the disadvantge. My gloves were already off and so were his, and as I got him over I started pummeling him with quick Gord Donnelly type lefts; and he went down and stayed down until the linesmen pried me off him. I got up as the linesmen led me away to center ice away from the pack and I adjusted my elbow pads and looked for more, but none was coming. My teammate had beat the other guy who sticked our goalie and he skated by me with a smile on his face; I smiled back. And I remember the parents of the opposing team cursing and shouting at me, calling me a goon, calling me a dirty name, and I was just laughing at them. It was great! The adrenalin you feel after is amazing... just pumped right up. I said to myself right there "man this looks like the job for me!". We were both ejected and it took a few hours afterwards for me to finally calm down. I think my dad was more proud than I was. It was a funny thing. It was talked about for at least a week.... or that is until my next fight!

I quickly learned that year that fighting in hockey was much more than combat to see who can beat who. It was about protecting and sticking up for your teammates who aren't as big, who aren't as strong, and who aren't as tough, and making sure they can play their game. It's about loyalty, it's about respect, it's about honor, and it's about emotion. You could spend years watching the game and you may never get to know or understand this. It discourages me when people can't understand it. And it's usually these anti-fighting, anti-violence in sports people who think they know how the game should be played.

I would go on to score and fight; but my fights tended to be short and uneventful that year. I was still young and learning the ropes. I realized balance was a key aspect in a hockey fight, as was endurance. I learned some technique.. And I watched many NHL fight tapes to learn new things. It helped a great deal.

Did I ever get butterflies before a game knowing the opposing team had some big tough guys? Surely. All tough guys in hockey do. It's a given. The pre-game warm up you are always looking to see if their tough guys are playing that night, and you try to prepare. It's much the same in the NHL. Doesn't matter if you are 15 or 35, its the same feelings. Once you get into the game, it changes, you are focused, and whatever happens, happens. I remember one game that year, there was this one team with about 4 or 5 big tough guys thaht were all bigger than me. I thought they were pretty tough. Well one guy was mouthing off to our bench and then at our coach right in front of our bench. I was standing up, with my coach holding onto my shoulder. He kept yapping and then tried the John Wensink challenge the bench thing. As soon as I saw that, I smoked him with a glove on punch to the mug and dropped him in front of our bench. I got 2 and a game misconduct for that. But boy was it worth it! He finally got up and I thought I was going to hop the boards and fight; but he didn't want to fight at that point. Then the ref came over to grab him and he pretended like he was trying to break free from the ref. What a joke! And here I thought this guy was a tough guy. I was escorted off the ice; but my teammates all came in during the intermission and patted me on the back.

Later that season, against that same team, another one of their tough guys speared our goalie at the end of the 2nd period as we were going off the ice for the intermission. I of, course saw this, was the only one who did, and immediately went after him, jumped him, and fed him some punches. He tried to get off a few but they missed and I fell on top of him. I remember how happy our goalie was that I stuck up for him. That's what it was for me... just seeing how my teammates appreciated what I did to help him. If they didn't appreciate it, I wouldn't have done it. It wouldn't have meant anything. It was a good feeling. And slowly but surely I was developing into a pretty tough player.

Its funny, how things get around the league... news travels. I found myself later in the year getting more room on the ice. I wasn't getting run at like before. I was getting the puck and having time to do more things with it. Less guys were willing to run at me because they knew I would answer. I wasn't the toughest guy in the league by any means, but I was willing and could handle myself. I took pride in what I was doing.

That's what it is... pride. The enforcers in pro hockey today, take a good look at them and what they do. Why are they doing it? Well yes, the money is good. But its not about the money... money is further down the list for them. Its pride, taking pride in the job they are doing, taking pride in sticking up and protecting their teammates. Its an honorable job, and its a great feeling to get the accolades for doing it. But we are so humble; it just goes with the territory. After all, its part of the game. It has always has been part of the game. Someone will always be the tough guy. It will never die. As much as it seems like it might, it never will...

Chapter 3 - "Lake Placid Here I Come" will be posted next week...stay tuned!!

NHL Violence Doesn't Compare to NBA and NFL Violence

With the recent outcry from Yuppie Hockey League fans over the three hits that have actually put hockey in the sports spotlight, it’s not difficult to lose sight of what makes hockey a great sport filled with great athletes. It’s also pretty easy to lend too much time to incidents that are actually quite rare and forget about the incidents that do not occur. Both define a sport and its athletes. And when you take both into consideration, hockey, despite all of its thug and goon-like characterizations, is one of the cleanest team sports in North America. John Rolfe, from Sports Illustrated, takes a closer look. Quotable:

The closest thing to Pacman the NHL has had may have been notorious enforcer Bob Probert, whose litany of arrests included a 1994 incident in which he crashed his motorcycle into a car while riding with a robustly elevated blood alcohol level and supposedly told Chicago police, "Just charge me with the usual."

Yes, the league has had its share of vicious hits and notorious brutes (Todd Bertuzzi, Marty McSorley, Spraque Cleghorn, even the great Gordie Howe and Rocket Richard were not for the faint of heart), rogues and substance abusers (Probert, Theo Fleury), scandals (Alan Eagleson, John Spano, Rick Tocchet) and even a murder case (Mike Danton). There have been drinking-and-driving tragedies (Pelle Lindbergh), not to mention a guy (Dino Ciccarelli) running around without his pants on a la Detroit Lions assistant coach Joe Cullen. Baseball may be the current and traditional home office for cheats, but the NHL has them, too (McSorley's stick, Garth Snow's slyly oversized goalie pads, and let's see what the unfolding steroids/HGH investigations yield).

All in all, though, three decades of NHL misdeeds amount to what the NBA and NFL squeeze out in a good week. That's no small accomplishment for a sport that has been famously described as "a form of disorderly conduct in which the score is kept" and "figure skating in a war zone" -- one with a culture of violence that has been proudly embraced and ingrained for generations.

Of course, no one actually pays to watch good citizenship, though it can't hurt, so to speak, to have it around. As much as we decry it, we humans really don't mind violence as long as it's administered fairly.

There will always be those who tut-tut-tut and hold the NHL up as the black-eyed, toothless poster child for mindless, grinning violence, but I agree with what SI's Michael Farber wrote: the league polices itself reasonably well, but all the butt-numbing suspensions in Christendom won't prevent the next incoming Sher-wood swung in the heat of the moment. Yet, if you can heartily embrace the NFL's brand of colorful, controlled violence, the NHL game is certainly worth your time and attention, and if you long for a league with a fair degree of likeable citizens, you can do a whole lot worse elsewhere.

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Instigation needs investigation

Mike Heika, from the Dallas Morning News, recently reviewed two similar incidents from a Dallas Star's game; one where an instigator was called and another where it was not called. As with any rule, the instigator is a purely subjective decision made by the game referee. Arguing whether or not the referee made the right call is like arguing whether or not the Ted Saskin will be fired; it just doesn’t matter. You can only hope that, at the end of the day, referees sit down and watch game tapes and see their mistakes, and work toward a system that is consistent. What is interesting is that we get to hear from yet another hockey insider that thinks that the rule should be dumped all together to throw out the ambiguity. Quotable:
Confusion surrounding the instigator penalty is just one reason the league needs to consider dumping the rule, Stars coach Dave Tippett said.

The Stars had two instances where the instigator penalty could have been called Sunday – it was called in only one.

NHL GMs have recommended changing the current suspension rule related to the instigator penalty."

In my own personal opinion, I'm glad they're looking at the instigator penalty," Tippett said.

Monday, March 12, 2007

Simon not only problem

Chris Simon’s hit was dangerous, malicious, and intentional. There is no doubt about that. But the part that gets forgotten in all of this is, he did it for a reason. Randy Sportak, from the Calgary Sun, takes a closer look at the hitee, Ryan Hollweg, and some of the other pests of the NHL before asking some current players about the role the instigator has in keeping them in check. Quotable:

Chris Simon got what he deserved.

Now, though, the powers that be must take into account what caused Simon to slash Hollweg and do something about it.

Let's take a peek at Hollweg's rap sheet. He's no angel.The 119 penalty minutes he's racked up this season for the Rangers proves it.

This season alone, Hollweg has amassed a trio of boarding penalties and two charging minors. He's also twice been flagged for kneeing, once worthy of a major
penalty.

Oh yeah, and he's collected three elbowing penalties, seven roughing minors and a dozen fighting majors.

"It's one thing to be a fiery guy, a hard worker and intense, one of those middleweight guys that crashes and bangs but it's another thing to take advantage of guys, and you see a lot of that now," [Rhett] Warrener said. "You see guys exposed and in vulnerable positions and they just eat that stuff up. Guys aren't protected at
all by the league in that respect, so maybe they should worry about that stuff,
too."

Hollweg's transgressions haven't gone unnoticed. Last season, he was given a three-game suspension for checking Philly's R.J. Umberger from behind.

And Hollweg's hardly alone. Guys like Sean Avery and Matt Cooke have few friends outside their dressing rooms.

Nashville's Jordin Tootoo -- who Calgary's Robyn Regehr chased down this past week and tried to pummel-- is another offender, called out for always being the second man into the corners.

Earlier this season, St. Louis goalie Manny Legace referred to Tootoo as a "donkey" after a game in which the Predators forward was twice called for charging, one of which came when he drilled Christian Backman as he touched the puck on an icing call.

Regehr feels the current instigator rules prevent players from policing those who bend the rules.

"It's a little harder for those guys to be kept in check because of the rules of the game but I think those will be changing and there'll be other ways to take care of it in the future," he said.

"When I first came into the league, something like this didn't happen because the rules were a little different," said Darren McCarty. "It's not the tough guys you have to worry about because they police themselves, it's the guys in the middle that play that pesky role and aren't held accountable.

Pugulism at its Finest: the NHL's Longest Suspensions

From the Canadian Press, here are the longest suspensions in the NHL history. And keep in mind that Chris Simon’s suspension could actually last a maximum of 43 games should the Islanders play four 7-game series in the playoffs.

25 games - Chris Simon, New York Islanders, March 11, 2007, for the rest of the regular season (15 games) and playoffs for his two-handed stick attack against New York Rangers forward Ryan Hollweg. If the Islanders play fewer than 10 playoff games, the suspension continues next season.

23 games - Marty McSorley, Boston, Feb. 2000, for knocking out Vancouver's Donald Brashear with a stick-swinging hit. On Nov. 7, 2000, the suspension was extended by NHL commissioner Gary Bettman to Feb. 20, 2001.

23 games - Gordie Dwyer, Tampa Bay, Sept. 19, 2000, for abusing officials and exiting the penalty box to fight in an exhibition game against Washington.

21 games - Dale Hunter, Washington, May 1993, for a blindside check on Pierre Turgeon of the Islanders after a goal in a playoff game.

20 games - Todd Bertuzzi, Vancouver, March 11, 2004, for sucker-punching Colorado forward Steve Moore on March 8. Bertuzzi's suspension was for 13 regular-season games, plus playoffs. Bertuzzi was reinstated 17 months later, after the yearlong lockout.

20 games - Tom Lysiak, Chicago, Oct. 1983, for intentionally tripping a linesman.

20 games - Brad May, Phoenix, Nov. 15, 2000, for hitting Columbus' Steve Heinze on the nose with his stick in a game on Nov. 11.

16 games - Eddie Shore, Boston, 1933, for hitting Toronto's Ace Bailey over the head with his stick.

15 games - (3 regular-season, 12 playoff games) Maurice Richard, Montreal, March 1955, for striking linesman Cliff Thompson during a scuffle with Boston's Hal Laycoe.

15 games - Wilf Paiement, Colorado, Oct. 1978, for swinging his stick and hitting Detroit's Dennis Polonich in the face.

15 games - Dave Brown, Philadelphia, Nov. 1987, for cross-checking Tomas Sandstrom of the New York Rangers across the face and breaking his jaw.

15 games - Tony Granato, Los Angeles, Feb. 1994, for slashing Pittsburgh's Neil Wilkinson.

Craig Coxe Interview with the Province

In between running their enforcer tournament, the Province interviewed one of their panelists, former tough guy Craig Coxe. Coxe is best remembered for his two slugfests with legendary enforcer Bob Probert. A couple of tidbits from the article:
Fighting gave him a chance to play in the NHL. It earned him the respect of his peers. It afforded him a certain notoriety.

"The first couple of years, I really enjoyed it. You're young, you're ready to take on the world. You think you're invincible. I had fun doing it."

Coxe fought the most feared heavyweights of his era, including Bob Probert and Dave Brown in a span of five weeks in the fall of 1985 while he was with the Canucks.
He did not approach his work half-heartedly. Coxe watched tapes of other fighters and built up a book on each man. He learned trade secrets from Canucks scouting director Ron Delorme, who was then winding down his playing career, and veteran tough guy Glen Cochrane. He fought early and he fought often.

His first fight with Probert came at the Coliseum early in the 1985-86 season. The minute-long epic started in the faceoff circle in front of the Detroit net, went into the corner, then behind the net and back into the corner before it ended in front of the
Detroit net. If Coxe didn't win the fight, he certainly didn't lose it.

A couple of years later he fought both Joey Kocur and Probert in the same game in Detroit.

"I still have a hard time watching the NHL on TV. I wish I was still there."

Sunday, March 11, 2007

David Koci Wastes No Time

David Koci made a historic debut in the NHL last night. The 6'6" tough guy had three fights, received a major for charging, and was ejected from the game with 42 PIMs. I'm no penalty minute historian, so if anyone knows is there had been a more pugulistic debut beyond this, please post a comment. And please note that Koci's hit was 100% clean. Here is your YouTube for Koci getting dropped by Josh Gratton in his first NHL fight, then coming back to do a bit better in his second, followed by the clean Koci hit and Boynton versus Koci.

Note - Fine job by the commentator for mistaking Josh Gratton for Chris Gratton in the second fight.





Friday, March 9, 2007

Chris Simon "Marty McSorley's" Ryan Hollweg

You're done Chris Simon. Yeah I said it. I'm pro-fighting. And I'm a Caps' fan that loved Simon when he was in Washington. But you're done. The NHL should throw the book at Chris Simon. He should be suspended for the rest of the year, playoffs included if the Islanders make it.

Simon, after being hit from behind by Ryan Hollweg, waited for the small forward to come back and hit him with a whicked baseball-like swing to the face. Hollweg caught the brunt of the stick and went down like a sack of potatoes. He left the ice bleeding from the chin. The swing brings back shades of Marty McSorley knocking Donald Brashear to the ice, only McSorley's swing wasn't near as hard as Simon's.

With head shots being a hot topic in the NHL, Simon's swing couldn't have been timed any worse. On top of that, Simon is a tough guy. Sure, he isn't the tough guy that fights near as much as he used to, but he is the toughest guy on the Islanders roster. He did just feed Todd Fedoruk his lunch last week you know. But Simon scores too. He has 27 points in 67 games.

But throw it all out. He could be Sidney Crosby for all I care. Chris Simon used his stick as a weapon last night. That might be the single most worst thing you can do in hockey. I beg of Colin Campbell to suspend him however many games the Islanders play this year. Chris Simon's act was not him policing the ice; it was him loitering it with thugdom.

Update - Chris Simon has been suspended indefinitely by the NHL pending a hearing.

I also can't help but find it amusing to hear non-hockey commentators talking about this. Mike Greenberg couldn't even rememeber Hollweg's name. Greenberg then called for Simon to be suspend all of this year and next year. Skip Bayless, from Cold Pizza, called for Simon to be suspended for life from the NHL. Why don't they leave hockey to the hockey guys instead of embarrassing themselves?

Update - Chris Simon receives a 22 game suspension from the NHL. The suspension includes 14 regular season games and 7 playoff games.

Update Update - Per NHL.com, Chris Simon is suspended for a minimum of 25 games. That essentially means that Simon will sit next year if the Islanders do not make the playoffs or do not play at least 11 games in the playoffs. And while one would think that Simon could play again this year if the Islanders progress into the playoffs, that does not appear to be the case according to Colin Campbell. Apparently he will not play another game this year no matter what. To be quite honest, this is all annoying. Could the NHL's statement by any greyer? The statement should say something along the lines of, "Chris Simon is suspended for a minimum of 25 games. Regardless of if the Islanders progress far enough into the playoffs to play 25 games, Mr. Simon will not play in another NHL game this season."

Said Simon.... "There is absolutely no place in hockey for what I did," Simon said in a statement released by the team during the first period of the Islanders' game against Washington on Saturday night. "What you saw Thursday is not the person, player and competitor that I am. I know my teammates and opponents over my 14 years in the NHL understand that."

Simon is also suffering concussion-like symptoms from being hit from behind by Hollweg. What gets me is that a lot of people out there, Barry Melrose of all people included, are saying that Hollweg's hit was clean. It was not. It was from behind and he should have received a charging call for it.

Let's hope the next time these two teams meet, the Rangers are more willing to drop the gloves and fight like men. In my opinion, that is one reason Simon did what he did. In five regular season matchups, we have seen more cheap play than in any other series this year; there has not been one fighting major.

Youtube...

Thursday, March 8, 2007

NHL Signs Major T.V. Deal

You read it here first.

Damian Cox Loves Tough Guys

Seriously, who writes more about enforcers and fighting in hockey than Cox? The guy lives and breathes, and I would ventures to say, dreams, about hockey fights. Who else would bring up the Todd Bertuzzi incident some two years after the topic has been exhausted and filed away under “not a fight?”

Cox’s latest tirade centered on whether or not tough guys were capable of actually policing the game. Cox conveniently, and not surprisingly (that is what anti-fight supporters do) uses the examples of Chris Neil and Cam Janssen for his cause. While most realize that the Chris Neil hit was clean and the Cam Janssen hit was simply late, Cox can’t help but tie each incident to his belief that enforcers are not capable of policing the game. Cox also can’t help but conveniently point out that fighting is up… from last season. And finally, Cox can’t help but try to discredit published research by pointing out a few random examples that he hopes will discredit the study’s methodology.

Cox is a puke. Trying to debate with a guy like this would be like carrying on a conversation with a wall. Anyone that tries to discredit proven facts, research, and fan polls has an agenda and/or a screw loose.

Here is what Cox fails to mention in his lengthy pile of drivel. The players want the instigator rule removed; they even approach the league about this every year. That is the players. Go ahead Cox, tell the players they are wrong. Fan polls display that over 80% of fans want the instigator rule removed completely. Go ahead Cox, tell the fans they are wrong while you are at it. The General Manager’s voted to have the number of instigators bumped to five displays that the GMs, and as an extension, the owners and our puppet Commissioner, want players to have more say in on-ice incidents. Go ahead Cox, tell the GMs, the owners, and our puppet Commissioner that they are wrong while you are at it.

And Cox, enough with the spin zone. We get enough of that from our Commissioner. Fighting is down 38% since 2003-2004. Wouldn’t that be a more interesting number to "reveal" to fans than fighting is “back up again” since last year? Are you that biased that you cannot even note the minute percentage that it is up?

And let me ask you a question Cox. What has been the most talked about story in hockey this year? If you say anything other than the Senators/Sabres brawl than you should be fired. Even Brett Hull (not that he isn’t a talker) stepped up and admitted this last weekend on NBC. As a matter of fact, he said it was the most coverage the NHL has received in two years. He also said that fighting increases ticket sales and t.v. ratings, something I have been writing about for some time. All of this is, of course, validated in published research.

So while Cox can grasp on to his pathetic couple of examples of anecdotal evidence, he should realize that he is so far in the minority that he registers like the Neilson ratings for a Devils/Panthers game on a Tuesday night. I wonder if he was looking in the mirror when he typed his last sentence (“Notoriety, it appears, will do if popularity remains elusive.”). Cox, you have to be noted before you can be popular. You, actually, are both; but not for the reasons you would like.

USA Today Talks Enforcers

USA Today chimed in on the hot topic in hockey these days, enforcers. No matter which side of the fence you are on, talk of hockey fights and tough guys means more press for the NHL. And that it appears the NHL has begun to take note of.

A couple of quotes from Kevin Allen’s article:

Fighting doesn't play nearly the role it once did in the NHL — down 38% from 2003-04 — but when you combine the Penguins' decision to bring in a tough guy to look after their young stars, a 6.5% rise in fighting from last season and general managers' support of a proposal to weaken supplemental discipline guidelines for instigators, fighting isn't headed for extinction.

Have the Penguins been safer? "Absolutely," Shero says. "And Georges doesn't always have to fight, because the deterrent is there."

Burke says he wants to strengthen the hockey tradition of players looking after their teammates. In the Original Six days, tough guys were called "policemen."

"If my goalie gets run, I want someone in black and gold to handle it," Burke says. "I don't want zebras (referees) to handle it or the league office in Toronto to handle it."

Burke's position is when players have two instigator penalties, they don't feel like they can do their jobs properly. He uses the case of the Florida Panthers' Steve Montador.
"He's a good, honest player," Burke says. "He's not a heavyweight. He doesn't fight all of the time. But he has two instigator penalties because he jumped in to help his teammates. The next time he jumps in to help his teammates, he gets suspended. Don't we want him to jump in and help his goalie next time?"

Adds the Ducks' George Parros: "The way they put the division rivalries this year, there is a lot of bad blood. If something happens, you have to be held accountable for it. I think if it goes from three to five instigators, guys aren't going to try to take advantage of it. It will allow someone not to hold back when something happens."

The bigger problem for the NHL might be the perception it is trying to embrace a fighting style again. Fighting has always been a hot-button issue, with some fans passionately supporting the history of fighting and some strongly opposed.

From a marketing standpoint, fighting has always been both a help and a hindrance.

"The question is still where is the big bastion of fan base going to come from and what role will fighting have for keeping them in the building or keeping them away," says Paul Swangard, director of the Warsaw Sports Marketing Center at the University of Oregon.

"Fighting remains the mysterious component that in some way makes hockey hockey, and we are trying to live on the edge between making this a version of no-touch hockey and what it once was when the bullies were out there."

One note: Allen does a wondeful job of covering the grass and the sidewalk, but he should note that most hockey fans (up to 90%) prefer fighting.

Wednesday, March 7, 2007

Hits to the Head or Respect? Get it Right.

Enough of all of this “we need to eliminate hits to the head” talk. Unless you are adding something new, why even bring it up? Saying we need to eliminate hits to the head is like saying we need to implement touch up icing; both couldn’t be any more obvious.

So let’s cut to the chase and get to the two incidents that have caused all of this convenient and unoriginal talk. The hits to Tomas Kaberle and Chris Drury were very similar. And there are two elements that stand out in each hit; the part of the body used to deliver the blow and timing.

When it comes to the hits themselves, both were 100% clean. That is why I am confused as to why the hits to the head talk has been running so rampant. Both Chris Neil and Cam Janssen used their shoulders to hit their opponents. Neither jumped at the players they were about to hit. They simply used their speed and shoulder to level an opponent that had their head pointed in the wrong direction… down. On top of that, Chris Drury had his head down while skating across the neutral zone and he did not have his helmet buckled up properly. Simply put, he paid the price. Chris Neil’s hit was borderline late. But it was not dirty. And as unpolitcally correct as it is to say it, Chris Drury should be “shouldering” some of the blame here.

The Cam Janssen hit was similar to Neil’s. Janssen leveled Kaberle with an open ice hit, one that Kaberle saw coming and tried to duck, thus putting his head in line with Janssen’s shoulder. The similarities stop there. Janssen’s hit was late. Janssen went out of his way to run a player. That should not be condoned and Janssen was suspended accordingly by the league.

So if you want to add something original to these two hits, please stop talking about hits to the head. The hits to the head were a result of two players that had their heads down; both were caught with clean hits that were delivered at the shoulder. The real issue here is respect. Both hits were late and were delivered to opponents that were in a vulnerable position. If Cam Janssen had any respect for Tomas Kaberle, he would have held up from knocking his block off. The Terry O’Reilly story has been brought up occasionally as O’Reilly once said he had the chance to hit a vulnerable opponent, but let up out of respect. He then told the player at the next face off what he had did and that he wouldn’t hesitate to put him into the Boston stands on the next go-around if he wanted to skate around with his head down.

So where do you draw the line on respect? The game of hockey is physical and is played at break neck speeds. How simple is to hold up on a hit when it might be a millisecond too late? I’m not sure about that. The Neil hit is a perfect illustration and is a good reason why I didn’t include him with Janssen in the statement about respect. Is Neil a disrespectful punk because he didn’t let up on Drury? My thought is, he is not. And I can’t help but think that I am in the majority here because the Colin Campbell didn’t break out his suspension wand on this one.

But no matter which side you want to argue about the two hits that have given the NHL more attention that they have seen in two years (just ask Brett Hull), at least focus on the right topic. Hits to the head are bad for hockey (see Colton Orr crosschecking Alexander Ovechkin in the face). And no matter how you slice it, neither Cam Janssen nor Chris Neil are guilty of delivering improper hits to the head.

Update - It appears the NHL GMs will take another look at hits to the head at their next meeting. The last time the GMs met, they reviewed hits that were all declared legal by the league. Their unanimous conclusion was to leave the rules as is. I can't help but think this will be the case this time as well. Thanks to Kukla's Korner for the pointer.

Matthew Barnaby Needs to Retire

Mike Heika, from the Dallas Morning News, has followed up with a story on Matthew Barnaby’s status since sustaining yet another fight-related concussion. The story is scary as Barnaby recounts failing some of his neurological tests, including not being able to remember numbers he was told just moments before. What is even scarier is Barnaby has decided to work out in hopes of possibly returning to the lineup some time this year.

The good news is that, even if he is in playing shape, the Stars might not have a use for Barnaby, especially when playoff time come around and enforcers start disappearing from team rosters.

Barnaby’s contract is up at the end of this year and it would be unfortunate if the Star’s re-signed Barnaby considering his concussion problems. Barnaby has given his heart and soul to the game of hockey. He would be best served to hold onto his mind and sanity. Barnaby is a husband and father. Continuing to play and risking further damage to his brain would be a dangerous and selfish decision on his part. My call to you is this Mr. Barnaby…

Retire from the game of hockey. Be proud of what you have accomplished in your 14 year career. And, more importantly, give yourself a chance at remembering the games that defined your career.

Monday, March 5, 2007

Damian Cox the Statistician

By and Large wrote a tightly wrapped synposis of Damian Cox's take on how wins should be the only measure of a goaltender.

Cox is moronic as they come. While our beef with him has to do with other aspects of the game, I can't help but post this to display just how misguided he is in general.

Over at Fried Chicken's, a member complained about Cox's lack of professionalism after having a back-and-forth email conversation about fighting in hockey. The member noted that they write about hockey fight's in Europe's largest NHL magazine, to which Cox replied:

Your wrong, but I've given up trying to reason with people like you who
can't see reason.. Good to know somebody's polluting Europe with this garbage.

Best of luck,

Damien Cox

It's good to know that the Toronto Star has such wonderful individuals, like Cox, representing their paper. And, once again, I can't help but point out the irony of seeing yet another anti-hockey fighting writer act in a manner that is in direct contrast with their line of thinking. To let Damian know what a wonderful individual he is, email him at dcox@thestar.ca

A Call for Francis Lessard...

Larry Brooks says the Rangers should call up Francis Lessard for the remainder of the year. Of particular concern for Brooks is tonight’s game against cross town rival Islanders. Says Brooks:
SO who's going to be willing to take a game misconduct the first time Brendan Witt, Sean Hill or any other Islander runs Jaromir Jagr tonight?

Make no mistake. The story of the Islanders' sweep of the first four games of this season's Battle of New York is written in their overall physical dominance of the series and their ability to abuse the Rangers' most important player, and it's written in bold.

This is, therefore, a call for the Blueshirts to promote 27-year-old, 6-6, 240-pound enforcer Francis Lessard from Hartford and insert him into tonight's lineup. Lessard, the winger who entered the Wolf Pack's match at Hershey yesterday afternoon with 187 penalty minutes in 37 games, is laboring under an AHL contract and has to be signed to an NHL two-way deal today in order to come up.

True, the move would burn one of the Rangers' four allowable minor-league recalls the remainder of the season, but first things first.

Renney is a vital factor here. It's clear he does not relish being known as an eye-for-eye coach. No one will ever confuse him with, say, Lindy Ruff. But the head coach must recognize how the Islanders' search-and-destroy tactics have
succeeded against his team.
While I agree with Brooks on quite a bit of topics, I think he is a little off base on this one. In the toughness arena, the Rangers have Colton Orr, Sean Avery, Ryan Hollweg. The Islanders have Chris Simon, Brendan Witt, and Aaron Asham. Toss in some occasional toughies in Ortmeyer and Shanahan from the Rangers and Ryan Smith from the Islanders and you have two fairly even teams on paper. At the same time, the code prevents Francis Lessard from fighting anyone on the Islanders not named Chris Simon. And I’d imagine Simon’s knuckles are still a bit tender from his battle royal with Todd Fedoruk. So long story short, if the Rangers want to match size and toughness with the Islanders its not a matter of inventory; they have what they need on their current roster.

Saturday, March 3, 2007

In Other New NHL News...

- Donald Brashear has a reputation and NHL referees are not afraid to make calls based on it.

Thursday night, Brashear was whistled for a tripping call when replays showed his stick was at least four feet away from a Lightning player's skates when he fell.

This Saturday night, Brashear was whistled for roughing for a shove to the chest of Islander Brendan Witt. Brashear was promptly slapped with another minor misconduct for having too much to say to referee Rob Shick.

Both of these calls are indicative of the direction the NHL would like its game to go in. A Hockey Night commentator mentioned earlier this evening that expansion to Europe could be conceiveable in five years. I'd argue we are already there with the way the game is played and refereed these days.

- Cam Janssen was hit a three game suspension from the league for his hit on Tomas Kaberle. I must be starting to think like Colin Campbell these days because I called three games earlier today... scary. Let's face it, Janssen's hit was late. I also think the damage done should not be a factor in the way suspensions are given. I don't think it was in this case.

Campbell's one-liner... "Supplemental discipline is appropriate for this incident because of the lateness of the hit," said NHL senior executive vice president and director of hockey operations Colin Campbell.

I must also note that my request for a suspension to the other four Leafs on the ice at the time of the hit was denied by the league. I was thinking a minimum of ten games for not sticking up for their fallen teammate.

- Yet another pro-fighting article... this time from SLAM Sports. A couple hard hitting quotes:

"You ask the skill players and almost to a man they want to eliminate the instigator rule completely," said Marty McSorley, who had a big hand in keeping the Edmonton Oilers safe and secure on their way to Stanley Cup titles in 1987 and 1988.

"The enforcers don't bother them, they look after them, and the instigator penalty makes that harder to do."

"It's a big necessity. It's imperative," said McSorley. "You can't have third-line players going on the ice to try and bring Sidney Crosby's talent level down. Your great players can't get beat up for 82 games. You just can't let it happen.

"I know that's what the new rules are supposed to do, but let's not kid ourselves - the rules can't govern the game totally."

Not when one of the most dangerous elements in the NHL today, one that's sent more players to
the infirmary than anything else, is the perfectly legal hit.

And many of them, thanks to the instigator rule and a post-lockout decline in enforcers, spend entire shifts ignoring the puck and hitting to hurt.

Now, teams are scraping players off the ice every week, and there is nothing the league can do about it. It's pale consolation when you lose someone to a legal head shot instead of a cheap shot.

Janssen Rocks Kaberle... Sends him to Hospital

Last night in New Jersey, rugged winger Cam Janssen leveled the Leafs top defenseman, Tomas Kaberle, with an open ice hit, sending him to the hospital. Playing the puck in his own zone, Kaberle had just finished making a pass up ice with Janssen hit him at full speed, his shouldering connecting to Kaberle's head. Kaberle hit the ice and spun into the boards and hit his head again. After laying motionless for a few minutes, Kaberle began to move, but still required a stretcher to take him from the ice. Full video of the incident is here coutesy of Youtube.

There was no penalty on the play.

The hit was late. The Chris Neil hit on Chris Drury comes to mind. But this was a bit later than that. Kaberle, like Drury, had his head down and he got caught off guard. Look for Colin Campbell to step in on this one for a suspension of some sort.

The incident had another similarity to the Sens/Sabres melee that occured last week. Leaf head coach Paul Maurice did not dress their tough guy Wade Belak just as Brian Murray did not have Brian McGratton in the lineup when Neil smoked Drury. The similarities abruptly end there.

While attention today will be on no penalty being called, I cannot help but point out that not one single Maple Leaf responded to their fallen teammate. All of the Leafs on the ice skated right passed Janssen without batting an eyelash. Even Travis Green, who was very near to Janssen and will fight on occasion, did not have an ill word for the Devil's tough guy. Simply put, the Leafs players should be embarrassed for not defending their top defenseman. I can only imagine what Kaberle will think when he sees the video of the hit and the lack of response from his teammates. The Sabres responded and they have been praised countless times for sticking together. Even Washington Capitals defenseman, Shoane Morrison, has fought and lost twice this year while coming to the aide of a teammate. That, ladies and gentleman, is the type of character guys you want on your team. The Leafs did not have any of those guys on the ice last night when Janssen leveled Kaberle... it is an embarrassment to those players and to the Leaf's team. Don Cherry probably lost his cookies last night somewhere.

Friday, March 2, 2007

Derek Boogaard is your Player of the Game

Derek Boogaard was your official Top Star last night when the Wild took on the Oilers. Some might wonder how a guy that had no goals, no assists, and two hits gets a player of the game. Well, watch below:



If you are an advocate of fighting in hockey, you have to love what Boogaard is doing this year. Boogaard even said it earlier this year... he is going to run teams that don't carry an enforcer. He has more than followed through on his words. The 6'7', 270 lb tough guy wreaked havoc on the Oilers last night.

And, sure, the Oilers answered with two and three guys coming at Boogaard twice last night after big hits. But the Boogeyman simply stands there and takes a pop or two to the face and waits for someone to drop the gloves. It doesn't happen... not even the Olier's tough guy, Zack Stortini, would dare drop the gloves with Boogaard. Stortini latched on for dear life when he got within arm's reach of Boogaard. I guess he didn't get the "green light" from his coach to fight the Boogeyman.

So basically, teams do not have a real answer. As you can see from the video, Boogard's clean hits, and the reactions from the Oilers, lead to yet another Wild powerplay. And did you see Torres bounce off of Boogard? It was comical.

Boogaard is, in a way, protecting his job and the role of the enforcer by doing what he is doing. By running teams that don't dress an enforcer, he is making teams call up guys to protect their star players... Calgary calling up Eric Godard is your example. Teams that don't have an answer are paying the price in man games lost.

As Georges Laraque said, look at all the head injuries that have occured in Edmonton since he left. Well Boogaard just added a few more lumps and bruises to Edmonton. And other teams cannot respond appropriately either. Simply put, Steve Staois and Torres are not going to deter Boogaard from running their players. They're simply going to entice him to do it more. Now if only the Wild had some toughness beyond Boogaard...

Johnny Walker's kicked Chuck Liddell's arse...

on Dallas Morning news! Wow... the video says it all.


Liddell's trainer blamed the incident on Liddell taking too much Nyquil and having to get up early. Dallas' Morning Show host Gary Cogill said that the Iceman even fell asleep at one point. To top things off, when asked who he would like to fight next, the UFC champ replied by saying Tommy Morrison, the pro boxer that was forced to retire after testing positive for HIV in 1996.

In these days where we are accustomed to giving star athletes four and five passes for drug and other criminal offenses, I am going to let the Iceman off the hook on this one. He was clearly tanked on something, be it Nyquil, some Jager Bombs, or maybe even pain killers. But he was a good sport and didn't get upset when asked if he was okay. I'll file this one under a good laugh for the rest of us.