Fightin' words fire up NHL fans

Sharks defenceman Justin Braun fights with Blues defenceman Roman Polak during Game 2 of their NHL...

Sharks defenceman Justin Braun fights with Blues defenceman Roman Polak during Game 2 of their NHL Western Conference quarterfinal series at the Scottrade Center in St. Louis, Miss., April 14, 2012. (SARAH CONARD/Reuters)

PAUL FRIESEN, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 4:36 PM ET

WINNIPEG - The debate is as extreme and divisive as the action on the ice, it seems.

Anytime you take a stand on violence in hockey, whether you throw a left or a right, you get it from the other side.

My column on how the NHL is knuckle-dragging us back to the 1970's ("NHL fashioning own noose") had the e-mail inbox humming, Wednesday.

In an effort to give loyal readers a taste of the fun, here's a sampling.

"Hey Paul, please stop trying to ruin sports," Marc Smith wrote. "You're the only person who is clinging to 30 years ago with that haircut. You're old now, and out of touch with hockey. I don't know what is worse, your perception of sports or your perception of yourself.

"Do you think that your thinning mullet is fashionable? Nobody wants to read about how an old balding man is afraid of pro hockey. Please go back to writing about curling or the PGA tour."

What I like most about responses like this is the intelligence of the argument. For Marc to pick up on my hair as his key point raises his e-mail to another level, entirely.

It's actually impossible to rebut. My hair is thinning.

Thankfully, there are people like M-J, a hockey mom and grandmother who restored my self-esteem.

"I totally agree with your column," she wrote. "NHL should bring on the punishment -- and I don't mean on the ice. Hit them all where it hurts. The wallet. And make it substantial, penalize the players, the coaches and team management/owners before someone gets killed or permanently disabled.

"I worry about my grandson who wants to play hockey -- will he grow up in an age where serious injuries are to be expected if you aspire to be an elite player?"

M-J and every other hockey mom and dad have very good reason to be worried about their kids and grandkids if this continues.

The NFL eventually figured out it can't encourage undue violence, and I've got to think the NHL will come around, some day. It might take a few lawsuits from injured ex-players, though.

Reader Chris Belcourt hopes the Raffi Torres hit on Marian Hossa draws a suspension that gets people's attention.

"I agree with you that it's reprehensible that the NHL has backtracked from their previous position on hits to the head," Belcourt wrote. "Hopefully, (Tuesday's) hit was a wake-up call."

Of course, for every Chris Belcourt, there's someone who thinks I'm the one who needs the wake-up call.

"Can't agree with you on this one Paul," Dave wrote. "I'm beginning to think you've never played competitive hockey, otherwise you wouldn't write crap like 'Fashioning Own Noose.' "

Hey, Dave, are you taking shots at Pembina Valley Minor Hockey or the Gretna Hustlers?

We were one helluva 10-and-under squad, let me tell you.

"What's happening in the Penguins-Flyers match is the result of emotion," Dave continued. "The players were keyed up and it all exploded on the ice. You can never legislate cheap shots out of any sport. They happen in the heat of battle and players should and will be penalized for them."

But that's the problem, Dave. They're not always penalized. And not nearly enough, when they are.

"Good God, how much more do you want to bubble wrap hockey players before you take all the emotion out of the game?" he concluded. "If you're finding it too violent I suggest you cover curling."

It's not too violent for me, Dave. I'm safe and sound up in the press box or in my living room.

It's the kids playing the game I worry about. And their families.

And why is it hockey fans keep dumping on curling?

At least curlers will be able to teach their grandkids how to play the game.

With open season on head shots, some hockey players will be too busy drooling to teach their grandkids anything.

VOICE OF FRIESEN

Here's some of the debate Paul's column stirred up at winnipegsun.com

I enjoy a good hockey dust up now and then....but this time I am with Paul....its over the edge for sure..... --Lake_life

NHL playoff hockey this year has changed drastically from the norm. I could not agree more with the subject and content of this article. It seems to me we are reverting back to the Roman times, when they put people in the arenas , no holds barred, and made heros out of the survivors. --Jake_Schwartz

So are you saying the 20 year olds that play the game should adjust the game to the "refined" tastes of the 50 yr olds who watch it? Its a generation gap and it seems that someone is on the wrong side of that gap. Times have changed and everything is hard and fast now. Its X-games, mixed martial arts, and extreme sledding/moto-cross where injuries are part of the price you pay to play. --UrKiddingRite

As soon as I saw the title of the article on the main page, I knew it was written by Paul Friesen. Does this idiot even watch hockey ? Seriously? --notbanned

This isn't hockey. The NHL is bush league garbage. Bush league reffing, bush league rule enforcement, bush league disciplining. I'm waiting for CFL to start - never thought I'd see the day where I thought CFL reffing was good. --theunknownsleeper

Paul...Impressed with you taking a stand away from the norm...You are 100% right and unfortunately someone will have to be seriously injured for this crap to stop. --AP1313


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