NHL legend Ken Dryden calls fighting a 'distraction'

Winnipeg Jets defenceman Mark Stuart (5) and Tampa Bay Lightning forward Ryan Malone (12) fight at...

Winnipeg Jets defenceman Mark Stuart (5) and Tampa Bay Lightning forward Ryan Malone (12) fight at centre ice during the first period at MTS Centre earlier this year. (REUTERS)

QMI AGENCY

, Last Updated: 3:49 PM ET

The NHL is combative.

There are collisions.

And, there are going to be angry feelings, one NHL legend concedes.

But he’s not convinced fighting should remain an integral part of the game.

“Naturally, there’s fighting,” former Montreal Canadiens goalie Ken Dryden told NBC. “OK, I understand it. But the vast majority of players on every team don’t fight. And virtually all of the great players don’t get involved in fights, either.”

It’s an issue that won’t go away.

Traditionalists continue to trumpet the need for enforcers in the game while other voices, such as Dryden's, no longer see a place for fighting in the NHL.

“One of the distractions, I think, from hockey is fighting,” Dryden, 66, told Bob Costas in an NBC interview that airs Thursday. “It has been part of hockey for a very long time ... understood as the nature of the game.

“Hockey is this incredible, combative game in all kinds of different dimensions. I’m sure I’m biased, but Stanley Cup playoff games are magic to watch. You see so much commitment.”

You also don’t see too many players drop the gloves during the post-season, Dryden remarked – something the Hockey Hall of Famer uses as an argument.

A recent stat from The Score contends fighting decreases by as much as 71.9% during the NHL playoffs.

“(In the playoffs) you have this amazing commitment of players going into the corners even harder and players staying in front of the net no matter what the circumstances,” Dryden said. “Doing it from beginning to end and blocking shots, diving all over the place. That is, to me, the essence of hockey.”

Costas, in return, then put forth a traditional argument: Without enforcers (fighters) in the game, the violence would be considerably higher.

“That’s an argument,” Dryden answered, “but there isn’t evidence. There are all kinds of ways of dealing with those angry feelings that you’ve got. Almost every player, that’s what they do. They go into the corner even more determined. They are able to put up with more in front of the net and go to the net more. The model is the playoff game.”


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