If we're serious about reducing head injuries in hockey, then eliminate fighting, Lightning GM Steve Yzerman says
Lightning general manager Steve Yzerman said perhaps it is time a game misconduct penalty should be given to players who fight. Yzerman told the Tampa Bay Times Wednesday night, he believes that allowing fighting contradicts efforts by the league and Players Association to reduce head injuries.
"It's my understanding that everyone wants to reduce head injuries in hockey," Yzerman said. "We've taken steps by changing rules to make them more penalizing for any player making contact with a player's head on body checking. Yet, we allow fighting, which is obviously a direct blow to the head and which is directly contradictory to what we're trying to do as a league."
"We're at a stage now," Yzerman added, "where we should consider ejecting players from the game much like every other sport does."
The debate about fighting in the NHL reignited because of the concussion sustained by Montreal's George Parros Tuesday night in a fight with Toronto's Colton Orr. (You can watch the fight here)
It is a difficult debate. Many players who have been polled say fighting still has a place in the game. Tampa Bay's B.J. Crombeen, who led the league last season with 14 fights, said there still are good reasons to fight, whether it is to stick up for a teammate, "make a point or set a tone."
What Crombeen said should be eliminated are the "staged unnecessary fights."
"But most guys who have played the game understand the role fighting plays," Crombeen said. "I don't ever think it will be out of the game."
Parros and Orr were engaged in their second fight of a feisty game between the Canadiens and Maple Leafs when Orr seemed to slip and pull Parros to the ice. Parros hit chin first, stayed on the ice for several minutes with a concussion.
Crombeen called it "a fluke play."
Said Cooper: "You never want to see somebody get hurt in any of these situations, but this part of the game has been around for a long time. People can argue this and will argue it to the end of time. There’s a fan base out there that doesn’t like it. There's a fan base out there that does. I still believe intimidation, if you will, is still part of the game. Intimidation comes in so many different forms. It can come in fighting. It can come in being physical. It can come in a team’s ability to score. It can come in a team’s ability to hit. There's just different variables in it and fighting is one of them. If teams want to carry -- quote, unquote -- guys that are more apt to do that than others, that’s there prerogative. It's within the rules and I don’t see anything wrong with it."
"Even if you asked George Parros himself, I'm sure he probably wouldn’t have changed anything he'd done other than fall on the ice," Cooper added. "He’s a warrior and I'm amazed at what these guys can do and what they’ll do to stick up for their teammates. It's remarkable. I have a lot of time for those guys. It's within the rules and I’m okay with it."
But Yzerman said he is not if the priority is to reduce head injuries.
"The National Hockey League and the Players Association have worked together to alter the rules to reduce the number of head injuries, yet we continue to allow fighting which in my opinion is a significant contributor to the number of head injures we have in a game," Yzerman said.
"We're stuck in the middle and need to decide what kind of sport we want to be," Yzerman told Canada's TSN web site. "Either anything goes and we accept the consequences or take the next step and eliminate fighting."