The NHL's chief disciplinarian spoke out Thursday and bravely posed the question that should have been asked a long time ago: is fighting a necessary part of the best hockey league on earth?
Â“I think you have to ask the question because of what's happening out there,Â” Campbell told the Canadian Press. Â“I think if you discussed this even three or four years ago you would have got pooh-poohed out of the game.
Â“But now I think because of the size of our players, where we're at in sports and in life, I think we have to look at it.Â”
Like many of us, Campbell can no longer turn away from the sight of emotionally-supercharged behemoths pummeling each other to smithereens and inflicting potentially lifelong injuries (all in the name of so-called momentum changes that are just as easily accomplished when goals are scored) and pretend the carnage is nothing but a natural extension of an emotional, competitive game.
Â“Guys being carried off on stretchers was never a common occurrence (in previous seasons),Â” he said. Â“It's happened too many times already this year. I think we have to ask the question, is the risk worth it? Is this part of the game worth it?Â”
Of course it isn't worth it. When an NHLer loses his life in a fight some day soon Â– and if you tell me you didn't hold your breath for a second wondering whether Todd Fedoruk or Kris Newbury would ever get up again after they fell motionless to the ice, you're in the grand minority Â– Gary Bettman, NHL GMs and the players' union will all have that man's blood on their hands. And no excuse (i.e., Â“Thousands of fights and only one death is a pretty good ratioÂ”) will be sufficient to console his grieving family.
The sad part is, it should've been the NHLPA that came out first and demanded the league address the reasons for the increasing risk to some (if not all) of its members. But that organization has been without proper leadership since its inception.
Thursday, Colin Campbell showed us what real leadership looks like. And though you'll undoubtedly hear all sorts of squawking to the contrary, he deserves a standing ovation for it.
Â• After big comeback wins by Montreal, Carolina and the Islanders Thursday night, the race for the final playoff berths in the Eastern Conference is tighter than ever.
I'd still like to see the NHL change its points system to an all-or-nothing allocation (two points for a win, zero for a loss), but there's no arguing this season's stretch drive has been even more exciting than last year's. And last year's was no snoozefest.
Colin Cambell did nothing but give lip service to fighting. he didn't have the balls to suspend Modano for his wacking of Tootoo with a very high stick. If you are going to suspend one the other should have been suspended for an INTENTIONAL high stick that didn't even get a penalty.
- carole lehman
Campbell's "leadership" has usually been shown in less-than-adequate suspensions or none at all. His "leadership" has been letting star players off easy while punishing the rank and file. I don't think Tomas Kaberle will be giving him a standing ovation, but his son Gregory might, considering he earned another fighting major 2 days earlier.
- Joe Willix
I think using the "someone is going to die" scare tactic to get your anti-fighting view across is a little overboard. Physical sports are inherently dangerous; who's hands are the blood on when a bodycheck or puck to the throat accidentally kills someone. These grown men make the choice to fight and it is unfortunate when someone gets hurt, but they know what they are getting into. I know, lets take all the physicality out of the game because we all know how exciting the All-Star games are! The price of removing fighting from the game is way too high. If people think respect is gone and cheap shots are high now, wait until there is absolutely no consequence. These fighters take a risk and know what they are doing, they are a benefit to the skilled players in the game.
- Todd Aronson
Adam A few comments: A goal may change momentum better than a fight will, but you imply that it's just as easy to score a goal as it is to pick a fight if you want to change the momentum of a game? Hardly... I don't mind if the "staged" fights between the goons were gone from the game. They don't excite me in the least. But I would hate to see the actual spontaneous fights removed from the game, especially when it's NOT between two goons. When you watch a game and can feel the tension building between 2 players, battling back and forth throughout a game, finally come to a haed when they've both had enough and drop the gloves, there's nothing better. Finally, I'm not sure why you think it's the player's union's place to lead the charge to get fighting out of the game. It would result in 20-30 union members losing their jobs, and it doesn't seem like the other union members want to see it gone. The union is supposed to represent the player's wishes and protect their jobs. It's when the union leaders DON'T do this that there's a problem.
One observation about stretchers on the ice these days. In the past, players used to do anything to avoid the stigma of going out on a stretcher. Today everyone is much more proactive and 'better safe than sorry' has replaced that stigma. It's the same in football - -and it's a good thing. But it does affect the optics, as they say.
- David Goulet
You know, growing up a Flyers fan, I never thought I'd be on this side of the fence, but I'm really getting bored with fighting in hockey. It really doesn't serve a purpose to the game, other than to give the fans something to watch as opposed to the crap the Flyers have been putting on the ice this year. I love the toughness and hard-hitting aspect of the game, but I wouldn't mind seeing the guys without hockey talent start a new sport, "Boxing on Ice." Anyway, my point is that I would rather watch a hard-fought game between Nashville and Buffalo, with end-to-end rushes and lots of speed, than watch another snooze-fest of Philly vs. Jersey with a few fights.
- Jason Deller
NHL Hockey remains the only "top-4" sport that does not outright eject players who fight. Heck, even football ejects fighters! About time the knuckle-draggers left the game. For good.
Adam, the main question his not fighting itself. But the society we're livin' in. There's no respect on the work's relationship. Neither in neighborhood relations, nor while driving or toward teachers ( parents hitting them if they don't like the way they do their job) . How these young men are supposed to learn respect for each other ? And I'am not even talking of politicians respect toward their own people!
- Gerald Terriere
With the armour that the present players wear, for the most part fighting is a joke. I wouldn't miss these "big boys dances" but the referring would have to get a heck of a lot better. Than i don't see happening.
- gerge Mc phee
Adam. I admire your opinion on this issue, since it seems like it's more or less "forbidden" to have those opinions you have in the NHL circles. You have guts. Now, carole lehman, what did the "players disciplinary system" (the one that is always claimed to be in action when fights happen) do to Modano? Right. Nothing. So what is the role of that system then? Your - as almost anyone else's, who defend idiotic fights - double standard is enourmous.