Fighting integral

KEN WIEBE, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 7:33 AM ET

Fighting is part of the solution, not part of the problem.

That was the overwhelming opinion shared by American Hockey League players and coaches yesterday when asked to respond to NHL senior vice-president and director of hockey operations Colin Campbell's suggestion it might be time to consider whether fighting still has a place in the sport.

Some players were reserved in their responses when asked about the possibility of banning fighting entirely, but Manitoba Moose captain Mike Keane wasn't one of them.

"It's the stupidest thing that I've ever heard of," said Keane, a three-time Stanley Cup winner. "You're going to turn the league into a college league, where there is spearing, stick-swinging and hitting from behind. There will be no accountability, not that there's much now.

"It would not be a wise decision. It would be a (gong) show and it would be terrible for the game."

Nobody wants to see goons attacking skilled players, but coming to the aid of a teammate or trying to give your team a spark by going head-to-head with the opposition's enforcer is vital.

"I don't think it's something that needs to be banned," said Moose forward Lee Goren. "It's something that keeps players honest. It would be a disappointment to see it leave the game."

EMOTIONS

Watching Philadelphia Flyer Todd Fedoruk get knocked out by Winnipegger and New York Rangers enforcer Colton Orr conjures up plenty of emotions, but it comes with the territory.

"Sure, it's a little scary when you see (Fedoruk) go down and he's not responding at all, but it's part of my job," said Moose defenceman Nathan McIver. "I've got to stand up for my teammates and fight when I have to. I don't mind doing it.

"If there's no fighting, guys will stand up for themselves in other ways. Fighting is a good part of the game and it keeps a lot of the stick work out of the game."

"Obviously, I'm not in favour of it (being banned)," added Grand Rapids Griffins enforcer Adam Keefe. "More people get hurt from the physical side of the game than from fighting."

Griffins tough guy Darryl Bootland said history has shown the NHL why fighting is important.

"The best hockey you probably ever watched was when Wayne Gretzky and those guys were playing," said Bootland. "The reason nobody touched him or got near him was that they knew they were going to get their head ripped off. If you let the players police the game, it will be a lot cleaner than making it like a university style where everybody is running around and killing each other."

Moose head coach Scott Arniel said discussing the role of fighting is one thing, but getting rid of it is another.

"They are going to have discussions but I don't think it'll leave the game, I really don't," said Arniel. "The one thing about fighting being allowed is that it keeps people in line with what they're going to do with their sticks or their late hits and stuff like that. There has to be a tad of a fear factor in the back of a guy's mind, knowing that somebody is going to come after you if you do something (out of line)."

"I don't know what the answer is, but I'm glad I don't have to make any decisions about it," added Moose forward Nathan Smith. "But the minute you start talking about fighting being out of the game, you have to realize with that happening, there is probably going to be dirtier play. Maybe taking fighting out of the game would cause more injuries, with more dirty hits, elbows and things like that."


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