I am wondering, should we sew the jerseys to the gloves? That might be extreme but fighting has always been a great hockey debate.
Here's what I don't understand; no fighting at midget, high school and prep. But the next level, junior, there is fighting. Now we complete a couple years of junior and then no fighting in college. Done with college and now we have to fight in pro training camp. Maybe the NCAA should allow fighting? But wait a minute; attendance at the college D1 level is good without it. How about each junior team designate two or three fighters each game?
I'm not sure what the answer is but we do have some issues with long term brain injuries last I checked. I would tend to think the games stars being out of the lineup, such as Sidney Crosby, may have a greater effect on attendance than fighting.
Yes you can say I am a jelly fish on this subject because I do think there are reasons for fighting. I have supported it as a coach at times and as a player at times. However, removing your helmet and elbow pads at the opening faceoff of a game and fighting just simply makes no sense at all. All five players on both teams fighting, all at the same, time make no sense either. Are you telling me every fight had a reason? I believe in protecting your teammate. I believe in retribution for a high stick or cheap shot. I believe the fans like a toe to toe on occasion.
I don't believe a Hollywood pre-produced dance is good for the game. I don't believe line brawls are necessary and usually show a lack of control by a coach. Besides, most of these guys fighting at junior would be lightweights at the pro level and get their head beat in by a much bigger stronger experienced goon.
A player fighting in junior needs to show college coaches he can actually perform other skills. Here comes the big but; but all coaches want to see if a player has an edge, has stones, has guts, is willing, will go to the trenches with his boys etc. and so on. In my opinion they do, but not ten times a season taking on all comers for stupid reasons.
I'm not sure of the answer. How about enforcing more stringent penalties on coaches for line brawls and untimely fights which seem to be pre determined? How about stiff penalties for multiple fights by the same player in a certain period of time?
Let's face it we all as players get angry and we need to prove we are willing to go, once or twice. I think we re-define tough as finishes checks, goes to the net, plays fearless and will fight if he needs to once or twice a year.
There are other changes we should be considering. Maybe half shields in college and other younger levels to get sticks down. Players with cages and fish bowls seem to have a lack of respect for other players and no fear of head hits. Let's see how high they hit when their chin and teeth are exposed to their opponent.
I also believe the rules and equipment should be the same from age 16 through pro.
One thing I am sure about; no more players whose only purpose and responsibility is to fight or to intimidate. I want players that can do it all; skills, scoring, toughness and knowledge.
Oh and a bit of a side note on concussions. Bigger, stronger, faster players on a rink that hasn't changed size in years and people are wondering why players are getting their heads bounced off seamless glass and boards that are solid as a concrete wall.
Owners take out a couple rows and make more space thus rewarding skilled players and making it tougher to play the body. This will force teams to install different forechecking schemes, reduce trapping and eliminate dump and run hockey. I know it costs money. Stimulate the economy -Spend it!
Chuck Linkenheld has been active in hockey at all levels both as a player and as a coach. A native of Illinois, he played junior hockey for the Chicago Minor Hawks and went on to play at Merrimack College in Massachusetts where he became captain his senior year. His coaching career began back in Illinois, and has more than 20 years of experience at the youth and junior levels, along with a dedication to helping developing players reach their full potential.