One scrap per game about right

RYAN PYETTE, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 10:47 AM ET

There have been 61 Ontario Hockey League regular season games played so far and 55 fights.

During a three-week stretch, that's certainly not as much fisticuffs as you'd see in, say, a viewing of Slap Shot starring the late, great Paul Newman.

It's still too many if you believe fighting has no place in hockey and you cover the eyes of children every time two guys drop the mitts.

But it's not nearly enough if you find yourself grooving to the strains of Eye of the Tiger while exhausted combatants are hauled off to the sin bin.

If this OHL season is like the last three (and there's no reason to expect any change), there will be less than one toe-to-toe tilt for every game.

Many contests will have none. Others may have a half-dozen.

The information and statistics on fighting are easy to calculate. They're available on game sheets and websites including dropyourgloves.com and ohltoughguys.com.

For instance, the balance of pugilist power isn't ready to shift yet. There are still more frequent dance partners on Western Conference rosters than in the East. It becomes like an arms race.

Windsor employs tough guy Richard Greenop. London traded for six-foot-seven Mike Yovanic right before facing the Spitfires. After playing the Knights, Guelph acquired Ryan Baldwin for added toughness.

Used as a bully tactic, fighting stinks. Used to protect smaller players or avenge a hit from behind, there's a certain nobility. Every coach and player will agree -- the entire tone of a game can change by one fight.

The OHL, of course, feeds many players to the NHL. Though there are fewer fights per average in the big leagues than in junior hockey, the trends remain similar.

There are a lot of punches in the preseason when desperate players try to do what they can to get noticed. That number drops during the regular season and it shrinks again in the playoffs when emphasis on skating and skill becomes paramount to survival.

The pros and cons of fighting have been debated from here to kingdom come and no one will ever agree to its role as a supposed deterrent or its impact on attendance.

The obvious point is that if someone goes to a junior game to see a fight, it's no longer a guarantee. The 2004-05 season -- the final year before the new standard of officiating was introduced -- is the last time the fighting average floated above one per game.

Every so often, there's a major incident that raises eyebrows on goon tactics.

Heading into this season, the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League instituted stiffer penalties for such actions. Commissioner Gilles Courteau -- who instituted a drug testing policy without pause before the OHL and Western Hockey League joined the ranks this year -- has proven to be someone who reacts to public relations nightmares rather than hide and wait for the furor to pass.

The Quebec league stopped short of outlawing fights.

Some say with more skilled players and a faster game, tough guys will be weeded out.

Judging by the numbers, it appears fights will continue at just under one scrap per game.

QUICK HITS

Saginaw sacked GM Don Edwards this week and named sophomore head coach Todd Watson director of hockey operations. The Spirit were unable to land their most recent top draft picks Brandon Saad (first round) and John Parker (second round) . . . There aren't any unbeaten teams left in the OHL. Sudbury hasn't lost in regulation, but they have a shootout defeat. Kingston is the only team without a win . . . The best individual performance in a single game goes to Soo Greyhounds F Matt Caria. He buried all four of his team's goals in a 4-3 win at Barrie Thursday.


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