Saturday, 21 January 2012

Two fights and Opposite Impressions

This week there were two fights in the NHL that general managers and coaches pointed to as good examples of the importance of fighting in the game.    The message was that these bouts demonstrated that players needed to enforce the game and bring about accountability.   My viewpoint is that they got it all wrong.

Last Tuesday the Toronto Maple Leafs took on the Ottawa Senators and seven minutes into the 2nd period Dion Phaneuf was shaken up when Nick Foligno delivered a low hit.  Phaneuf appeared to be lining up the Ottawa player for a hit when Foligno dipped low, flipping Phaneuf onto the ice.  Foligno was rightly called for clipping and spent the next 2 minutes in the box.   Phaneuf left the ice briefly but returned to the bench soon after and within 6 minutes had gone after Foligno, getting a roughing and fighting penalty.   Burke praised his captain after the game and said he had no problem with him sending a message to Foligno.    In an interview after the game Paul MacLean also was supportive of the fight, saying that when his player delivered an illegal hit he would likely have to answer for it.

So the referee’s call meant nothing?   Foligno was in the wrong and gave the Leafs a 2 minute power play.  But Phaneuf decided to take the matters into his own hands, despite the fact that he just returned from an injury and his team was in a close match.   And he ended up getting the extra penalty minutes for roughing, giving Ottawa the man advantage for 2 minutes.   The Leafs captain should be using his head instead of his fists.   No one can convince me that Foligno is going to dramatically alter his thinking after that fight.   I also think that Burke was a little extra vocal because of his recent press release and statement about the rats taking over.

On Wednesday night it was Canadiens playing Washington, and Rene Bourque, recently acquired by Montreal via a trade, end up fighting Matt Hendricks.   When he was with Calgary, during a game on January 3rd, Bourque had caught Washington centre Nicklas Backstrom with an elbow.   Backstrom has been out with a concussion and Bourque served a 5-game suspension but the media talked extensively about what would happen when Bourque faced Washington again.   Hendricks, who was not dressed for the previous 4 Capitals games, was added to the line-up and 9 seconds into his first shift of the game when he met Bourque at centre ice.   “It’s part of ‘The Code,’ part of the game,” Hendricks said. “There are consequences for all actions”.

This fight was talked about for days before the teams met, played up in the media and talked about on hockey message boards.  Again, I fail to see what was accomplished.  Hendricks obviously was not added to the line-up to play hockey – he made zero effort to find the puck when he stepped on the ice and simple went for Bourque.   Bourque had already admitted he made a mistake on the Backstrom hit and had served his suspension.   So I doubt that this fight will have any impact on Bourque’s decision process in the future or caused other “rats” in the league to contemplate their behavior.    I guess the big benefit was Hendricks got a chance to get on the ice after sitting in the press box for several games.

I think there has to be a changing of the guard in the NHL.  The current group of league executives, general managers and coaches all grew up with fighting in the game.  That experience has shaped their opinions about its importance and colours their discussions about eliminating fighting from the game.   They are less likely to listen to outside influence, either from the media or fans, and that won’t change until we see more progressive individuals take over league and team executive positions.

Sooner or later they will figure out that it’s not part of the game.


  1. The lead-up to the Bourque/Hendricks fight is eerily similar to the lead-up to the Steve Moore/Todd Bertuzzi incident.
    What's interesting is how all of the NHL people rushed to disassociate themselves from what Bertuzzi did when the consequences were so severe. If Steve Moore had merely received a bloody nose, Bertuzzi would have been praised as Hendricks is now. If Hendricks had seriously injured Bourque, all of the blame would likely have been put on Hendricks and the league would not have accepted any accountability for it. They would probably even suggest that they had done their job by suspending Bourque. That's the strange double standard that the league lives by. They give insignificant suspensions in order to pretend to be controlling the game, while on the other hand they allow and even encourage fighting. If a player gets seriously injured by the actions of another, the NHL steps aside, puts all blame on the aggressive player and pretends that they had nothing to do with it. The reality is clearly the opposite.

  2. The Steve Moore hit was dirty and if you think those things are similar AT ALL then you are an idiot. I watched that happen live, I am an Avs fan but I DO NOT believe I am biased in my opinion. Hendricks and Bourque had a fight that, whether you think it belongs in the game or not, was CLEAN. If Bourque had received injury from this fight it would NOT have been an issue on the scale or even in the same league as the Moore/Bertuzzi incident. Bertuzzi sucker punched Moore from behind and slammed the already knocked out player's face into the ice and ended his career. The two CANNOT be compared so be rational moron.