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Proteau's Blog: Abolish 'The Code'

Adam Proteau
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The Hockey News
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Proteau's Blog: Abolish 'The Code'

Adam Proteau
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• Two Capitals (Donald Brashear and Brian Sutherby) and one Thrasher (Scott Mellanby) were suspended for their part in Wednesday's fight-filled game. The suspensions obviously weren't enough, because they left people still trying to justify fighting.

“In contact sports like football or hockey, players have a code that goes beyond the written rule book,” Capitals GM George McPhee told the Washington Post. “(Fighting is) to prevent attempts to severely injure an opponent, attempts that would ultimately diminish the sport.”

I'm glad McPhee referenced football. For many people – including Proteau's Blog reader James Harris – the NFL is a perfect example of what the NHL isn't, but ought to be. Says Harris:

I find it entertaining that so many people seem to think because “THIS IS HOCKEY”, fighting should be an inherent part of the game. Look at the NFL. That is as violent a sport as any and yet, no fighting. It is what hockey should strive for: A fast, physical sport without needless violence.

Couldn't agree more, James. There is no Brashear equivalent on any NFL team. If an egregious sin is committed on the playing surface, that league steps in with punishment severe enough to stop the offending player from re-sinning in such a manner again.

There's the next step for Gary Bettman and league disciplinarian Colin Campbell: suspensions so harsh, there's no need for the team that's been victimized to seek on-ice revenge.

• Kudos to the NHL for giving its blessing to an upcoming movie with a gay NHLer in a prominent role.

The film – tentatively titled Breakfast With Scot and currently being shot in Ontario – features actor Tom Cavanaugh (best known for his role in the TV hit Ed) as a gay man who once played for the Toronto Maple Leafs.

The NHL has allowed the filmmakers to use its logos and uniforms in the picture, which goes a long way to both (a) increasing the league's Hollywood profile, and (b) tacitly endorsing the idea that homosexuals aren't to be ostracized, regardless of where they earn a living. Good on them.

• ESPN writer Scott Burnside put together a stirring story on former Red Wing Jiri Fischer, who nearly died during a game against Nashville last season. The 26-year-old blueliner, who wears an electronic vest to control the heart condition that almost did him in, thinks there's a slim possibility he could return someday and play again in the league.

There's nothing wrong with that kind of optimism, but it's up to the NHL and the Red Wings to keep Fischer's desire in check, before it really kills him.

FEEDBACK:
Once again you had the league front office write your column. THIS IS THE NHL and NOT the NFL. They don't fight in the NFL because there is little to no honor in the NFL. Spot the captain on any team, you can't, they don't wear a 'C'. Guys like Brashear are on the way out, fighting isn't and should not be. Football is not even fast so there is no comparison. Football has little to no split second decision making in the process so get a better comparison. At least come with a compelling argument.
- Rich Evans

I don't want fighting to go in the NHL. I would like to change how it occurs though. I hate two goons who just drop the gloves at the face-off circle and throw a few punches at each other. What I do like is that when a player goes headhunting or throwing out a knee, then the 'goon' goes out and beat the guys up. That's why I like goons playing on the top lines instead of playing two minutes a game on the fourth line. I like to see fast-paced hockey, but I like to fast-paced, tough hockey, too.
- Todd Bush

You sound like a little girl, and then on top of that you think so highly of a gay hockey movie, I suggest you watch figure skating instead.
-Ryan Barton

Have to disagree on taking fighting out of hockey. Two reasons: 1) it has a place as you mentioned (until the league institutes tougher policies against on ice injustices) and 2) There are still plenty of fans, myself included, who enjoy a good fight. The trend is fighting is on the decline. Teams can't afford a roster spot for just a knuckle-dragging enforcer. But there is nothing more exciting than a player who checks, scores and occasionally drops the mitts. See Guerin's latest bout. I respect your opinion, but have to disagree a little bit.
- Jerry

You so-called "hockey writers" make me sick. I am so tired of hearing that hockey is so violent and every other sport is not. Get over it and accept the fact that hockey is a tough and violent sport. Comparing hockey to football, or any other sport for that matter, is useless. In hockey they use sticks, the only sport where every player on the playing field has a potential weapon in their hands. What do you idiots want: sticks fights and cracked skulls or fistfights and cracked knuckles. If you don't like the fighting in hockey then go watch golf or attend a tea party. Leave hockey alone. The game was fine until Gary Bettman arrived and put the sport into non-hockey markets, thus attracting non-hockey opinions.
- David Zuba

Regarding Rich Evans' comment that, "Football has little to no split-second decision making in the process so get a better comparison": all that can be said is, “wow”. No split second decision making in football? I hate football, haven't watched more than 10 minutes of it in years, but even I know that saying there are no split-seconds decisions in football is ludicrous. Tell that to an NFL quarterback, running back or wide receiver.
- James Harris

Comparing the NHL to the NFL is a weak analogy. However, I do agree with you that there should be an alternative to fighting in the NHL. Unfortunately, when players attempt potentially career ending cheapshots such as the ones that Vishnevski and Sutton took on Green Wednesday night, teammates have to step in. The NHL does not review film and administer fines and/or suspensions as they do in the NFL. If Green takes the hit and the officials miss it, what happens to the offender? Nothing. Rather than focus on the fighting, let's focus on the unsportsmanlike actions of players. Review the films, administer heavy fines, and...here is where I think many of the incidents can be controlled...fine the coaches. It was clear that Hartley was aware of what was going on. When Vishnevski missed his thug-shot to Green, it was on Hartley to warn his team not to try something like that again. He didn't. Hanlon was justifiably furious when Sutton came calling. If Hartley got the hook along with the goons...as happens when a pitcher headhunts a batter in the MLB...as well as a stiff fine, cheap shots will stop.
- Tim

Interesting how the "knuckle-dragger" fans come out in force to support fighting in hockey. We don't allow our kids to do this. We hold them to a higher standard of conduct apparently. No one has ever won a hockey game by dropping the gloves. You don't get an extra goal for "winning" a hockey fight. I hated watching players like Tie Domi drop the gloves when the Leafs were getting beaten. If he won, it was embarrassing, and it didn't lead to a win. If he lost, it was demoralizing. It should be taken out of the game. Fighting in the NHL is just "your goon" vs. "my goon". It doesn't prevent players using their sticks to injure an opponent otherwise such infractions would have disappeared years ago.
-Mike Ritchie

That's why hockey is the best sport in the world, not just because of the fighting, but because it's the toughest. These guys play through so much pain and injuries, where "the tough football players" are out for weeks at a time for petty injuries. The hockey players have to police themselves to get the bad situations out of the game. If they leave it up to the NHL and people who do not understand the game, that's were the bad stuff happens.
- T.J. Storosko

Well, I wonder why I gave up my over-10-year subscription to THN in the early 90s. I really really got tried of the Bob MacKenzie, Steve Dryden anti-fighting soapbox rag, seems little has changed. I am glad my hard earned dollars do not support this bias crap and to pay writers wages such as yourself. I wonder why others do? You should be happy, Adam, you guys have now got your no-hitting, figure skating, no emotion, non rival love fest pro hockey that you clowns have always wanted. Why write articles such as this one? That part of the game is all but done, so why does the media still go on about hockey fighting and violence? Let me guess, it sells...papers...You'll watch TSN, Rogers, The Score will make the next game between Atlanta and Washington top priority in their highlight packs. Why is that? Showing all the fighting highlights and the bad blood of the last game...why? Hypocrites you media are.
-Curt

What is happening to the game of hockey is disgusting. How can you justly say fighting should be taken out of the game. I hate that all of the NHL bigwigs are making this game so Euro-friendly. The fact of the matter is the league should lift the instigator rule or loosen it in order to protect the talented players. I don't like seeing someone like Brashear dumping on some small players like a St-Louis or a Gionta, but I hate seeing so many players getting away with running a goalie, taking a run at a Crosby, or running someone from behind into the boards, which I have seen far too many times this season, with little or no consequences to worry about. I'm not saying that there should be bench-clearing brawls all the time, but the game needs to restore some balance. Off-ice slaps on the wrists by the league with no immediate on-the-spot action is not the way to regain this balance. I'm sure a lot of these players would think twice about hitting someone from behind or running the goalie if they knew a George Laraque fist to their nose would be their punishment. All that happens now is group hug in front of the net with a few roughing or unsportsmanlike calls handed out. A lot of guys aren't even following through on their checks anymore. So tell me again, how this is good for hockey? I am open for debate.
- Marcus Moreno

Re: the Atlanta-Washington fiasco. The person most deserving the suspension was clearly Glen Hanlon. I watched the game. It was over and Hanlon sent three goons out in a 3-on-3 situation. Vishnevski was mugged by Brashear and injured, but that wasn't good enough for Hanlon. In the ensuing face-off, Sutherby hits Larsen in the face four times before Larsen responds. Then Hanlon challenges Hartley to go and even walked down near the Atlanta locker room after the game. The NHL should sit Hanlon for five games for precipitating the entire incident.
- Mike Broderick
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Proteau's Blog: Abolish 'The Code'