For those wondering, today’s paper has another Bluffer’s Guide from yours truly (Page B5, but not online) about violence in the NHL. It deals mainly with Chris Simon, who was suspended for 30 games (the longest suspension the NHL has ever given for an on-ice event) for stepping on another player’s foot with his skate. This, after he had just come back from a 25-game suspension (which itself had set a record) for a deliberate slash to the face.
The debate over the level of acceptable violence in the NHL is going to continue forever, and probably only get worse, until the seemingly inevitable point where someone dies on the ice as a result of a slash, a collision or a fight. Players (at least those who speak out publicly) tend to be in favour of fighting because they think it regulates tempers and protects star players. That is, until they themselves become the victims of violence.
Others, like Gazette columnist Pat Hickey, say this is all nonsense. Football doesn’t allow fighting, and it’s a much more physical sport.
UPDATE (Dec. 25): The Toronto Star says the NHL only pretends to hate fighting, while Dave Stubbs reminds everyone of Billy Coutu, who was banned for life in 1927 for attacking a linesman off the ice (though he was reinstated 5 years later to play in minor leagues — he never played an NHL game again). This is why we hear the term “on-ice” in most explanations.