Thursday, March 7, 2013
Need to know: It was a sickening night
By Pierre LeBrun
Today’s Need to Know blog should focus on Chicago’s remarkable, historic point streak continuing with a rallying victory over Colorado on Wednesday night. But I can’t bring myself to ignore what transpired in Toronto.
The sight of Ottawa Senators forward Dave Dziurzynski lying on the ice, knocked out, after getting pounded into submission by Toronto Maple Leafs heavyweight Frazer McLaren sickened me to no end.
Oh, wait, no one ever gets hurt in a hockey fight, right?
What a crock.
Dziurzynski has a concussion and I’m happy it’s not worse.
I’m not here to suggest a fight can’t swing the momentum of a game. Jarome Iginla and Vincent Lecavalier swinging fists in the 2004 Stanley Cup finals was a thrilling moment and I was there to cover it. Those are emotional bouts that are part of the fabric of the game.
But this? Can you say "staged fight?" Battle of Ontario and these two guys drop the gloves 26 seconds into the game?
There’s no heat-of-the-moment here. This is a predetermined affair that had zero consequence on the outcome of the game.
Just plain old stupid is all it was, with an unfortunate consequence.
There’s no easy answer here. I’m not calling for all-out ban on fighting because like many, I’m not sure what the NHL game would be like either if the rats got to run around with their sticks up without fear of retribution.
But what I am saying is that I’m sick and tired of seeing these senseless types of fights in our game. And that was a senseless fight.
My fear is that one day a player isn’t going to recover from one of these punches. This is a fear I can tell you that the higher-ups at the NHL’s head office also share deep down.
It just seems to me that today’s NHL tough guy hits harder than ever before. Which only stands to reason, because today’s NHL player is also bigger and faster and shoots harder than ever before. The game continues to evolve in that direction.
Mind you, a former NHL tough guy -- via text message Wednesday night -- disagreed with my notion that tough guys hit harder today, referring me to watch any of Joey Kocur’s fights from back in his day.
Point taken. My source dropped the gloves in the NHL, I did not, so his insight here would have more value than mine.
Either way, even if they’re not hitting harder, we are certainly more aware now about head injuries and the long-term health risks involved. That in itself should be enough to get everyone thinking more about this.
And, from a society standpoint, we’ve become less tolerant of these kinds of violent acts. Our appetite for this kind of thing has changed.
I mean, I could barely bring myself to watch rest of that Senators-Leafs game Wednesday night, I was so sickened by that fight.
The only solution I’ve heard about that has any kind of merit is to introduce a sliding scale, or a threshold if you will, that after a certain number of fighting majors the player faces a suspension.
The Ontario Hockey League introduced something like that this season, suspending players for two games after they’ve passed the 10-fight threshold on the season. The point is to minimize the impact of serial fighters and while I don’t have the exact statistics, multiple media reports during the OHL season pointed to fighting being down this season in the league.
It’s a rule that I can tell you the NHL has watched very closely. In fact, Colin Campbell, the NHL’s senior vice president and director of hockey operations, told me back in September when the OHL announced this rule change that he had been in contact with the junior league on this.
"They talk to us when they make rule changes like this," Campbell told ESPN.com back in September. "We’ve discussed the aspect of fighting over the years. We had a couple of initial discussions about this last spring. They were thinking about implementing some sort of quota. I mentioned to him we had debated that internally in hockey operations at the NHL level."
I’m not sure the NHL would ever get the mandate to introduce something similar, but if my vote counted, it would be a hearty yes.
How can you not feel that way after Wednesday night?