Vancouver Canucks' Dale Weise

Vancouver Canucks' Dale Weise

NHL players dropping gloves early and often

DETROIT — Wanna fight? If you’re an NHL player, you can probably find somebody to drop the gloves. A lockout-delayed and shortened season has created a spike in fights around the league, just as it did the last time labour woes led to a 48-game season.

DETROIT — Wanna fight?

If you’re an NHL player, you can probably find somebody to drop the gloves.

A lockout-delayed and shortened season has created a spike in fights around the league, just as it did the last time labour woes led to a 48-game season.

There were 58 fights through the first 87 games this year, following play on Tuesday night, an increase from 39 after the same number of games last season, according to STATS. During the 1994-95 season, there were 83 fights over the first 87 games of that lockout-shortened slate, a jump from 58 during the same stretch previous season.

“Obviously, you have a situation where the players are being thrown into the immediate intensity of a shortened season and that certainly may play a role,” NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly wrote Thursday in an email to The Associated Press. “We monitor these things as well, and the number of fighting majors have decreased significantly and begun to normalize over the last week. I expect that will continue over the balance of the season.”

There were, in fact, fewer fighting penalties than games on Monday for the first time since the season started with 12 fights in 13 games. And on Wednesday, there were six fights in four games.

But there were a season-high 16 fights in 10 games on Tuesday, when Detroit Red Wings forward Jordin Tootoo and fought two different players in the opening period against the Dallas Stars.

Tootoo has been a part of two of the four fights that have started within the first three seconds of a game this season. When the gloves drop soon after the puck does, the fights seem orchestrated by World Wrestling Entertainment decision-makers.

“For me personally, nothing is staged,” Tootoo insisted. “It’s spontaneous. It’s all about the eye contact. You kind of say, ’Let’s do it,’ without saying a word.”

Some players say they’re unleashing pent-up energy, stored during the four-month lockout.

Others want to give fans what they seem to want.

One 25-year-old player acknowledges he’s fighting for his job. Nashville Predators forward Richard Clune has been trying to make it back in the NHL since playing in 14 games with the Los Angeles Kings three years ago. He was in three fights in his first five games.

Clune didn’t play in Nashville’s opener when star defenceman Shea Weber got into a rare fight with Columbus forward Jared Boll, the first NHL player to five fights this season. Clune, perhaps not coincidently, was in the lineup for the next game and tried to make his presence felt right away by getting penalized for boarding in the opening minutes.

“I play hard and get in the other team’s faces and sometimes it results in dropping the gloves,” Clune said in a telephone interview before playing on the road against the Kings.

The NHL struggles with its public stance toward fighting.

The league doesn’t want to embrace or encourage the most violent part of its fast-paced, heavy-hitting game during a concussion crisis in sports, and with some of its former enforcers dying young and unexpectedly in 2011.

And yet fans seem to stand and cheer each time gloves drop and fists fly.

Red Wings senior vice-president Jim Devellano, who has four decades of NHL front-office experience and is in the Hockey Hall of Fame, said he used to be among the majority of people within the game that accept fighting as simply being a part of the sport.

“I’ve changed 100 per cent and I’m now in the minority because I personally could do without fighting,” Devellano said. “I don’t think it brings anything to the game and there’s a lot of violence in society that we have to read about all the time.

“I changed my opinion when Scotty Bowman, who wasn’t big on fighting, was our coach and I saw how beautiful the game can be when you let the talent and the speed of the game take over. I’m not a crusader to stop fighting, but when I’ve shared my opinion with hockey people, they’re not really happy with what I say.”

Toronto Maple Leafs coach Randy Carlye, who has two players — Mike Brown and Colton Orr — among the league leaders in fights — said “fisticuffs” are a part of the game that are here to stay.

“I just think it’s a fact of life in the NHL that if you’re going go out there and you’re going to run around, it’s going to force confrontation,” Carlye said. “Sometimes people try to take advantage of your more skilled players and you have that deterrent.”

Getting players injured, though, might deter teams from wanting key players to mix it up.

New York Rangers captain Ryan Callahan will be out for 10 to 14 days after hurting his left shoulder ion Tuesday night a scuffle with Max Talbot ended with the Philadelphia Flyers forward tugging Talbot’s arm and dragging him down.

“Maybe we’ve been out so long and everyone is on edge,” Rangers forward Mike Rupp said.

Washington’s Jason Chimera had another theory related to the lockout that shortened the 82-season and hit players in their pocket books.

“Maybe they’re mad they missed half a year’s pay check,” Chimera said.

Boll suggested the spike in fights is a result of players being excited to be back on the ice.

He also pointed to a theory that can be seen, heard and felt in arenas throughout North America.

“Definitely, if you’re the home team you want to get the crowd into it,” Boll said. “It’s fun. That’s what guys do. That’s why guys play is to compete and do their job.

“So far it seems like it’s been an exciting start to the season. Maybe we’re just trying to get the fans back in it.”

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Council approved a $3 million grant and a $19 million loan Tuesday to help keep Westerner Park sustainable. (Advocate file photo)
Red Deer city council approves $22M to keep Westerner Park viable after emotional debate

It’s vital ensure future success for the huge economic generator, says mayor

Red Deer Rebels goalie Chase Coward tries to find a loose puck during WHL action at the Centrium earlier this season. (Photo by ROB WALLATOR/Red Deer Rebels)
Changes on the horizon for Red Deer Rebels next season

New coach, roster adjustments among top priorities for Sutter this offseason

Renovations and construction have begun at Red Deer Dream Centre. (Photo contributed)
Renovations underway at Red Deer Dream Centre

Christian-based addictions treatment centre

Red Deer County's municipal planning commission gave approval for a new directional sign for a business located near Elnora.
(Image from Red Deer County)
Red Deer County garden centre and winery gets sign approved

Delidais Estate Winery and DA Gardens is located near Elnora

Alberta Premier Jason Kenney. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson
Here is a list of latest COVID-19 restrictions in effect in Alberta

New mandatory health restrictions are now in effect in Alberta. Additional restrictions… Continue reading

Chicago Blackhawks left wing Alex DeBrincat (12) celebrates with teammates after scoring a goal during the second period of an NHL hockey game against the Florida Panthers in Chicago, Saturday, May 1, 2021. (AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh)
Toews’ question chases Chicago Blackhawks into offseason

Toews’ question chases Chicago Blackhawks into offseason

Wheeler has two goals, two assists as Winnipeg Jets clinch third in North Division

Wheeler has two goals, two assists as Winnipeg Jets clinch third in North Division

Depleted Raptors drop a 115-96 decision to Leonard and Clippers

Depleted Raptors drop a 115-96 decision to Leonard and Clippers

Denis Shapovalov, of Canada, tosses the ball for a serve to Ilya Ivashka, of Belarus, during the Miami Open tennis tournament Saturday, March 27, 2021, in Miami Gardens, Fla. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP/Wilfredo Lee
Canadian Felix Auger-Aliassime upsets Diego Schwartzman at Italian Open

Canadian Felix Auger-Aliassime upsets Diego Schwartzman at Italian Open

Philadelphia Flyers' James van Riemsdyk (25) and Sean Couturier (14) celebrate past New Jersey Devils' Yegor Sharangovich (17) after a goal by van Riemsdyk during the third period of an NHL hockey game, Monday, May 10, 2021, in Philadelphia. (AP Photo/Matt Slocum)
Flyers drop from trendy East favorite to another lost season

Flyers drop from trendy East favorite to another lost season

André Gauthier is shown in a handout photo. Gauthier, a Canadian geologist who spent six years in and out of jail in Dubai after he allegedly uncovered fraud in a gold company, finally is back home in Quebec City after his release last week. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO-Detained in Dubai MANDATORY CREDIT
Canadian geologist detained in Dubai for six years is back home after charges dropped

Canadian geologist detained in Dubai for six years is back home after charges dropped

This undated photo provided by the North Dakota Game and Fish Department shows a group of bighorn sheep in North Dakota. Alberta's environment department has known for years that toxins from old coal mines are contaminating populations of the province's official animal, the bighorn sheep. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP-Craig Bihrle/North Dakota Game and Fish Department via AP, File
Alberta government knew bighorn sheep contaminated with coal mine selenium: scientist

Alberta government knew bighorn sheep contaminated with coal mine selenium: scientist

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau holds a press conference in Ottawa on Tuesday, May 11, 2021. Trudeau is rejecting accusations from Alberta’s justice minister that his federal government is part of a trio rooting for that province’s health system to collapse due to COVID-19. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Trudeau rejects Alberta cabinet minister accusation PM wants COVID-19 health disaster

Trudeau rejects Alberta cabinet minister accusation PM wants COVID-19 health disaster

Most Read