The National Hockey League’s 2013-14 season began Tuesday night with a trio of exciting games, headlined by the Chicago Blackhawks‘ Stanley Cup banner-raising in front of a national cable audience.
But despite a deluge of offense and exciting action, a significant news item from opening night resulted from the latest ugly fighting-related incident.
Montreal Canadiens forward George Parros, a Washington, Pa., native, was knocked unconscious when Toronto’s Colton Orr pulled him down at the end of their second fight of the evening. Parros’ face impacted the ice, and he had to be taken to the dressing room on a stretcher. He was eventually diagnosed with a concussion at a nearby hospital.
The scary moment on an otherwise joyous night inspired several members of NHL front offices to speak out against the presence of fighting. As reported by TSN’s Darren Dreger, one of those voices belongs to Pittsburgh Penguins general manager Ray Shero.
Shero was quoted as saying NHL executives “need to be leaders, not followers in this area. I respect other GMs and their views, but we need to look at this, and not just when an incident like last night happens.”
Tampa Bay general manager and Hockey Hall of Famer Steve Yzerman was also outspoken in Dreger’s report, as was Carolina Hurricanes GM Jim Rutherford. Yzerman explained his logic thusly:
“Yes, I believe a player should get a game misconduct for fighting,” Yzerman told The Dreger Report. “We penalize and suspend players for making contact with the head while checking, in an effort to reduce head injuries, yet we still allow fighting.
“We’re stuck in the middle and need to decide what kind of sport do we want to be. Either anything goes and we accept the consequences, or take the next step and eliminate fighting.”
Yzerman’s thought process is increasingly taking root around the game, as highlighted by the junior-level Ontario Hockey League’s increased penalties against fighting which were instituted last year. Legendary coach Scotty Bowman lent his weighty perspective to the debate, as exemplified by this tweet:
I support views of Steve Yzerman Ray Shero and Jim Rutherford on their opinions for Addressing most Fighting Issues Poll all Players
— scott bowman (@coachwsb) October 2, 2013
With the next meeting of NHL general managers scheduled for November, finding a way to more heavily penalize fisticuffs will likely be on the agenda. Any action against fighting will be difficult in a sport not known for its progressiveness, but the tide of public opinion seems to be on the side of reform.
Kudos to Shero, Yzerman, Bowman and Rutherford for speaking out and resisting the inertia that’s kept hockey from leaving its Neanderthal element in the past.