Many critics say the introduction of helmets marked the beginning of the end for civility.
But was old-time hockey really so civil?
The Broad Street Bullies were one of the most vicious teams in sports history. Bobby Clarke broke Valery Kharlamov's ankle with one of the most savage slashes you'll ever see. Throughout the 80s, the biggest names in the NHL—besides Lemieux and Gretzky—were the enforcers: Bob Probert, Marty McSorley, Dale Hunter, Dave Semenko, and before them two of the all-time great enforcers, Dave "Tiger" Williams and Dave "The Hammer" Schultz.
As I see it, the enforcer's role is making a comeback after a steady decline through the late 90s and early 2000s. Modern players are bigger, faster, stronger, and, yes, a little bit out of control—but the level of respect hasn't changed much, and probably never will.
When you hit someone, you want him to fly. If someone goes after your star, you take him out—or go after his star. That always has been and always be a part of hockey.
I'll agree that there isn't a great level of respect between NHL players today—but I'll argue that there's no more or less respect than at any other time in the history of the league.
Like the new article format? Send us feedback!