I heard a couple of statistics on ESPN that gave me some hope that hockey is seeing the light when it comes to fighting.
Those statistics are the number of fights is down 25 percent in the NHL, while suspensions for hits have jumped 72 percent over last year.
This is an encouraging trend. Hopefully both will lead to less fighting in hockey.
This would go against what Toronto Maple Leafs general manager Brian Burke thinks about fighting. He said in an interview a few weeks ago fighting belongs in the NHL, and should never be taken out of the game.
But what the man now in Burke’s former position of NHL czar of discipline, Brendan Shanahan, is doing by giving out so many suspensions is what I have been calling for for years – and it seems like it’s working.
Shanahan – yes, that Brendan Shanahan of Red Wings and Blues fame – is handing out discipline for hits that would normally have been “enforced” on the ice. Because Shanahan is taking matters into his office instead of the players’ “office,” there is less of a reason to drop the gloves.
I don’t know how much this has to do with the deaths of three hockey “enforcers” in the same week during the past summer. I really don’t know if that has anything to do with the lack of such “enforcers” in the league.
But I’m going to take that out of the equation for now. I’m just going to look at the stats I just presented.
If this trend continues, it would mean the NHL is finally catching up to the other three “big leagues” where fisticuffs are concerned. The NBA, NFL and (somewhat) MLB will suspend anyone who throws a punch.
And I’ve always said that if the cheap stuff is disciplined at the league level, there won’t be a need to enforce it at ice level. This is also in direct contrast to Burke, who thinks players will take liberties with the scorers of the league if fighting isn’t allowed.
Shanahan won’t let that happen. As a former player who was the recipient of some of those cheap shots (I can still remember when his face was bloodied in a playoff game after having it smashed into the glass), he won’t allow that stuff to go on.
Hopefully Shanahan will keep up the trend of making sure the cheap hits and head shots are dealt with so that the other players in the league don’t have to do it right then and there.
Then we don’t have to worry about any “enforcers” dying way too young, and that can be permanently taken out of the equation.