Monday, March 12, 2007

What Is Missing? How About Fighting In The NHL

The issue has been raised twice on national telecasts, first in the United States, and then in Canada, about how a lack of fighting has hurt the NHL.
Oddly, it was Brett Hull, on NBC during the Red Wings-Avalanche game on March 4, who first brought it up. He said even though he had just one and a half fights during his career, it was the fighters who protected him. And he feels fighting is good for the intensity of the game. Then this past Saturday, CBC’s Don Cherry, while showing a clip of Hull’s comments, made the same point. Cherry talked about Detroit and the lack of attendance, and said much of it has to do with the dearth of fighters on the Red Wings’ roster. Detroit is last in the league in fights, and despite the Red Wings’ stellar record, apathy has clearly set in regarding the team. Cherry mentioned Bob Probert, Joe Kocur and Darren McCarty and their popularity in Detroit, which despite relatively pedestrian hockey skills, was exceeded only by Steve Yzerman during the Red Wings’ salad days..
I think that was a great point by Cherry, and one I hadn’t thought much about. Detroit is a working class town. It wants working class hockey players. The Red Wings are very skilled and it’s appreciated, but only to a degree. People around here want to see hits. They want to see fights. They don’t want a "Fancy Dan" team - unless it wins the Stanley Cup - or comes close. The Red Wings used to fight a lot. Their modern legacy was set up by fights with Colorado. Their greatest players from the past - Gordie Howe and Ted Lindsay - were great scrappers. It is part of their lore. Scotty Bowman discouraged fighting when he was Red Wings coach. It was smart because the Red Wings had more skill - and it would be taken off the ice into the penalty box. Or his team might have been thrown off its game by it. But the Wings have gone too far the other way. The point really home early during Sunday’s game against Boston when Darryl Bootland got into a fight. The crowd at Joe Louis Arena loved it. It was the highlight of the game for them. And when the Bruins were pushing the Red Wings around after blowing the game open during the third period, I couldn’t help but wonder why Mike Babcock didn’t send Bootland out there to stir it up. In the old days, that would have happened. In the old days, the game was better for it.

Random Thoughts

- I know this is Big Ten Country, but honestly Purdue and Illinois were lucky to get into the tournament. I don’t think either one of those teams - or Michigan State for that matter - would beat Syracuse. Big Ten basketball this season was the Big Two - Ohio State and Wisconsin - and the Little Nine. Other than the top two teams, the conference was bad. Does anybody honestly think Purdue or Illinois would have gone 10-6 in the Big East?

- Save for Magglio Ordonez’s headache, I thought the Tigers recent altercation with the Red Sox was a good thing. It shows they aren’t sitting back and resting on their laurels. It’s going to be a tough season for the Tigers. Teams will be coming after them. Better they get ready for it.

- Tired of hearing about the Western Conference’s strength in the NBA? Me, too. The Pistons are more than holding their own on this Western swing. It should be more than interesting when they face Dallas Sunday.


Anonymous David Zemens said...

Fighting is an historical part of the NHL. Stickwork like we saw last week was virtually nonexistent before fighting was restricted by the NHL.

The game has been changed, I suppose, to try and poularize it. The effects have been just the opposite, I think.

10:29 AM 
Blogger Pat Caputo said...

David Zemens,
I agree with you about the rules in regard to fighting having a negative bearing on the chippy part of the game. Some of that has to do with equipment. You can't tell me fighting with a shield doesn't protect you. But the weird part is Simon has never been afraid to drop the gloves. Nor was McSorley. So there was no excuse in either case.

3:50 PM 

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