Saturday, February 10, 2007

Talent AND Toughness

It's a combination, well at least the toughness part, that many had come to believe wasn't needed in the new NHL any longer to be successful. Well, led by teams like the Anaheim Ducks, that's proving to not be the case. In fact, according to Eric Frances writing for Sun Media and Slam Sports Hockey, the need and use of enforcers seems to be on the upswing.

(Here's some highlights from the season so far)

Down but not out, enforcers are making a comeback in the NHL.

It's as obvious as a George Parros moustache, a Sean Avery cheap shot or a Donald Brashear meltdown.

You get the point.

Not that we're on the cusp of seeing more of the gratuitous scraps staged by two boneheads simply to justify their existence but the need for a genuine watchdog on most teams is clear.

Take, for example, what's going on in Pittsburgh with Sidney Crosby.

Coach Michel Therrien made a desperate, pathetic plea for the league to better protect Crosby last week after the league's star attraction was once again used as a Penguin pinata.

Truth is, the league has spent years setting laughable precedents in terms of dispensing justice, thus leaving such security tasks in the hands of enforcers.

And after more than a year of seeing just a handful of genuine bruisers cling to their jobs, GMs around the sped-up, sanitized NHL are now searching through their Rolodexes to relocate the Missing Link. [...]

Statistically, fighting is up 6% this year.

A man chiefly responsible for that is Anaheim GM Brian Burke, whose club leads the league in fighting majors on purpose. As one of the most progressive and successful GMs in the league, Burke sees merit in intimidation even in today's gutless NHL, where the lack of respect is glaring.

"You come to a square dance in our barn and you shouldn't have any problems finding a partner," said Burke on TSN Wednesday, who was then asked if he'd dress Parros in the playoffs.

"It depends who we're playing. Those who say fighting is dead in the playoffs didn't watch any of our games.

"We fought in all three rounds last year and we plan on doing it again this year as far as we go."

That's the spirit.

This from a former league disciplinarian who knows the only ones who can protect skilled players are their teammates -- not the NHL.

So go ahead Mr. Therrien, whine all you want about the mistreatment opponents have reserved for Crosby.

Truth is, until you start fighting back you should be beating yourself up over this one.

(my emphasis)
I think it's great to see this aspect of this great game making a comeback. Fighting has been part hockey since the beginnings of the sport. It's a huge part of it's DNA and the attempts to sanitize it from the game have been extremely misguided... and dangerous. It's a rough, passionate game of flying bodies, sticks and elbows in which the need to protect your teammates can't be left up to the whims of off-ice league officials.

Welcome back.


Talented Anaheim Ducks runaway leaders in NHL in fighting majors

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