The NHL’s all-time winningest coach has seen it all in his day, and he agrees with Steve Yzerman that something has to be done to curb fighting in the sport.
All of a sudden there is a groundswell of opinion among people within hockey — people who can make the change happen — that it’s time for fighting to stop. This decision is overdue, frankly. It’s hard to take seriously a league that is trying to stop players from hitting each other in the head, unless, of course, they square off and remove their gloves first. Then it’s just a penalty.
I am not an anti-fighting advocate. When I’m at a hockey game, I’ll stand up and cheer a good fight. I have, at times, been known to kick back and watch a boxing match without shame. I understand the attraction and it’s place in the game.
But the more we learn about what it does to a player’s head, and to their life for the rest of their lives, the harder it is for me to be complacent and say “hey, it’s part of the game”. So were line brawls, stick swinging, and cleared benches escalating into full riots.
Some can argue that fighting makes hockey a better and more entertaining game. For some, that’s probably true. As much as I can enjoy a good hockey fight, I also enjoy a good hockey game, and my enjoyment of the sport won’t go away if fighting does. But some of the injury and life-long damage to the players will go away if we end it.
The continuing farce surrounding hockey fights and player safety — the new rule that removing your helmet is a penalty is leading fighters to orchestrate removing each others — is showing just how obvious tolerating fighting is out of sync with the realities of today’s game.
While Don Cherry will never admit it, it’s not the 1960’s any more, and the game of hockey as played then doesn’t exist now.
It’s time for us to recognize that fighting adds little to the game and retire it from the field of play. Change the rules: if you drop your gloves and throw a punch, it’s a game misconduct.
Then lets get back to playing hockey.