Why does fighting need to go? It’s all about the brain

Adam Proteau
George Parros (Richard WolowiczGetty Images)

In 12 years at The Hockey News, I’ve made my position on fighting clear: hockey, and the NHL in particular, doesn’t do enough to curtail it. It can’t be banned any more than the NBA, NFL, MLB or any other professional league can stop people from punching each other about the face and head, but it can be regulated to a far greater degree. That’s not radical or treasonous, no matter how staunch the game’s traditionalists try making it out to be.

The encouraging news is how far the debate has shifted. Where once I heard wisecracks from colleagues who’d make half-serious jokes about me fleeing press row when a fight broke out, I now have a steady stream of people (fans and media) saying essentially the same thing: “I used to love all kinds of fighting, but now I’m with you – I can’t get into the staged fights anymore.” Read more

It’s not hockey without fighting

Ryan Kennedy
Braden Holtby and Ray Emery square off (Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

It always fascinates me when someone who claims to like hockey says they don’t like fighting. Hockey has always had fisticuffs, so clearly when they fell in love with the sport, they knew what they were getting into. They’re the sort of folks who go to a Chinese restaurant and ask why cheeseburgers aren’t on the menu, I imagine.

I don’t try to intellectualize fighting because for me it’s a matter of passion – my own and that of the players. Hockey is an intense, physical game played at high speeds. It inspires loyal fans who know the sacrifices players have made to get to the elite ranks and appreciate the danger those same athletes face on a nightly basis just by skating around with each other in ill temper. Are concussions bad? Are hits to the head bad? Sure, but players have known the risks forever and I don’t believe otherwise, even if specific maladies (such as chronic traumatic encephalopathy) have only been named recently. Read more

McDavid & Eichel are special, but very far from best 1-2 draft duo

Jason Kay
Jack Eichel by Brian Babineau, Connor McDavid by Adam D’Oliveira

The Connor McDavid-Jack Eichel NHL draft showdown is a towering monster, thanks in various parts to their amazing skill levels, an insatiable media appetite and social media. They’re being touted as better than Taylor Hall-Tyler Seguin, the dynamic duo that topped the 2010 draft board. As for their careers, however, they have many miles to skate to rank with the best-ever No. 1-2 tandems.

That distinction is held by Guy Lafleur and Marcel Dionne, who occupied the top slots in 1971. Montreal nabbed Lafleur first, following Sam Pollock’s legendary machinations; the Habs GM pried the No. 1 pick out of California a year earlier, then traded Ralph Backstrom to Los Angeles to help prop up a flagging Kings squad when it appeared they might finish last overall. The dipsy-doodling worked, as Los Angeles moved past the Seals, cementing the top choice for Montreal. Read more

Fighting in the NHL: Should it stay or go?

Ryan Kennedy
(Marissa Baecker/Getty Images)

Depending on which team you ask, the opening-whistle line brawl between Calgary and Vancouver last season was either a stupid distraction or just what the doctor ordered. When Flames coach Bob Hartley started noted heavyweights such as Brian McGrattan and Kevin Westgarth, Canucks bench boss John Tortorella countered with enforcers Tom Sestito and Kellan Lain, who happened to be making his NHL debut. Westgarth lined up at center and was eventually greeted by rugged defenseman Kevin Bieksa – who, for posterity’s sake, won the draw – and the fists went a-flying.

The final score was 3-2 Vancouver, but that may have been the least important number that night in a game that featured a combined 204 penalty minutes. Due to ejections, Dan Hamhuis played 36 minutes for Vancouver, while Dennis Wideman led Calgary with 38. And then there was Tortorella, who ended up charging the Calgary dressing room between periods. It was not a normal night at the office. Read more

Backchecking: Tommy Soderstrom

The Hockey News
(Photo by Bruce Bennett Studios/Getty Images)

By Ty Dilello

When you think of Tommy Soderstrom, the first thing you remember is the big Jofa helmet and cage he wore. This was a goaltender who never put tape on the blade of his stick and was known to keep his whole body inside his net when the play was away from him.

The seemingly quirky Swedish netminder, though, felt he was incredibly normal. Former teammate Kevin Dineen once said, “He’s the most relaxed goalie I’ve ever seen. Nothing rattles him.”

So maybe the quirk about this goalie was that he was normal, which is abnormal for a goalie. Read more

Coaching insanity led Maple Leafs to NHL’s most miraculous comeback

Syl Apps (HHOF Images)

It never happened before, nor has it happened since. And it very likely never will happen again.

Coached by Clarence ‘Hap’ Day, the 1941-42 Toronto Maple Leafs remain the only team to overcome a 3-0 deficit in the Stanley Cup final. They accomplished that feat because Day went totally against the coaching grain, and then some. Read more

Reader, puzzle-solver & charity champion, this Islanders banger is more than bloody knuckles

Adam Proteau
Matt Martin (Mike Stobe/Getty Images)

To watch Matt Martin play hockey is to watch a human bumper car.

Now in his fifth season with the New York Islanders, Martin, 25, has earned a reputation as an intense, blue-collar left winger who throws as many punches (447 penalty minutes in 280 games prior to this season) as he does bodychecks (he’s led the NHL in hits three times). But when he’s not playing, he is anything but high-strung. You’re more likely to find him reading or working on a crossword puzzle than trying to knock someone into next week. Read more

From deaths to monsters, a history of fighting in hockey

Adam Proteau
(B Bennett/Getty Images)

It’s fair to say that, for as long as the sport has existed, there’s been a connection between hockey and fighting. Indeed, the first indoor hockey game ever played – March 13, 1875, in Montreal – was followed by fisticuffs between players and spectators and others who wanted to use the arena for skating. And although there’s been no shortage of critics who decried it right from the start, fighting has, for better or worse, helped shape the destiny of the game from its earliest days.

The first evidence hockey historians have of a fight in a game is from one of the first contests that took place in 1890 in Ontario. On Feb. 8, as part of a barnstorming tour of the province, the Rideau Hall Rebels (who played out of Ottawa) were taking on the Granite Hockey Club in Toronto when a major melee broke out. That fight was a prominent factor, if not the driving one, in the organization of hockey in Ontario. Read more