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Yzerman: Eject fighting players from games

Shawn Thornton of the Boston Bruins and Pierre-Cedric Labrie of the Lightning fight in the first period of their season-opening game Thursday in Boston.

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Shawn Thornton of the Boston Bruins and Pierre-Cedric Labrie of the Lightning fight in the first period of their season-opening game Thursday in Boston.

The debate about whether to abolish fighting in the NHL has heated up again thanks to the concussion sustained Tuesday by Montreal's George Parros during a fight with Toronto's Colton Orr.

Lightning general manager Steve Yzerman contributed to it by saying it is time the league considered game misconduct penalties for players who brawl.

"We are at a stage now where we should consider ejecting players from the game much like every other sport does," Yzerman told the Tampa Bay Times.

But Yzerman's objection to fighting goes beyond his belief it is an unnecessary part of the game. Yzerman also believes that to allow fighting contradicts the much-publicized steps taken by the league and players association to reduce head injuries.

As he told the Times: "It's my understanding everyone wants to reduce head injuries in hockey. 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 the league is trying to do."

That's tough to argue against, except many players still believe fighting has its place, and Tampa Bay right wing B.J. Crombeen, who led the league last season with 14 fights, is one of them.

There are plenty of reasons to fight, Crombeen said, whether it is to stick up for a teammate or "to make a point or set a tone."

Crombeen agrees that what he called "staged, unnecessary fights" should be eliminated. "But most guys who have played the game understand the role fighting plays," he said. "I don't ever think it will be out of the game."

Said Lightning coach Jon Cooper: "I 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. … It's within the rules, and I don't see anything wrong with it."

Fighting advocates also point out that Parros was hurt when his chin smashed into the ice after Orr slipped and pulled him down. Crombeen called it "a fluke play."

Yzerman called it a byproduct of a hole in the league's program to reduce head injuries.

"We're stuck in the middle and need to decide what kind of sport we want to be," Yzerman told Canada's TSN TV network. "Either anything goes and we except the consequences or (we) take the next step and eliminate fighting."

Damian Cristodero can be reached at cristodero@tampabay.com.

Yzerman: Eject fighting players from games 10/05/13 [Last modified: Saturday, October 5, 2013 7:59pm]

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