There shouldn't be fighting in prospect games

Cam Charron
September 12 2011 10:52AM

 

 

The scene: After a hard-fought prospects game at one of the many preseason tournaments sprouting up across North America, a progressive coach brings a player into his office to discuss the fighting major the player earned the night before in the second period of a 5-1 hockey game.

"Oh, hey, it's good to see you showed up. I wanted to call you in here with regards to that fight that you had last night in our prospects game.

Listen, I don't know who told you that the best way to get noticed during these tournaments is to stand up for either yourself or your teammates, but it isn't. Our scouting staff have spend hours watching you and, while we may not have drafted you this past spring, it by no means indicates that we don't know much about you. 

We invited you to this camp so that we could test you out in a few game situations under our control and see how you handle them. One of those isn't fighting, trust me. You don't have to prove anything. We know how hard you work already.

Look, you're a good hockey player. I've seen some of your game tape from junior hockey, and there's a lot of good things that you can do, and trust me, we're looking. We know how hard you've worked to make it this far in hockey, and you definitely don't need to prove it to us. Particularly by doing something as dangerous as fighting; I was nearly sick to my stomach last night watching you scrap and I'm relieved that you and the guy on the other team you fought came out unscatched, but let's not toy with fate.

I don't want to connect the dangers of fighting to some of the tragic deaths we've seen over the past two summers because in all those terrible cases there were outside influences factor in, but that doesn't mean that this organization takes them lightly. Hockey is already a fast, dangerous, violent game that can hurt you in many different ways and we don't want to add to that list on dangerous, violent things in this sport, particularly with something that this organization doesn't feel has a tangible impact on the game.

You may think that you're turning the momentum in the game, but, trust me, we've done a bit of research. For all the examples you can find of a player overcoming an opponent in fisticuffs and motivating his team to score a goal and come back to win the hockey game, we can find just as many examples of times it didn't work.

In the end, while I appreciate that you want to show how hard you've worked, I'd feel a lot better if you showed me in other ways. Win puck battles, create scoring chances, or even do something as simple as set up an offensive zone faceoff—really, our coaching staff and video analysts are looking at all these things when we evaluate our players. We want to see you do things on the ice that we think can help us win the hockey game, and we don't want to see you taking part in a sideshow when we don't know the full effects of the toll fighting can take on a player, particularly one so young as yourself."

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Cam Charron is a BC hockey fan that writes about hockey on many different websites including this one.
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#1 TonyDanzaPervo
September 12 2011, 10:53AM
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FIST

Fighting is what some of these boys are here to do. I agree they should show what they have to offer in other ways aside from that, but their ability to fight could be the only reason they are on their particular team over someone with a similar skill set who cannot fight at the same level. Fighting should not be encouraged, but should never be 'taken out' or regulated in ANY professional hockey game. -> A sad man's opinion.

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#2 Cru Jones
September 12 2011, 10:57AM
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They've fought in the leagues they've played in before the tournament, and they'll fight in the leagues they play in after the tournament, so until the NHL bans fighting, why would they not fight in the rookie tournament?

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#3 David S
September 12 2011, 11:03AM
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Some of those fights yesterday were of the "C'mon, we gotta show our coach something." variety. No, make it most of them.

On top of which, I wonder how many fights would have happened if this game wasn't televised.

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#4 albertabeef
September 12 2011, 11:05AM
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If you are a Canucklehead prospect, there are better things to do than fight - like learning how to dive and whine properly.

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#5 Pension Plan Puppets
September 12 2011, 11:10AM
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Most of these seem to strive to show that they can fight in the NHL. These tournaments should be about seeing if these guys can play actual hockey. They can fight all year long once they go back to their junior teams.

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#6 David S
September 12 2011, 11:15AM
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Pension Plan Puppets wrote:

Most of these seem to strive to show that they can fight in the NHL. These tournaments should be about seeing if these guys can play actual hockey. They can fight all year long once they go back to their junior teams.

Yeah, about that. This isn't the NHL. Not even close.

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#7 Pension Plan Puppets
September 12 2011, 11:22AM
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David S wrote:

Yeah, about that. This isn't the NHL. Not even close.

HOLY SHIT!?!?! IS THAT RIGHT?

Well, I guess that explains why future enforcers don't fight at every level leading up to the NHL...oh right, they DO fight at every level leading up to the NHL precisely to prove that they can (drumroll please) fight in the NHL.

Regardless, I get the sentiment that they need to show the coach 'something' but some people would prefer that they show that they can play the sport of hockey instead of an ability to get punched in the head.

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#8 stevezie
September 12 2011, 11:26AM
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I'd actually like to go even further and see fighting out of Junior entirely. These aren't adults, they're teenagers with developing brains. Plus this would leave heavyweights without a venue to train, and while I love a passionate fight I hate a staged one.

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#9 Matt Henderson
September 12 2011, 11:30AM
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Nice Fiction.

Back here in reality, though, hockey has fighting. If there was no fighting the Oilers wouldnt have dressed Cam Abney. What else was he there to do except to fight when called upon?

Come on people.

There is fighting in hockey. Dont like it? Move to another sport.

At some point people need to recognize that they are watching a violent game played by men with the intention of physically dominating their opponent. It isnt the Olympics and it isnt a women's league. Time to ask yourselves if you're still up for watching a game that could leave it's players injured, sometimes with life altering consequences.

It's the same story in football. I hope nobody complaining about fighting in hockey enjoys 1 minute of a football game. Those poor bastards have it worse physically, and that's just playing "within the rules." Knees, shoulders, backs, concussions, those injuries are expected IN PRACTICE, let alone once the whistle blows.

Also on the hit list are, of course, MMA and Boxing. Headers in soccer are also out. TV wrestling is obviously a no-no (but that's not really a "sport").

So while we're so focused on this thing that happens only a few times a game when it's at its rowdiest, can we please take a minute to question the calls to make hockey a kinder and gentler game when we still find these other more violent sports more socially acceptable.

Chess club is down the hall and to the left.

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#10 Danny Gray
September 12 2011, 11:31AM
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@stevezie

Definitely, I wonder what the fights per game in the CHL is?

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#11 David S
September 12 2011, 11:32AM
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Pension Plan Puppets wrote:

HOLY SHIT!?!?! IS THAT RIGHT?

Well, I guess that explains why future enforcers don't fight at every level leading up to the NHL...oh right, they DO fight at every level leading up to the NHL precisely to prove that they can (drumroll please) fight in the NHL.

Regardless, I get the sentiment that they need to show the coach 'something' but some people would prefer that they show that they can play the sport of hockey instead of an ability to get punched in the head.

As far as I'm concerned (and I may be the only one), you don't prove you can fight in the NHL until you fight in the NHL.

Same with playing in general. These are prospects playing other prospects. People are getting far too carried away about these games. Yeah they were wearing the jerseys and the game was on TV, but please.

At the risk of being Captain Obvious, this wasn't the Oilers playing. Everybody knows that, right?

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#12 PopsTwitTar
September 12 2011, 11:32AM
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no one is more anti-fighting than me, but it really makes no sense to me to say "well fighting is an acceptable part of a hockey game, but we don't want you to do it in *these* games."

As soon as you start looking for reasons to exclude it from pre-season games, you end up finding reasons why it shouldn't be allowed in *any* games.

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#13 Danny Gray
September 12 2011, 11:34AM
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@Matt Henderson

How does fighting prevent injuries? Pittsburgh employs Goddard, did prevent Hedman from injuring Crosby?

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#14 mayorpoop
September 12 2011, 11:34AM
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SURPRISE, SURPRISE!!

i absolutley agree with you.

i acutally put my head down and immersed myself in something worth watching, like twitter berating the announcers (and i use that term lightly, announcers).

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#16 Matt Henderson
September 12 2011, 11:45AM
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Danny Gray wrote:

How does fighting prevent injuries? Pittsburgh employs Goddard, did prevent Hedman from injuring Crosby?

Did I say it did? Let me check the record...Nope.

You know what also doesnt prevent injuries? Playing hockey. It turns out that more players get hurt "playing the game" than they do fighting.

It's a part of the game. The deaths this summer have not been linked to fighting, nor should they. Career ending injuries are not higher in fight related accidents than game related injuries. So what's the commotion about? I dont need to ban fighting so I can sleep better because I'm fully aware that I'm watching a violent game. It seems that this fact just dawned on some people and now they dont like it.

Deal with it.

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#17 Kieso
September 12 2011, 11:46AM
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Let me start by saying that I do not turn my head when there is a good fight going on in the NHL (not a fan of enforcers and goons mind you). I like a good fight when two guys have had enough of each other.

Having said that (and maybe age is catching up with me) I could not stand to watch the kids fight.

I have kids that are getting up in years and I would just not want to see that from them (ok they are both girls but they could take on Semin from the Caps and win that - I am confident of).

I agree with Cam on this and think that if fighting in type of game should be allowed.

We don't let kids vote or drink until they are 18 because as a society we don't feel they are able to make good choices at that age. But we have no problems watching 17 years fight in Jr. hockey games? Some thing is wrong with that line of thinking.

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#18 Kieso
September 12 2011, 11:47AM
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Grr.... per post above - "should not be allowed"

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#19 Ryan Fancey
September 12 2011, 11:53AM
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I agree with PopsTwitTar in the sense that if you're going to eliminate it, it won't happen until they're really gonna do it across the board. I like the article, it's just like he mentioned, if the NHL ends up banning fighting in rookie games, then shouldn't they just ban it outright in all games?

Tough to say "hey, don't fight at the rookie tourney, even though we expect you to fight in the NHL when you finally make it"

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#20 Ryan
September 12 2011, 11:53AM
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All you keep hear is that these prospects should just play their game. So if fighting is part of their game then let them. Of all the good things you could have wrote about in that game last night you pick this ? Sad

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#21 Matt Henderson
September 12 2011, 12:00PM
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@Cam Charron

If fighting had no place in the sport then it wouldnt be there. Just because it cant be quantified doesnt mean it doesnt exist, it just means you havent found a way to measure it.

The benefits of a fight from what I can gather, are largely psychological, so I doubt there is a way for you to quantify that at all.

The fact that it happens at almost every level of the game suggests that it is more than a sideshow. That pro teams look for it by drafting and signing tough guys suggests that it is more than a sideshow. The fact that the most players dont want it gone suggests that it's more than a sideshow.

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#22 Pension Plan Puppets
September 12 2011, 12:01PM
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@David S

Sure but hockey teams take fights below the NHL level as proxies for guys they'll let have a chance to fight at the NHL level.

I don't see too many fans getting carried away with these games in terms of predicting the future. No one thinks the Oilers will soon win the Cup because their kids spanked the Canucks' kids or that the Leafs are poised for a huge jump because they handled the Hawks and Penguins kids easily.

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#23 DanH
September 12 2011, 12:02PM
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This is a frustrating article. I have never heard a coach actually talk like this, from all my encounters right through junior hockey they love to see guys that are willing to do what ever it takes to make an impression. I am not saying fighting should be or shouldnt be in hockey or anything like that but if I am sitting on the bench and know that it might be my last shot I am going to let someone know that i want to be here. I think hockey people appriciate the kids that do. I dont think anyone is going to have this conversation unless Hopkins or another elite talent is doing it. For now fighting is here and is part of the game

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#24 Pension Plan Puppets
September 12 2011, 12:02PM
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@Ryan

There are other posts on Oilers Nation that discuss the good about last night's game.

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#25 Pension Plan Puppets
September 12 2011, 12:04PM
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@mayorpoop

I heard that they were awful for this game.

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#26 PopsTwitTar
September 12 2011, 12:04PM
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@Matt Henderson

"It's a part of the game. The deaths this summer...blahblahblah...Deal with it."

Really, the one who needs to "deal" with something is you. There is a growing movement among fans (and others in *real* positions of power in the sport) questioning what role fighting has in hockey - whether fighting is, in fact, "part of the game".

Does it change momentum? Does it build team unity? Does it protect against cheap shots? Does it actually impact winning and losing?

And once people start looking into those issue, they will inevitably be left with one conclusion:

"We don't see any reason for allowing fighting, because it contributes nothing to winning a hockey game."

And then all that's left is a sideshow to a hockey game that will be eliminated. Don't know how this process will take, but it is inevitable.

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#28 mayorpoop
September 12 2011, 12:07PM
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Pension Plan Puppets wrote:

I heard that they were awful for this game.

i tend to think that is too kind of a word.

i really liked loubardias. sure his voice could be grating but at least he was informed. i learned something and got smarter during a telecast not they other way around.

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#29 Matt Henderson
September 12 2011, 12:08PM
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@PopsTwitTar

Ok, you let me know when that happens. It surely hasnt happened yet, and, hockey gods willing, never will.

I dont have to deal with something that has always been part of the game and still is just because a vocal minority start feeling bad. You're the one with a problem, not me.

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#30 Pension Plan Puppets
September 12 2011, 12:10PM
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@Matt Henderson

How come you hate apostrophes?

Anyway, the injuries you describe in those sports all arise as a part of actions that are actual functional parts of their respective sports. It's not a valid comparison because you don't prevent a team from scoring or win the game or pass the puck by punching an opponent in the face.

Fighting has a ethereal quality that proponents suggest can turn games on a dime. Unfortunately, as you noted, it's pretty hard to quantify whether there is any value at all. What is becoming pretty clear is that punches to the head cause damage which can have an impact on a player's health.

So why not limit it unnecessarily? Personally, I don't want fighting out of hockey completely but do we really need no-mark prospects using it as a way to get attention? I'm sure the Leafs noticed Sam Carrick's goal last night much more than the fight he lost.

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#31 kawi460
September 12 2011, 12:15PM
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i just have a question, worst case a player gets run from behind and is face down on the ice. If i was the coach or GM i would be PO'd if no one stood up for a mate,

why would a coach be mad if a player stood up for another? It shows character especially if that player isn't known for dropping the mitts

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#32 Pension Plan Puppets
September 12 2011, 12:15PM
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Matt Henderson wrote:

Ok, you let me know when that happens. It surely hasnt happened yet, and, hockey gods willing, never will.

I dont have to deal with something that has always been part of the game and still is just because a vocal minority start feeling bad. You're the one with a problem, not me.

People aren't advocating for all fighting to be gone by the way.

And while fighting has a long history in hockey, the talentless goon that only fights is a pretty modern invention. Those players and their fights are the ones that have been put in harsh relief this summer. They're the ones that people want to curb. The heat of the moment ones, for the moment, seem to be welcome.

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#33 Matt Henderson
September 12 2011, 12:16PM
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Cam Charron wrote:

"The benefits of a fight from what I can gather, are largely psychological, so I doubt there is a way for you to quantify that at all."

Meanwhile, in the other dressing room...

"Okay, team, we lost the game, but at least we felt really, really good about this..."

You're falling into the classic trap of rationalizing feelings. I imagine that in your fantasy of pro hockey that after each match the loser thinks to himself "Well, it's just a game. No biggie, I wonder if this episode of Big Bang Theory is a rerun."

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#34 Pension Plan Puppets
September 12 2011, 12:17PM
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@kawi460

That's not really a staged fight though is it?

Although, how would that happen since presumably his team employs an enforcer and that enforcer serves to dissuade the opposition from laying dirty hits?

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#35 kawi460
September 12 2011, 12:19PM
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i don't want fighting out of hockey either, but i believe players that play 2 mins and are there for stricly fighting will soon be out of NHL jobs.

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#37 Matt Henderson
September 12 2011, 12:21PM
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@Pension Plan Puppets

Who could like an apostrophe?

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#38 Pension Plan Puppets
September 12 2011, 12:21PM
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@kawi460

Hopefully but as Archaeologuy pointed out teams still hire those guys, coaches still send them out to fight, and guys still pursue that strategy to make the NHL. Their disappearance will be a long time coming.

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#39 Pension Plan Puppets
September 12 2011, 12:23PM
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@Matt Henderson

I tend to think they have a bit of inner beauty but I'm just a silly romantic.

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#40 kawi460
September 12 2011, 12:26PM
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im all for enforcers, as long as they play at least 5mins every game. My point was it shows character when a player not known for fighting stands up for a mate. If anything managers/coaches encourage players to have eachother backs.

And sometimes "staged fights" don't happen just because two heavies are in the lineup, they happen because of what goes on in the game, from what was said or done earlier in the game

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#41 Matt Henderson
September 12 2011, 12:28PM
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Pension Plan Puppets wrote:

People aren't advocating for all fighting to be gone by the way.

And while fighting has a long history in hockey, the talentless goon that only fights is a pretty modern invention. Those players and their fights are the ones that have been put in harsh relief this summer. They're the ones that people want to curb. The heat of the moment ones, for the moment, seem to be welcome.

I think some people really are calling for a ban on fighting. David Staples woke up this morning and started ranting on Twitter. Though I agree that the super heavy is becoming obsolete, and we are seeing that happen in real time. We could speed it up if we reduce the roster to 3 lines and the number of teams to 20-24 also, but no one seems willing to do that either.

If it doesnt need to be there then it wont be. I just take exception to the idea that fighting in hockey is wrong.

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#43 Matt Henderson
September 12 2011, 12:34PM
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Pension Plan Puppets wrote:

I tend to think they have a bit of inner beauty but I'm just a silly romantic.

I bet you know the proper time to use a semi-colon as well. Well, sir, I do not; and that's a fact!*

*Or do I actually remember those dark and mysterious lessons from Frances Aleba's English 101 class...**

**Turns out, no. I do not. But I kept the textbook, so in a bind I can still figure it out.

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#44 PopsTwitTar
September 12 2011, 12:39PM
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@Pension Plan Puppets

PPP:

"People aren't advocating for all fighting to be gone by the way."

Well, technically, I am.

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#45 Matt Henderson
September 12 2011, 12:40PM
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Cam Charron wrote:

"I just take exception to the idea that fighting in hockey is wrong."

Because we've always been at war with Eurasia.

I dont like that the Queen can do whatever she damn well pleases but cant make the same move a Knight can. Seems pretty arbitrary, but that's the way the game is played. I guess I'll live with it.

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#46 Ducey
September 12 2011, 01:07PM
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Sorry, but the prospects game is a proper place for fighting. Reasons:

1) It beats fighting with your own team mates in training camp - or perhaps you don't want it there either. I guess we can just see if Cam Abney is ready for NHL fighting when he drops the flippers with SMac or other veteran in pre season ("Oops, I guess not, sorry you got destroyed").

2)You have to practice fighting just like anything else. Here, prospects are fighting prospects of approximately the same age and experience

3)its part of the game. Part of what teams want to find out is how their younger skilled guys (say from Europe) are going to fare in the heavy going. Is our fiesty Finn just going to yap when the gloves are taped on or is he going to still play his game when someone might slug him a few times?

The prospects games are part of the evaluation process for these teams. They are not some kind of all star game.

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#47 rubbertrout
September 12 2011, 01:14PM
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Didn't Gregor or Brownlee write an article a ways back that said that in a poll the majority of the NHL players actually would prefer that fighting not be a part of the game?

EDIT: I think it had to do with the instigator rule specifically as opposed to fighting in general.

EDIT # 2: Here it is.

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#48 Danny Gray
September 12 2011, 01:28PM
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@Ducey

I don't want players fighting in training camp.

The point is is that these games are largely meaningless. It is an unacceptable risk to have your prospect fighting in a meaningless game. For most of these guys there is little chance they start the season in the NHL, why risk an injury in an exhibition game?

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#49 dawgbone
September 12 2011, 01:29PM
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Ducey wrote:

Sorry, but the prospects game is a proper place for fighting. Reasons:

1) It beats fighting with your own team mates in training camp - or perhaps you don't want it there either. I guess we can just see if Cam Abney is ready for NHL fighting when he drops the flippers with SMac or other veteran in pre season ("Oops, I guess not, sorry you got destroyed").

2)You have to practice fighting just like anything else. Here, prospects are fighting prospects of approximately the same age and experience

3)its part of the game. Part of what teams want to find out is how their younger skilled guys (say from Europe) are going to fare in the heavy going. Is our fiesty Finn just going to yap when the gloves are taped on or is he going to still play his game when someone might slug him a few times?

The prospects games are part of the evaluation process for these teams. They are not some kind of all star game.

1). I'd rather Cam Abney be ready to play as a hockey player in the NHL, rather than be ready as a fighter. Having the latter without the former has little actual value. Not only that, but he's got a full season in the AHL to prove he can fight men.

2). I'm not sure how that makes them anymore ready to take on the experienced pros. Isn't it just more of what they are already used to?

3). Granted, but in a prospects game like this, why not put a rule in place where if you fight you are done from the game? That way if there is a legitimate reason to fight they guy still will (i.e. defend the teammate), but it prevents the sideshow fights from happening because the game is 6-0.

I don't have an issue with fighting in terms of as a tool to try and protect. If one of your good players is getting pushed around and punched in the face, go after that guy, get him off the ice for 5+minutes.

But that's not what the fights last night were about.

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#50 Matt Henderson
September 12 2011, 01:38PM
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rubbertrout wrote:

Didn't Gregor or Brownlee write an article a ways back that said that in a poll the majority of the NHL players actually would prefer that fighting not be a part of the game?

EDIT: I think it had to do with the instigator rule specifically as opposed to fighting in general.

EDIT # 2: Here it is.

From that article, Mixed results on Instigator, overwhelming results for not banning fights.

"Still, it's a jolt to an assumption I've long held, especially considering 98 per cent of the same group of players voted "no" when asked if fighting should be banned in the NHL."

98% of polled players think Fighting is part of the game.

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