Enforcers worry about future

LANCE HORNBY, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 8:17 AM ET

BUFFALO -- With almost 2,000 minutes in penalties in four levels of hockey, Andrew Peters says it's "offensive" to him that the fighter could one day join the rover as extinct species in the game.

Peters is among the surviving band of enforcers worried about their livelihood, not to mention the safety of skilled teammates should National Hockey League senior vice-president Colin Campbell consider a crackdown on fisticuffs.

Campbell's call to examine the role of fighting in the wake of recent injuries and bad media for the league was the talk of HSBC Arena yesterday prior to the Maple Leafs-Buffalo Sabres game. Peters hoped Campbell would not make a rash decision.

"How long has fighting been around the game of hockey?," the Sabres winger asked rhetorically. "It's part of the game, the fans love it and there's a need for it, for someone to protect their teammates at all times."

Voice dripping with sarcasm, the six-foot-four, 230-pound Peters said: "You take fighting out of hockey, you might as well take the triple salchow out of figure skating. I saw someone hurt their tailbone pretty badly and miss a skating competition not too long ago. That's something the International Olympic Committee should be looking at.

"But in all honesty, it's offensive to me. It almost takes away from what you mean to your team. I don't think we are (useless) and I think if you asked 25 guys in this locker room, they'd tell you the same thing. Take fighting out and you're looking at a whole different style of hitting. Now guys will take free rein because they don't have to pay the consequences. I think it would be stupid.

"There's a reason for it. It can change the momentum of a game, send a message that if you come after our players, we'll come after yours. It can be used in so many different strategies, more than just a goon way. And that's such a terrible word to use."

Leafs winger Kris Newbury, who still hasn't played since Ronald Petrovicky of the Pittsburgh Penguins decked him Feb. 10 and caused the back of his exposed head to strike the ice, insisted his was a freak injury and shouldn't be used as ammunition by the anti-fighting lobby. But he and Wade Belak, Toronto's premier enforcer, agreed that Wednesday's knockout of Philadelphia Flyer Todd Fedoruk by New York Rangers' Colton Orr likely has swayed public opinion and brought heat on Campbell.

"There have been some unfortunate incidents with guys getting hurt, me included," Newbury said. "But I think with the star players in this league needing protection, they can never get rid of it. I think Colin has to sit down and think about the recent incidents. But if he does take the time, he's going to understand that guys such as (Sidney) Crosby and (Evgeni) Malkin need protection.

"Obviously it's part of the game, but over the past 10 or 15 years, you've seen a lot less fighting. They're doing a lot better job controlling it, but unfortunately, some guys are getting hurt."


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