Trevor Linden joins movement against staged fighting in the NHL

Trevor Linden (Photo by Rich Lam/Getty Images)

For decades, anyone who has questioned the usefulness of fighting in hockey has heard the phrase “you never played the game, so you wouldn’t understand” thrown at them. Of course, the idea anyone needs to have been an NHL player to comment on fighting is bogus – are former politicians the only people who are allowed to comment on politics? – but, for the sake of the following argument, let’s say that’s true and only NHLers are permitted to talk about fighting’s place in the sport. How do fight fetishists reply to the comments new Canucks president Trevor Linden made to Vancouver’s Team 1040 Radio yesterday?

If you missed it, Linden co-hosted the show and was asked about his stance on fighting in hockey. Dimitri Filipovic of CanucksArmy.com transcribed them:

“I think that our game is such a great one,” Linden said. “It’s built around speed, and skill, and hard-hitting, not unlike the NFL. Can you imagine an NFL game where a linebacker puts a good lick on a running back and the linemen get in there and drop their helmets and start bareknuckle punching each other in the face? It seems rather odd. And you can see why there are some fans in the States that have a tough time with that. They say, ‘I watch the NFL on Sundays and they hit hard, play hard, and pop up after hits and run back in the huddle’. That’s part of the game.

“Hockey has a different culture, of course. I think there are a lot of fans that don’t care for the needless fighting. The staged, ‘I’m supposed to fight, you’re supposed to fight, so let’s fight. We’re not really mad at each other, but that’s our job’ type of thing. I tend to agree with it. I think the NHL moving forward – whether it be a Steve Yzerman or various others – have come out and had significant stances (against that).” Read more

Kudos to AHL for getting radical with fighting, shootouts

Ken Campbell
AHL fight

Sometimes change trickles up and other times, it trickles down. In the case of the rule changes recently adopted by the American League, it will be interesting to see whether or not those holding the levers of the NHL take notice.

At its board of governors meetings this week, the AHL passed what can only be described as radical rule alterations. And I use the term “radical” keeping in mind that significant change sometimes moves at a glacial pace in this sport. But give the AHL credit. It made positive moves on two of the most controversial, debated and polarizing issues facing the game today: fighting and shootouts. Read more

Five 2014 draft prospects who know how to fight

Ryan Kennedy
Aaron-Irving

What is the future of fighting in the NHL? Will it go away completely, will the status quo be maintained, or will the job of intimidating opponents/defending teammates simply go to players who also bring other skills to the ice while enforcers are phased out?

No matter which scenario plays out, the following five players available for the 2014 draft can bring the pain when the gloves are dropped, but also contribute in other ways and play regular minutes.

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Top 5: Best fights of the 2013-14 NHL season

Ryan Kennedy
bordeleaumcgrattan

Calgary’s Brian McGrattan knew in the summer his Flames would be young and in need of protection. The veteran heavyweight went out and backed up the statement by sparring 11 times, his most since 2009-10. McGrattan also had new competition in Edmonton’s Luke Gazdic and Colorado’s Patrick Bordeleau. Here are THN’s picks for the best tilts of the year.

1. Brian McGrattan VS. Patrick Bordeleau
One criterion for this list was that the fights had to be even. One-sided bouts can’t truly be considered great. That limits McGrattan, one of the most proficient pugilists of his generation, but he did have a great fight against Bordeleau in November. Read more

NHL’s culture of violence as guilty as Brandon Prust, Dan Carcillo

Carcillo and Prust

So let’s go over the events that led to one player having his jaw broken and two others being suspended Thursday night:

Brandon Prust of the Montreal Canadiens, a guy who can play a little when he puts his mind to it, but is known primarily as a fighter/enforcer who’s out there to keep guys safe, recklessly steps into Derek Stepan with a late and vicious hit and breaks his jaw. Then Dan Carcillo of the New York Rangers, a guy who can play a little when he puts his mind to it, but is known primarily as a fighter/enforcer who’s out there to keep guys safe, pursues retributive justice because all four of the officials on the ice either didn’t see the Prust hit or ignored it. One thing leads to another and Carcillo manhandles linesman Scott Driscoll and gets himself a 10-game suspension.

So Stepan is hurt and required surgery and nobody knows how long he’ll be out of the lineup. Carcillo is out for 10 games, which means he’ll be able to participate in one more game in this Stanley Cup tournament if the New York Rangers in the Eastern Conference final in seven games and the Stanley Cup final goes seven games. And Prust, the guy who touched everything off with a hit that the league has been trying to eliminate from the game for three years, gets off with a two-game suspension. He’ll be back for Game 6 of the Eastern Conference final.

Good work, NHL. I’ve said it before and I’ll keep saying it as long as this nonsense keeps happening: The NHL needs guys like Brandon Prust and Dan Carcillo to keep its players safe from guys like Brandon Prust and Dan Carcillo. And the NHL and its culture of violence is every bit as culpable for all of this as the perpetrators were.

Was Carcillo guilty of an enormous brain cramp when he whacked Driscoll with his stick? Yes, but it should come as no surprise because the guys like him who are employed to keep the temperature down are the ones who cause the vast majority of this kind of stuff. Did Prust intend to hurt Stepan or did he target Stepan’s head? No, but players like Prust make their living doing things like, among other things, “finishing their checks” which is code for making them pay for carrying the puck or making a pass.

The league maintains that the Prust his was not a headshot in the classic sense – that the hit began at Stepan’s chest and landed on his jaw without intent to target his head. That’s why he wasn’t suspended under Rule 48. We get that. But when four officials are on the ice and either don’t see that or the game is too fast for them to make a decision on it, then it’s time the video replay department in Toronto took control over the decisions the way they do with disputed goals.

The fact is that if the officials had done their job and called a penalty on Prust, he would have been given a major penalty for interference and would have been out of the game. Carcillo, then, would not have felt the need to be a vigilante and get his pound of flesh on behalf of the Rangers. He would not have involved himself in the melee that led to his confrontation with Driscoll and his 10-game suspension. As Hockey Night in Canada play-by-play man Jim Hughson succinctly put it: “The Rangers lost their minds when Stepan got hit.”

The fighting apologists will, as always, say this has nothing to do with fighting, but let’s connect the dots here. Prust and Carcillo are both employed by their NHL teams because one of their main duties is to fight when the situation calls for it. None of this would have happened and Stepan would have been safe to make a pass and skate up ice without getting wiped out in the neutral zone by a runaway freight train if Prust or Carcillo or their ilk didn’t have a place in the game.

Competent officiating would not have prevented Stepan from having his jaw broken, but it would have kept things from boiling over. It would have kept Carcillo from chasing down Prust and trying to exact revenge. And it would have perhaps given Prust reason to think about his actions from the confines of the Canadiens dressing room instead of allowing him to participate in the rest of the game. But a league that would stand up for its players and not allow this kind of nonsense would have prevented all of this from happening in the first place.

Wild NSFW brawl between Flyers and Rangers fans at Game 6

Flyers-fans

Philadelphia pushed New York to a seventh game thanks to the heroics of Wayne Simmonds and Steve Mason and no doubt this series has been a battle. But the on-ice action was nothing compared to the crazy antics in the cheap seats, where a group of visiting Rangers fans fought with their Flyers counterparts. Caution: There is foul language and, obviously, violence in the following videos:

Here’s another angle of the mayhem:

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New Maple Leafs president Brendan Shanahan has always had “the protective gene”

Brendan Shanahan

Let’s make one thing clear: Brendan Shanahan never used fighting as a tactic. There was nothing strategic or calculating about it. From the time he was seven years old, he knew what it was to defend himself or someone close to him. His father, Donal, was a big, strong man who preached pacifism, but as a child, the future Hockey Hall of Famer often could be found rolling around on sidewalks and lawns in suburban Toronto, taking on physical challenges the way kids often have to in order to prove their mettle.

It was simple, really: he either did the beating up, or was the beaten-up.

So as he got older and Shanahan’s two sporting loves – hockey and lacrosse – came calling, he was naturally prepared for what came next. That is, to a degree. Like everyone who goes from playing for fun to playing for keeps, he still needed an education. His experiences in major junior and the NHL created arguably the archetype of the modern-day power forward of the 1980s: a player who could give as good as he got, who had a universal respect for his fairness, and who never asked anyone else to settle his scores.

And those experiences, that education and that evolution still guide him – through his first off-ice career as the NHL’s chief disciplinarian, and now as the new president and alternate governor of the Toronto Maple Leafs.

 


 

Shanahan showed up in London, Ont., in 1985 to play for the Ontario League’s Knights as a high first-round pick, tall and lanky and just 16 years old. As such, he was a target for opponents right off the hop. Then-Knights coach Don Boyd and team brass were surprised when they saw him more than hold his own in his first OHL fight – and Shanahan quickly realized a no-guff-taken attitude carved out a bigger place for him on the ice.

“It got me respect and room and space to score goals and be a better player,” Shanahan said. “There was no advantage growing up to being a decent fighter, but I found that during my first trip through each team I got treated one way, and my second trip through each team, I got treated differently.” Read more