Legal opinion on hockey fights

CRASH CAMERON, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 8:55 AM ET

Erik Kuselias is an idiot.

Because the dude gave up lawyering to become a sportscaster?

Maybe. The definitive answer on that would have to come from his wife.

Absolutely yes because he remains a Hartford Whalers fan!

Kuselias is the fifth Beatle for ESPN Radio, willing to jump in to any show in any time slot. (And, as an ex-lawyer, willing to debate anything at any time.)

Growing up and still working in Connecticut, he has long been aware of our obsession for "our" game. And aware of lack of same in his home and native land.

"The people who love hockey in the United States are passionate and smart fans," he said. "The problem is, we just don't have enough of them here.

"It's such a great game, (but) there's a perception down here that it does not translate well into television. To go and see it, it's terrific. It's just not a great TV sport.

"I don't know if that's true, they've just had a problem overcoming that (perception)."

Another problem is that hockey will receive most of its attention in the United States through controversy. Recent proof: Sean Avery.

On this, Erik and I stand on opposite ends in the court of opinion.

To generalize, his is of "What's the big deal?" Mine is: Call out the guy's woman, you've crossed the line.

"Here's what I found: The hardcore hockey people vehemently disagreed with me, the general sports fans were totally on my side," Kuselias said of his take.

"Here's what we talked about when we revisited it: There has to be something in the culture of (hockey) that's different than other sports," Kuselias said. "I don't pretend to be a hardcore hockey guy, so maybe I can learn from that.

"I don't know, I can blindside you in the back of the head with a fist and I'm not going to go for six games. But something I say off the ice gets me six games. For words?

"That was something, I think, that didn't make sense to the non-hockey fan."

We agreed to disagree and leave it up to the judges.

While Kuselias fully agreed that Slap Shot is among the greatest sports movies ever, his legal background gives him an interesting overview on glove-dropping.

"Fighting in hockey, from a legal perspective, is fascinating and very weird. It's part of the game, but it's not legal in society. Which is what makes it very weird. It's almost like an assumption of risk, where you know there's fighting going on.

"I've always wondered -- if you had an ambitious prosecutor who wanted to take fighting out of hockey, they probably could. If you had a guy in Philadelphia who said, 'Anybody who fights with the Flyers is going to get arrested,' it'd be hard for (the NHL) to stop them from doing that.

"It's a weird dynamic."

Maybe we just need something or somebody to really sell the game in the U.S. "Hockey Night in Canada -- is that Don Cherry?" Kuselias asked. "I love those coats!"

- I maintain hockey fights are a crucial, therapeutic part of our national psyche. It's like that Star Trek episode (Old-time Star Trek, coach!) when the people on that peaceful planet hear a bell or a siren and the streets immediately turn to blood and mayhem. A minute or two later, another siren, and everything returns to normal. That's us. We yell, smile, pound on the glass, then when we leave the arena, we're back to, 'Excuse me. Sorry. No, you go ahead.' That's us.

- The NHL all-star game airs on Sunday. Yeah, me neither.


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