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The beginning of the end of the hockey fight?

By Tom

I’m planning on writing a summation of the 2013 Columbus Blue Jackets season – honest, I am – but some news out of Montreal broke that I think is worthy of cutting in line.

According to the CBC’s Radio-Canada.ca site (in French), National Hockey League Players Association executive director Donald Fehr shared at a late April meeting with player agents that he’s beginning the process of building consensus toward meaningfully addressing hockey fighting.  By the tone of the article, it looks like Fehr wouldn’t mind eliminating fighting altogether.

What do I mean by that?  Read this Google translation of the above-linked article:

After leading the Association of Major League Baseball players for a quarter century, Fehr found himself at the head of the NHLPA in 2012. Aged about 65 years, he has signed with the NHL collective agreement that could last ten years. It seems that the abolition of fighting is one of the objectives that Fehr is set before bowing out.

“Nothing concrete has been announced to us, but I felt that Fehr was motivated by a genuine desire to address the issue of fighting,” says the Robert Sauvé, who confirmed that he had attended the meeting [of] agent[s].

“Fehr told us he was trying to understand the dynamics of fights and he was struggling to understand an athlete can get to defeat another or to injure him in the course of a game. It is a culture that has not known when was working in other sports,” reveals [agent] Gilles Lupien for his part, who was also present at the discussion.

It goes on from there, but I think the message is clear: Don Fehr, one of the two most powerful people in professional hockey, has fighting in his sights.  And there’s good reason to do so:

The accumulation of scientific data confirming the permanent brain damage arising from concussions, the recent deaths of former fighters in the NHL as well as the prosecution and the possibility of a potential class action [lawsuit by] players, it seems , led to a questioning of the [policies of] the NHL.

Change like this won’t happen overnight, but it sure seems like the final chapter on hockey pugilism could have started.

On a personal note: I’ve had a back-and-forth infatuation with the hockey fight (and the personalities who practice the pugilistic arts) over the years, coming to the conclusion that while fighting could have some value as a real on-ice policing tool, the current structure of the rules have limited the hockey fight to a clown show – a way to vent off some steam.  If that’s the case, I don’t see why fighting should be allowed any longer.  Never mind the chilling research about chronic traumatic encephalopathy.  I hope Fehr gets the job done.

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