Remember George Parros-Colton Orr fight from opening night? Parros was pulled down to the ice by Orr during a fight, hit the ice face first and suffered a concussion. It has sparked the latest debate on whether fighting still belongs in the NHL. The issue has been brought up before but this time it seems there is more support for a total ban, support from inside the NHL community.
Tampa Bay Lightning General Manager Steve Yzerman said players should get a game misconduct for fighting and wondered how the league can suspend players for making contact with the head while checking, yet still allow fighting. The Hall of Famer who had one of the best fighters ever as a teammate, Bob Probert, said its time for the NHL to figure out what kind of sport it wants to be and added "either anything goes and we accept the consequences, or take the next step and eliminate fighting" in comments made to TSN.
Carolina Panthers G-M Jim Rutherford was more direct saying its time to get rid of fighting and "it has to go".
It's time to the NHL takes fighting out of the game. It doesn't need fighting to survive and if you are going to preach about the safety of the players and protecting them from head injuries, you can't still allow two players to stand toe to toe and punch each other in the head. The NHL is suffering from a severe case of hypocrisy.
How ridiculous is it that the league now has a penalty on the books if you take your helmet off to fight but still allows you to proceed with the fight as long as you keep your helmet on? They don't want players without helmets suffering an injury if they go down and their head hits the ice. But its okay if the players reign punch after punch at the other players head until they get tired and have to be separated.
I was watching that opening night game between Toronto and Montreal and witnessed the Leafs Mark Fraser get into a fight with Travis Moen of the Canadiens. The announcers told the story of how Fraser had a plate in his forehead, the result of taking a slap shot to the head in last season's playoffs. His doctor and his family had told him to stop fighting yet here Fraser was in game number one, dropping the gloves and duking it out with Moen. When asked why he did it against his family's wishes, Fraser said its his job and its part of the game.
Those who believe fighting is a necessary part of the sport will cite the need for players to police themselves. How about the league doing that? Isn't that part of their responsibility? Shouldn't they be the ones policing their sport? Get serious about issuing suspensions when it comes to blows to the head and maybe the players wouldn't have to believe the policing is up to them.
At the very least, the longer the NHL leaves fighting in the game, the more chance they have of becoming liable when it comes to lawsuits. The NFL recently settled a lawsuit with former players who alleged the NFL knew more than it was letting on when it came to the effects of the sport on their brains and life after football. What if former NHL players decide to sue the league for brain trauma sustained during their playing days?
One owner told CBC the NHL should consider having players sign waivers indicating they would not sue if injured in a fight.
According to TSN a poll of players taken three years ago revealed that 98% were in favor of keeping fighting in the game. With all due respect, it isn't up to the players, its up to the league in my opinion to figure out what is best for its players and the best way to protect them. That's why its time for the NHL to take fighting out of the game.