Five For Fighting?: Leave Fighting Alone, Crack Down On Cheap Shots

Eric ValcinContributor IMarch 3, 2009

The NHL has had success with the annual Winter Classic the past few years, and I love the idea, but the worst thing about the lockout for the NHL was not getting their coverage back on ESPN.

Before the lockout, who heard of the OLN network in major markets, and who still watches it?

ESPN is a worldwide staple of sports programming (especially in America), so if you want people to watch, advertise and broadcast on ESPN, not OLN or Versus.

Gary Bettman, wants to run the NHL like the NBA, and that’s not going to work. If there’s a bench-clearing brawl in the NHL, you know something major happened for the benches to clear, and it’s not because of a foul deemed too hardthat’s not part of the game. I think Bettman is out of his mind if the thinks he’s going to eliminate fighting from professional hockey.

He should, however, get tougher on hits from behind and blows to the head. The list of players that have missed time due to concussions has gone up over the past few years, and that’s what’s ruining the game, not the fighting.

Both scoring and fighting have been up the past few years, the two things fans love to see in hockey. Part of the reason for the head injuries are guys that aren’t fighters are going around with their elbows up taking liberties with opposing players. A guy like Alexander Ovechkin isn’t held accountable to fight, so he gets away with murder on the ice.

I’m not saying he’s not a great player and a great goal scorer, but he’s not held accountable for his actions on the ice. A lot of hockey fans don’t understand fighting, but fighting allows the players to police the game and it’s not a completely random act.

There is a code for fighting, like the rule that you don’t fight at the end of a shift. A guy like George Parros isn’t going to try and fight or take a cheap shot at a guy like Sidney Crosby.

If you’re skating around hitting people from behind with your elbows up, and playing with your stick high, you have to answer the bell and be held accountable for your actions.

To me, this is the problem with the “New NHL”.

In connection “The Instigator Rule” and other similar policies are allowing players to run their mouths on (and off) the ice, and not pay any sort of penalty for it.

I’m not going to compare the Gordie Howe, Maurice Richard, and Terry Sawchuk era of hockey to now. However, back in the olden days, none of those guys would have skipped out on an All-Star game. It would have been seen as disrespecting the fans, and on top of that, they wouldn’t have gotten a possible contract bonus for achieving that honor.

Gary Bettman can’t put a gun to someone’s head and make them go to the game, but to me, the athletes that decide to skip out on the All-Star game give a big one-fingered salute to the fans that vote them in.

Now, do some of the starters not deserve to be there because of over-voting by the fans? Yes. But, here’s an ideahave a panel of recently retired players who, regardless of Hall of Fame accolades, selects the rosters based on fan voting, allow the hosting city a max of two players that the fans can vote in. Other players deemed qualified by the panel also make the game.

As a New York Rangers fan, I saw what Sean Avery brought on the ice, however, I wasn’t in the locker room, nor do I know Sean Avery personally. As someone who has played hockey for years, and coaches the sport, if someone has gone to four teams in four seasons, it’s not because his skills aren’t there, but rather it’s because he’s most likely a problem in the locker room.

So, what’s difference between Sean Avery criticizing the state of the game and Jeremy Roenick doing the same? Roenick has never been suspended for jumping on a guy’s back and sucker-punching him, like Avery did when he played with L.A.

Sean Avery has a history of being a dirt bag, and I don’t feel sorry for the actions taken against him. I don’t think other players did either, did you hear Dallas Stars teammates Mike Modano or Marty Turco having a hissy fit when Avery got suspended?

I didn’t think so.