CHECK YOUR LID AT THE DOOR

Brian Sutherby
September 20 2013 12:35PM

Last night in New Jersey marked the first time you saw two players in a National Hockey League game circumvent the new rule where a player cannot remove his own helmet prior to a fight. Instead Brett Gallant and Krys Barch politely removed each other’s before throwing punches.

As a guy that didnt find myself in too many fights just for the sake of fighting I did find this gesture a tad foolish. If I was in a fight it was because someone generally did something to me or a teammate that I was fired up about. I wouldn’t have had the patience to wait and not punch my opponent in the chops.

In saying that, these guys are on a completely different level of enforcing and I’m glad I had guys like Krys Barch willing to do the dirtiest work so that I didn’t have to.

With this recent controversy, comes with it all the boo birds saying fighting has no place in hockey anymore or that these one dimensional “goons” shouldn’t be a part of the game.

I for one can tell you that if you saw Krys Barch practice or had the chance to play a shinny game with him, you would think he was a 30 goal scorer in the NHL. His skills are that good. Krys plays a role and knows his role very well but it’s not his toe drag that keeps him in the league. Many of these guys are far better hockey players than given credit for. Anyone that is a teammate of Krys’ or any “enforcer” for that matter is thankful to have these types of guys on their team.

PLAYERS VOTE

Does anyone think it’s strange now a days that you have all these people with a voice on twitter and the internet that say fighting has no place in the game or it should be out of the game, yet 98% of the players want to keep fighting in the game?

We’re not talking 50%; we’re not talking only the 135 players that had more than 1 fight last year per hockeyfights.com.

In 2012 a poll of NHL players found that 98% of players want fighting left in the game.

WHY?

It serves a very important purpose. Along with skill and puck possession and goaltending this is a contact sport that requires character, toughness and guys willing to pay the price to win a hockey game. With that comes a little thing called intimidation.

If there is no one on your team to protect guys or your team doesn’t have a couple guys willing to go get pounded for their teammates, then a skill guy has to worry if so and so is going to be abusing him all night or running him all game and he’s not able to feel as comfortable on the ice. It’s really as simple as that, but many don’t seem to grasp the concept.

There is very much a game with in the game when it comes to fighting and it doesn’t always even mean there is a fight. The mental side of it and the intimidation of knowing that player X is on the bench if I decide to give Crosby a shot here, or the feeling of hey it’s an easy night this guy isn’t dressed I can run around a little more are all factors and head games that just the presence of a tough guy can have.

There are a few that it probably never affects, but most players are lying if they tell you that they are not concerned with who the other team dresses.

Is it always a deterrent? Does it stop all the idiots?

No, but you also can’t see the things it prevents because they didn’t happen.

FIXING THE RULE

Although I didn’t care for the helmet gesture and I imagine you will see something shortly from NHL Head Office about players not being able to undo their chin straps, I hate hearing with each passing rule and year why fighting shouldn’t be a part of the game. The element of fighting has a positive impact on the game whether you get it or not.

We are all big boys and are aware of the physical consequences we risk by playing a game we love.

C76a4c69c9026575581a01d4ac34111c
A Moose Jaw Warriors alumnus and veteran of 460 NHL games with the Capitals, Ducks and Stars—Sutherby is here to regale us with tales of the WJHC, life as an NHL player and much more from a Pro’s perspective. Co-Host's the Jason Gregor show on TSN1260 on Tuesday's from 3-5 and Coaches at www.proconnectionhockey.com Twitter:@briansutherby
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#1 Sidney Frosby
September 20 2013, 12:45PM
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This rings true if anyone remembers the Ottawa vs NYR playoff series where Boyle got his face punched in, by Carkner and then Neal, for continually roughing up Karlson after each whistle...

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#2 ianberg1
September 20 2013, 12:47PM
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An automatic disqualification from the current game for the instigator(s) of a 1st or 2nd period fight and a five minute major for the player(s) who participated in the fight. Same rules if the fight occurs in 3rd period or overtime but the instigator is also disqualified from the team's next game too.

I'm looking for a solution that makes fights less common but doesn't eliminate them entirely nor affects how hockey is otherwise played. Above is what I would do to change the rules FWIW.

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#3 Derzie
September 20 2013, 12:48PM
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I've always got time for player perspectives. Makes good sense. That said, the instigator rule is puzzling. Disarms the protectors a lot I would think.

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#4 WILDTHING
September 20 2013, 12:49PM
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Does this mean they got rid of the archaic penalty for starting a fight while wearing a visor?

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#5 Ogden Brother Jr. - Team Strudwick for coach
September 20 2013, 12:50PM
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Great article, I agree 100% with you.

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#6 Tikkanese
September 20 2013, 12:51PM
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Take that advanced stats' idiots. Fighting belongs and does serve many purposes. Just because you have trouble qualifying it with advance stats' doesn't mean that it doesn't serve a purpose. I'll take an NHL'ers opinion over anyone else's every day of the week. He knows. You don't.

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#7 Oilers need Ogie Ogilthorpe!
September 20 2013, 12:52PM
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Thanks for some 'insider' perspective. So what should MacT and Oilers be doing this season? Should we be looking for that giant without skills? In the past, Smackintyre did little to prevent players like Hemsky from getting destroyed. I'm all for finding a Lucic type who can play and play tough, but we've had no luck in that department.

Many people advocate for letting the refs call the penalties then punishing on the PP, but I always feel like the whistles get put away too often for that strategy to be effective.

I fully agree that the Oil need to get tougher, and that it would probably allow our skill guys - we finally have a bunch of them - to do what they do best. We've just had a parade of guys come through town that couldn't get the job done: Smackintyre (x2), Eager, Brown, Hoedichuck, Fistric.

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#10 Scary Gary
September 20 2013, 12:55PM
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Tikkanese wrote:

Take that advanced stats' idiots. Fighting belongs and does serve many purposes. Just because you have trouble qualifying it with advance stats' doesn't mean that it doesn't serve a purpose. I'll take an NHL'ers opinion over anyone else's every day of the week. He knows. You don't.

I'm sure advanced stats can be scary if you're not familiar with them but name calling is just as uncalled for as a pre-orchestrated fight.

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#11 coachedpotatoe
September 20 2013, 12:56PM
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As a fan of the game I have no problem with fights that take place as part of the game. Real raw emotions take place after certain events. Matt Stajans' reaction to the hit on Jones was a real reaction situation. What I dislike is the staged fights; as a fan I just change channels. This fight you described would have caused me to do so. Fighting is an element of the game but sometimes it is irrational. I think back to Bert's attack in Vancouver; how was that really related to the moment; it was an assault... not a fight.

As fans we often are critical of the fighters and don't get how much skill some of them might have. Way better skills than most of us would ever have, so thanks for your insights on this. Again I'm in favour of the physical nature of the game but staged fights, revenge fights(assaults) are not needed in this game.

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#12 Giant
September 20 2013, 12:59PM
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Very well said sir. Very well said.

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#13 lucasVanDross
September 20 2013, 12:59PM
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Yeah, I'm sure Mike Brown/Darcy Hordichuk playing (poorly) for 4-6 minutes a night made RNH/Eberle feel less intimated by the opponents. It's an outdated concept.

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#14 Tikkanese
September 20 2013, 01:00PM
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Scary Gary wrote:

I'm sure advanced stats can be scary if you're not familiar with them but name calling is just as uncalled for as a pre-orchestrated fight.

So is assuming that I am not familiar with them or trying to belittle my intelligence level by saying "advance stats can be scary".

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#15 Romulus' Apotheosis
September 20 2013, 01:02PM
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"Does anyone think it’s strange now a days that you have all these people with a voice on twitter and the internet that say fighting has no place in the game or it should be out of the game, yet 98% of the players want to keep fighting in the game?"

Nothing like a few straw men to make your argument look like gold!

First, if I ever wanted to find an example of any group of people holding any view with the intention of raising it to prominence, social media is the gift that keeps on giving.

You can find a group of people committed (actually or for cynical or other purposes) to nearly anything on twitter. Holding those people up as persons we should take seriously isn't going to strengthen your counter-argument.

Second, the vast majority of serious people advancing credible arguments about fighting in hockey have no problem with fighting. They are in complete agreement with those NHL players.

The disagreement isn't about fighting in hockey. That is a complete straw man.

There are two very real disagreements:

1. Is there value in breaking up the game periodically for staged fighting between facepunchers who play a very limited number of games and minutes in those games?

2. Is NHL success more or less likely with such a player on the everyday roster?

This is where the conversation should start.

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#16 Ogden Brother Jr. - Team Strudwick for coach
September 20 2013, 01:08PM
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Brian Sutherby wrote:

Very much so and the remaining last 5 minute instigator rule

Is there a reason the PA hasn't fought to get rid of it? I assume it's probably a legal thing, but I never really hear whether that is the reason or not.

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#17 The Last Big Bear
September 20 2013, 01:09PM
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Fighting keeps the game cleaner.

Hockey moves too fast for the refs to keep track of everything. But even if the ref doesn't see you get a stick up high on somebody, that guy (or his teammate) can turn around and break your nose if he doesn't like how you're treating him.

That keeps a minimum level of respect between players, this understanding that a guy is within his rights to turn around and kick your *** if you do something cheap.

The only real issue of concern for me is the goons. As long as there is any fighting in hockey, and as long as a heavyweight bout puts fans in the seats, there will be heavyweights fighting in hockey. I don't have an ethical problem with that any more than I have a problem with boxing or MMA. But I would like to see more done to ensure the safety of the guys doing it.

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#18 Ducey
September 20 2013, 01:34PM
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Is it always a deterrent? Does it stop all the idiots? No, but you also can’t see the things it prevents because they didn’t happen.

My house hasn't been broken into; must be that the garden gnome is preventing it. After all, you can't see the thefts it prevents because they didn't happen.

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#19 Tikkanese
September 20 2013, 01:40PM
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@Romulus' Apotheosis

"A few straw men"? He did state "twitter and the internet", he did not state just "twitter" which you 100% based your straw men opinion on.

When he stated "and the internet" he is referring to the countless articles and blogs which try to quantify against fighting having any bearing on the game, usually with some cherry picked advance stats, completely ignoring people who play in the NHL's opinion. Which is the only opinion that matters, sorry. I've even read a couple of those articles on this site.

When an NHL player states "The element of fighting has a positive impact on the game whether you get it or not." and when 98% of the NHL voted in favor of fighting, anything said to the contrary is wrong, sorry. That last paragraph is not really directed to you, Romulus, it is directed at those who want fighting out of hockey.

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#20 Bushed
September 20 2013, 01:45PM
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"...most players are lying if they tell you that they are not concerned with who the other team dresses.

Is it always a deterrent? Does it stop all the idiots?

No, but you also can’t see the things it prevents because they didn’t happen."

^^This.

Yes, it's a game of intimidation. End of discussion.

Great points and great article, Suds.

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#21 Rama Lama
September 20 2013, 02:04PM
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With all things political ( and this is one of them) there is always a silent majority. Then there are the people who scream at the top of their lungs ( the vocal minority) so that the wrold hears them.

Yes fighting is dangerous, so is driving, skydiving, swimming in the ocean, and crossing the street. Pratically all sports are dangerous as well as life in general so let's stop all dangerous activities......and still this would not be enough for the vocal minority.

To me Brian makes an excellent point, that in the heat of the battle, fighting serves a very important purpose. If non-players ( or people that have never played a competitive sport) cannot understand that, then perhaps we need to monitor their " dangerous activities", and regulate their lives to death.

My point is you cannot serve logic to these people, we just need to ignore them, especially the media. Instead we get media covering these idiots and every word they say as the gosple truth.

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#22 RexLibris
September 20 2013, 02:06PM
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I've never been a fan of goons - the guys who fight in staged affairs - nor the thugs who take cheap shots that put other players' careers at risk, regardless of whether they "answer the bell" or not.

That being said, I don't think fighting can come out of the game. I love hockey, but the game is imperfect and enforcement does not always equal offense. Therefore it requires an imperfect response.

I wish all it took to keep players from being run and targeted with knee-on-knee hits and headshots was dressing a nuclear deterrent and sitting him on the end of the bench. Obviously it isn't, but doing away with fighting won't solve the other problem.

It may not be a true solution, but it is the only one at hand and until the league and players can figure out how to play an aggressive game safely, it will have to remain.

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#23 Oilers G- Nations Poet Laureate
September 20 2013, 02:14PM
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Drop the gloves and go

Lose the instigator rule

Keeps the game cleaner*

*IF you KNOW you're gonna get your ass handed to you, you aren't gonna take cheap shots...period.

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#24 rubbertrout
September 20 2013, 02:17PM
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98% of the best and brightest of the people in the world used to think that the world was flat too.

NHL players are also the ones who for the longest time were the ones that needed to be convinced that putting on a visor is good for protecting their eyes. The fact that some guys still choose to not do this baffles me.

"Because the players want it" isn't enough of a reason to keep it in. Should they have a voice in the matter? Sure. But just because they say they want it doesn't mean that it should be so.

I'm not one of those who says that fighting needs to be completely removed from the game. I don't mind it simply as part of the spectacle from time to time. It may serve a purpose, or at the very least, from the perspective of some of the players and coaches, seem to serve a purpose.

That said, I do not want Brown or Eager playing on my team.

Ever.

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#25 rubbertrout
September 20 2013, 02:18PM
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Oilers G- Nations Poet Laureate wrote:

Drop the gloves and go

Lose the instigator rule

Keeps the game cleaner*

*IF you KNOW you're gonna get your ass handed to you, you aren't gonna take cheap shots...period.

Yeah nobody did anything dirty back in the old days.

Hardly.

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#26 hockeycrazed
September 20 2013, 02:20PM
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It's a good idea to employ toughness like a 'SemenHead', that his presence alone is enough to discourage goons from dishing cheap shots at Wayne! By all means go foe it!! And it's bonus if he chips in with a score once in a while!

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#27 Jordan Nugent-Hallkins
September 20 2013, 02:20PM
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Brian, you need to join Struds on his radio show. Then take the studs & duds section from That's Hockey. Struds and Suds studs & duds!

...yeah, slow day at work.

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#28 Oil Kings 'n' Pretty Things
September 20 2013, 02:21PM
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Oilers G- Nations Poet Laureate wrote:

Drop the gloves and go

Lose the instigator rule

Keeps the game cleaner*

*IF you KNOW you're gonna get your ass handed to you, you aren't gonna take cheap shots...period.

This is an interesting response.

What if you have a lot of confidence in yourself as a fighter? SMac is one hell of a fighter, and he knows it. With no instigator he can take cheap shots at whomever he likes if he knows that the only consequence is a fight with someone who he's going to destroy anyway.

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#29 borisnikov
September 20 2013, 02:24PM
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@The Last Big Bear

Fighting keeps the game cleaner

That is a fallacy. Enforcing the rules keeps the game cleaner. Did Matt cook change his ways because of a tough guy threatening him or because the league changed and enforced/enforces the rules?

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#30 Derzie
September 20 2013, 02:26PM
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If you are a fan, speak from what you know: fandom. Same for players speaking from actually being players. Fans can 'like' or 'dislike' or 'understand' face-punching. Whether staged or reactionary. Players can tell you what it actually does to the players and their interaction. What gets said on the ice. On the benches, in the room. That's their domain. Fans can only speculate based on the outcome. A lot of athletes (and people in general) are competitive bastards at heart. The rules try to pretend they're not. Fear plays a role everywhere. Human nature. Or to quote Ray from Trailer Park Boys, 'the way she goes, boys. Way she goes'

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#31 Romulus' Apotheosis
September 20 2013, 02:28PM
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Tikkanese wrote:

"A few straw men"? He did state "twitter and the internet", he did not state just "twitter" which you 100% based your straw men opinion on.

When he stated "and the internet" he is referring to the countless articles and blogs which try to quantify against fighting having any bearing on the game, usually with some cherry picked advance stats, completely ignoring people who play in the NHL's opinion. Which is the only opinion that matters, sorry. I've even read a couple of those articles on this site.

When an NHL player states "The element of fighting has a positive impact on the game whether you get it or not." and when 98% of the NHL voted in favor of fighting, anything said to the contrary is wrong, sorry. That last paragraph is not really directed to you, Romulus, it is directed at those who want fighting out of hockey.

I think we are talking past each other, but let me try to be more clear.

First, there are two straw men here, I already explained them. But one more time.

1. when presenting an argument (about anything) it is always best to strengthen your argument by taking up the best counter-arguments available on their own terms.

Pointing to some amorphous group holding a vague series of positions isn't a good way to start.

"all these people with a voice on twitter and the internet" is an incredibly poor starting point for several reasons, not least of which being that (as I mentioned) social media allows for any and all opinions to be expressed (be they genuinely held beliefs or cynical trolling exercises).

On any given topic I can easily find a incredibly weak counter-argument by simply conjuring up a few random jokers "on twitter and the internet."

What that doesn't explain is what these folks' positions are, why they are held, what arguments they use to back them up, whether their opinion is generally held and whether they are in a position of credibility.

2. On articles regarding fighting here at ON, JW has never argued (with stats or otherwise) that fighting shouldn't be in hockey (the position attributed to twitter and the internet).

He and others have tried to analyze the impact of things like hitting, fighting etc on the outcome of games. The same way they would for scoring chances.

This is a completely different conversation. The same way the question of whether soft drinks are good for you is a radically different conversation than whether they should be banned.

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#32 Frank the dog
September 20 2013, 02:44PM
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Enforcing the rules makes a game cleaner, right? Like in the playoffs?

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#33 Oil Kings 'n' Pretty Things
September 20 2013, 02:46PM
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Derzie wrote:

If you are a fan, speak from what you know: fandom. Same for players speaking from actually being players. Fans can 'like' or 'dislike' or 'understand' face-punching. Whether staged or reactionary. Players can tell you what it actually does to the players and their interaction. What gets said on the ice. On the benches, in the room. That's their domain. Fans can only speculate based on the outcome. A lot of athletes (and people in general) are competitive bastards at heart. The rules try to pretend they're not. Fear plays a role everywhere. Human nature. Or to quote Ray from Trailer Park Boys, 'the way she goes, boys. Way she goes'

Sounds good on paper, but you don't need to have a driver's licence to analyze, implement, or debate the merits of speed limits or the need for a stop sign at a particular intersection.

Regulations are often created by people who are not directly affected by their implementation.

That's the way she goes.

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#34 thebiggestmanintheworld
September 20 2013, 02:47PM
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Better refs would go a long way in cleaning the game up.

With how the game has evolved (bigger, faster, stronger, etc), what changes to officiating have helped improve the quality of the game?

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#35 Kevin McCartney
September 20 2013, 02:56PM
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Interesting read, Brian - I'm enjoying your stuff.

I have one question that always sticks in my brain when we talk about enforcers and their role.

If Barch has that kind of skill (and I believe that there are probably a bunch of enforcers who could impress that way), why doesn't the team use him differently? Why can't he play hockey and then enforce (as the scary, large man he is) when a pest goes too far or someone is spearing the goalie? Why have staged fights against other men with outrageous pain thresholds?

I don't think fighting has to be out of the game at all - but I don't understand why a team wouldn't want to optimize their roster such that Barch is used to score 10 goals and have 10 fights, instead of 0 goals and 20 fights. Any thoughts?

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#36 Oilers G- Nations Poet Laureate
September 20 2013, 03:07PM
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rubbertrout wrote:

Yeah nobody did anything dirty back in the old days.

Hardly.

yeah, but then Semenko would deal with your indiscretions

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#37 Zipdot
September 20 2013, 03:10PM
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Fine players and teams for fighting.

Enforce the rules on the books.

Fine players for injury plays.

Voila. Clean, European style game.

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#38 Oilers G- Nations Poet Laureate
September 20 2013, 03:10PM
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Oil Kings 'n' Pretty Things wrote:

This is an interesting response.

What if you have a lot of confidence in yourself as a fighter? SMac is one hell of a fighter, and he knows it. With no instigator he can take cheap shots at whomever he likes if he knows that the only consequence is a fight with someone who he's going to destroy anyway.

It was directed at those players like Matt Cooke, Alex Burrows, Sean Avery and all the other cheap shot artists, not just the "Goons". Guys would be more "respectful" to the opposition ( ie: keeping your stick down, not slew-footing, etc ) if they KNEW there was a price to pay.

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#43 nunyour
September 20 2013, 03:32PM
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There should be no fighting,swearing,or spitting.

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#46 Tikkanese
September 20 2013, 03:49PM
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Brian Sutherby wrote:

My intent with the article was not to pit "stats" guys vs whoever else is of a certain opinion. Although if people share this opinion then I agree with you "because you have trouble qualifying it with advance stats' doesn't mean that it doesn't serve a purpose"

I like stats

I admit that I did not write that as well as I should have. I wasn't trying to pit all "stats guys" vs "those that think fighting belong", but it came out that way I suppose. I just accidently lumped all those completely against fighting with stats guys in one poorly worded comment.

I like stats as well. I just get fired up on way to many levels when I think of people who are trying to get rid of all fighting in hockey and got all excited by your excellent article which I 100% agreed with.

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#47 ColourMeImpressed
September 20 2013, 03:54PM
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What pisses me off about the anti-fighting crowd is that when a fight's going on at an arena, everyone is cheering.

Yet somehow the NHL and broadcaster are always talking about how nobody likes fighting.

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#48 backburner
September 20 2013, 04:18PM
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Nobody would ever think of taking hitting out of the game.. yet, what I don't understand is with all the rules created to make the game more safe, and adjustments to equipment (visors), Concussions/ injuries are actually on the rise!?

The physicality of the game is just being redirected. Out of all the times Raffi Torres has been fined or suspended, do you think he's learned his lesson?

I've always thought that fighting was a way of actually protecting one's self and eachother.. If there is a problem, drop the gloves, and deal with it.. In my opinion Goons aren' necessary because they're ARE NOT intimidating anymore.. but if you take out fighting, your are taking away the only thing a guy has to protect or stand up for himself.

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#49 ubermiguel
September 20 2013, 04:27PM
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Ducey wrote:

Is it always a deterrent? Does it stop all the idiots? No, but you also can’t see the things it prevents because they didn’t happen.

My house hasn't been broken into; must be that the garden gnome is preventing it. After all, you can't see the thefts it prevents because they didn't happen.

Ducey, I want to buy your gnome.

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#50 Bezer
September 20 2013, 04:40PM
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I feel like this is the hockey world's version of the Evolution Vs. Religion debate.

My take is keep fighting, it's part of the game. You can word it anyway you want but intimidation and feeding emotion through fighting can have a profound effect(or is it affect) on the game.

I know it is hard to quantify and qualify fighting stats wise but when hockey players give testimonials on how a certain fight turned the tide of the game. Like Talbot-Carcillo in the 2009 playoffs, Pens down 3-0 and Talbot challenges Carcillo and just gets crushed but then the Pens come back and win the game then the series then the cup. Sydney Crosby did an interview and said it inspired him and the team.

If 98 percent of the NHL players came out and said get rid of fighting then there is defiantly an issue but at this point it isn't.

P.S. Even though I like fighting in the game I also like advanced stats.. they both have a place in the game.

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