Fighting delivers own knockout punch

Ottawa 67's Rodney Bauman (right) tries to get a grip on Sarnia Sting's John Hecimovic in a second...

Ottawa 67's Rodney Bauman (right) tries to get a grip on Sarnia Sting's John Hecimovic in a second period fight during an OHL game in 2002. SUN MEDIA/Errol McGihon

MORRIS DALLA COSTA -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 3:55 PM ET

Fighting in hockey is on its last legs.

The only people who don't realize it are those who run the game.

The latest Nanos Research/ Sun Media poll will create enough controversy to open yet another episode in the ban-fighting-in-hockey saga.

The poll says most Ontarians -- 68 per cent -- think fighting should be banned from major junior hockey, which includes the OHL.

The more interesting number is 59, the percentage of those who identify themselves as hockey fans who also think fighting should make the big adios.

What we don't know is how many of those fans actually spend money to go see a game. Ban fighting and you might lose some of those fans to wrestling.

You'll likely never see fighting removed from the NHL. There are those who still believe fighting acts as a deterrent to those who would rough up big-name stars and take liberties with cheap shots. That's why most teams carry a dancing bear.

Then there's the entertainment factor. There's always an element in the crowd that feels somehow cheated if there isn't at least one good scrap.

No matter how many of the same old, tired reasons you can construct about the merits of fighting, there really are none that work for allowing junior players to pound each other.

OHL commissioner David Branch said so in his own words. The OHL's No. 1 focus is producing world-class players such as Steven Stamkos, who can perform at the professional level, he said.

"We are not the No. 1 hockey nation in the world for our fighting ability, but for our speed and skill level."

That being the case, there is no need for fighting.

Can you year the kvetching beginning? Many involved in the sport bristle at involvement from outside sources, especially government.

Fighting is hockey's way of policing itself, they'll say. Don't react over one incident, in this case, the well-publicized brawl between the Quebec Remparts and Chicoutimi Sagueneens.

The reality is hockey does a horrible job of policing itself, which is why this discussion comes up time and time again. There would be less of a call to ban fighting if hockey took incidents like this more seriously.

Remparts coach, general manager and president Patrick Roy, who has always believed himself to be beyond the rules of mere mortals, was handed a five-game suspension. His son, backup goaltender Jonathan Roy, was given seven games.

Many in the business believed the penalties appropriate. After all, Jonathan was just a backup and a five-game suspension to the coach during a playoff series is like 15 in the regular season.

What a joke.

If that incident had happened in the OHL, Roy would be looking at least a half a year. Don't forget Branch gave London Knight general manager Mark Hunter a year's suspension for a incident in which Branch believed Hunter directed a player to challenge another player. Branch also gave former Windsor Spitfire Jeff Kugel 25 games for bullying.

Don't buy the argument that what happened wasn't a fight but a brawl. That's a copout.

There are numerous games when two or three fights break out. Somehow that's supposed to be more acceptable than having three fights break out at once. But a fight is a fight.

And it seems more and more fans don't like it. That should provide a pretty good hint at the direction junior hockey should be headed.


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