Them's fighting words

Ottawa Senators tough guy Brian McGrattan, seen here going at it with Toronto Maple Leafs' Wade...

Ottawa Senators tough guy Brian McGrattan, seen here going at it with Toronto Maple Leafs' Wade Belak last season, says there is still a place for fighters in the new NHL. (Toronto Sun File/Greg Henkenhaf)

CHRIS STEVENSON -- Ottawa Sun

, Last Updated: 12:23 PM ET

"DEATH OF THE GOON"

-- Headline on the current edition of The Hockey News

For Senators enforcer, Brian McGrattan, those are fighting words.

McGrattan is willing to fight for his place in the game, both literally and figuratively. He was the NHL's busiest scrapper last season with 19 dates on his dance card in his rookie season.

The Hockey News does one of these "Fighting Is Dead (Dying) (or On The Decline)" pieces every year, but every year fighting keeps coming off the mat like Rocky.

"I think (fighting) will always have a place in the game. I don't think people are talking about that. I completely disagree with them," said McGrattan.

Now, McGrattan doesn't exactly have an unbiased opinion in this since we're talking about his raison d'etre.

But I'll take his back on this one.

Myself, I love a good hockey scrap and I'm not ashamed to admit it. I don't think I'm in the minority either, though it seems to have become unfashionable in the media to admit it.

Personally, I enjoy seeing two tough guys drop the buckets and go. The Hockey News argues that a fight like the one between McGrattan and the Maple Leafs' Wade Belak in the Ottawa home opener "was one of those meaningless bouts which occurred early in the second period ... It took place away from the play and, apparently, for no reason other than that is what both men are paid to do -- fight."

And I say, yeah, so what's your point?

I've seen enough NHL games where if it wasn't for a scrap, there wouldn't have been much evidence a game was actually happening.

"If a team is down and comes out flat, right off the hop if you get a good tilt, I think it sparks emotion for the crowd and the team," said McGrattan.

"I just totally disagree with everybody who is saying it's on the way out. I just don't believe that. I think the guys who are on the way out are the ones who can only fight. If you can play a good role on your team and be a good team player and add the quality of fighting, I don't think it's ever going to leave the game."

Not to mention most of the guys who would qualify as tough guys are usually running around the rink trying to hit somebody. That's what they do and the game is better for it.

Their presence pretty much assures most of the mayhem will be initiated and dealt with by them.

"It's not just fighting," said McGrattan. "There's intimidation and you stick up for guys. A guy gets run from behind or speared when you're up 5- or 6-1, you go take care of it. The guys on the first and second lines can play with ease knowing if somebody takes a run at them, their guy is going to take care of it.

"All these people who say fighting doesn't have a place, I completely disagree with that. I don't think it's dying, personally."

Every sport has its violent warts.

Seeing two tough guys go at it with bare knuckles, for me, is more appealing than say, seeing a guy like Tennessee Titan Albert Haynesworth stomp another huge guy in the head like Andre Gurode of the Dallas Cowboys with a foot full of cleats.

Or a pitcher whip a baseball at a guy's head.

The presence of guys like McGrattan, in my opinion, rather than increase the violence in hockey, limits it.

"You see a lot less of it if you have some guys who can take care of business," said Senator Chris Neil, who had a good go with Montreal Canadien Aaron Downey on Saturday night. "You don't want guys taking liberties with your skilled guys."

"If fighting goes, that's when all the stickwork is going to come in. If you look at NCAA hockey, watch one of those games, everybody is getting pitch-forked and slashed. That's when all the dirty stuff is going to happen," said McGrattan. "Look at this league now. The odd guy will do something stupid. I think if fighting wasn't in the game, there would be a lot more stickwork and there would be a lot of guys handing out cheapshots. That stuff doesn't happen too much if there are guys in the lineup that will back it up and be there for the guys who are getting hurt and whacked at."

Truth is, the people who really matter in the argument about fighting in hockey --the fans -- don't seem to mind it.

"The fans absolutely love it," said McGrattan. "I bet you if you asked everybody who came through the gate if they like a good fight, not one of them will say no."

BRAWLERS

List of top fighters by numbers in the NHL last season.

1. Brian McGrattan, Ottawa, 19 (1) 2. George Parros, L.A., 18 (0) 3. Derek Boogaard, Minnesota, 16 (1) 4. Steve Ott, Dallas, 16 (0)


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