VANCOUVER - The poll was unscientific but the results were conclusive: members of the Vancouver Canucks do not want fighting taken out of the game of hockey.
Fighting was the topic du jour Wednesday after Montreal Canadiens' enforcer George Parris was knocked unconscious in a scrap with Toronto Maple Leaf counterpart Colton Orr. Parros was not knocked out by a punch, however. He was knocked out when he fell face first on the ice after losing his balance while grappling with Orr.
“Something big must have happened, eh?” Canuck fourth-liner Dale Weise said to a throng of reporters at UBC, including some from TV news departments, seeking his thoughts on hockey's latest black eye.
“I've said it many times, I think fighting is always going to have a place in the game,” stated Weise, who was off and running. “I just don't think there is ever going to be a time where there is no fighting. I was talking with a couple of the guys this morning and I said when two guys are standing in there going toe-to-toe and the crowd is going nuts, everybody loves it. All of the sudden, one guy gets hurt and we're trying to take fighting out of the game?
“I mean, it's a rough sport. It's physical. Guys are elbowed. Guys get sticks in the face. It's unfortunate that George got hurt but he is a willing combatant and I'm sure he's not going to change his game. That's just the world we live in.”
Weise was clearly in the camp of those who feel stickwork will increase if players aren't allowed to "police the game" themselves.
“Absolutely, 100 per cent, I think there would be more stickwork,” said Weise, 25 and a new father. “I think there would be so many guys running around. You have to hold guys accountable. But I think there needs to be a reason to fight. I think staged fights are just unnecessary.
“I'm not a big believer in guys just coming out and saying: 'hey, do you want to get it going because you fight and I fight?' But if I go out and throw a big hit and I have to answer the bell for that, that's fine. Or if you're laying a few big hits, or trying to take advantage of somebody, and then I come out and ask you to answer the bell, I think that's the way it should play out.”
Canuck defenceman Kevin Bieksa called the Parros injury “unfortunate” but maintained that fighting is part of the game.
“We'll play with a tennis ball before we take fighting out,” Bieksa said. “There are going to be unfortunate incidents like that but it is not going anywhere. It will always be a part of the game.”
Left winger Tom Sestito, whose primary role on the Canucks is to “protect” his teammates, noted that many concussions in hockey are caused by hits, and not fights. Sestito is listed at 6-5 and 228 pounds. He has five goals and 212 penalty minutes in his limited NHL career.
According to hockeyfights.com, Sestito has been in 32 scraps at the NHL level and 58 more in the American League.
“If you don't have fighting in the game, there are going to be a lot of dirty hits,” suggested Sestito, 26. “It's almost like: are you going to take body-checking out of the game? There are a lot of concussions that come from just regular hits. It's a double-edged sword. Concussions are going to happen whether fighting is in the game or not.
"I think fighting is here to stay and hopefully nobody gets hurt. I don't think anybody really enjoys fighting but it's part of my job. It's part of a lot of guys jobs and their livelihoods.”
New Canuck head coach John Tortorella hadn't seen the Parros-Orr incident when he met with reporters Wednesday so he spoke in generalities.
“Are you asking me if fighting is part of the game? I believe it is,” said the coach. “But I think we've gone a little bit too far with the staged fighting. I don't think there is any need for that. Hockey is a hard game. It's a game that has body contact and there is conflict that happens within the game. So I think fighting will always be part of the game and I think it should be.”
ICE CHIPS: Ex-Canuck centre Manny Malhotra, an unsigned free agent, was skating with the UBC Thunderbirds on a sheet of ice next door to the Canuck practice... Canuck prospect Hunter Shinkaruk, sent back to junior Monday, is scheduled to play his first game with the Medicine Hat Tigers on Friday.
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