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Big Question: What role does fighting have in the game?

This week’s Big Question: What role does fighting have in the game?

Alex Pietrangelo, D, St. Louis Blues: “It’s part of the game, it’s always been part of the game and it will always be part of the game. That’s just how it is. Has the role changed? Yeah. More than ever, guys who are quote-unquote tough guys or fighters have really developed their games and can play minutes now. Which is great for the game. Yeah, fighting has decreased, but the best part is seeing these guys having to continue to get better and continue to get more skilled to play at this level and play this game.”

Jamie Benn, C, Dallas Stars: “Personally, I enjoy a good scrap every once in a while, with myself being involved or a teammate. I think our team might have close to the top for most fights in the league. I don’t think it’s a bad thing, I do see some value in it, it can get your team going at times. There are certain times in a game where I think there is a time to fight. You want to protect yourself, you want to protect your teammates. You also want to get your teammates going and the crowd going. The fans love it. It might not be the safest at times … and it may be decreasing, but I still think it’s OK to fight and have fighting in hockey.”

Zach Werenski, D, Columbus Blue Jackets: “It’s hard for me to judge in my first NHL season; I don’t know what it used to be like. I still think there’s a time and place for it. Guys who have that role know when it’s time to fight. I think it helps teams. It gets the bench going, gets some emotion in your game, if you’re not into it, it gets you into it as a team. … It’s slowly going away, but it won’t ever fully be out of the league. I don’t think it should be. It keeps the respect factor in the game.”

Trevor Daley, D, Pittsburgh Penguins: “I don’t think [fighting is] a bad thing. I think because there’s fighting, there’s a form of respect out on the ice and that this game has, and it kind of makes our game what it is today. You look at the people we have in our game. We have good people and well-respected people, and you don’t get away with too many freebies out there when you know there’s a chance you may have to drop the gloves and go. So I’m all for it. Obviously, you don’t want to see, it’s not Wrestlemania or anything like that, but the odd one to settle somebody down or the old-fashioned way, as they like to say, is how to do it is at times is the right way to do it.”

Tuukka Rask, G, Boston Bruins: “Where it is now, it’s been pretty good. Fights happen. That’s the nature of the game. The biggest issue with a lot of people was the staged fighting and those heavyweights are kind of out of the game. There’s no set-up fights just to fight, it just kind of happens in the moment of the game, and that’s OK in my eyes. We’ve had a couple of incidents when a fight was about to break out and then the linesman came through and held our guy, and the other guy [got in] a couple of punches, so that’s not good. I’m sure if you ask some of these guys that fight more often, they would say that’s an issue when the linesman jumps in there at the wrong time and accidents might happen.”

Seth Jones, D, Columbus Blue Jackets: “You don’t see it as much obviously anymore. You see a lot of teams going to more skilled fourth lines. There’s not a lot of them anymore, but I still think there are guys that do their job and do it well. Still productive, still score goals and find a way. You don’t have to fight to be a hard-nosed player. You can still be chippy and be physical without fighting.”

Jay Bouwmeester, D, St. Louis Blues: “Every team used to have the big enforcer-type guy and now it’s pretty much phased out; you’ve got to be able to play. We got Reavo [Ryan Reaves], he’s probably one of the best fighters in the league, but he plays and he doesn’t have to fight very much anymore. … It’s the salary cap, you don’t have that spot on the roster for that guy anymore. That spot now is a guy that can skate, forecheck and play the game. The way the game is played now, you need four lines. If you don’t have four lines come the stretch and the playoffs, you’re at a real disadvantage. I know a lot of those [enforcers], I played with a lot of those guys, a lot of them were the best guys, the best teammates. From a personal standpoint, that way it sucks that they’re out of a job. But that’s just how the game has evolved.”

Cam Ward, G, Carolina Hurricanes: “I think there’s a time and a place for it when you’re defending your teammates and not letting guys take liberties. But as far as staged fighting, I don’t feel that there’s a place for that.”

David Backes, C, Boston Bruins: “It’s obviously less and less [frequent], statistics will tell you that, but I think there’s certainly a place where we govern ourselves [or] the amount of supplementary discipline that would have to take place in order to totally eliminate fighting would have to be substantial. I think it’s an uncertain science, so when each team feels they’ve gotten a little retribution, or had their two cents heard, then maybe that’s a more justified way to keep the game even and keep the game safe.”

Ian Cole, D, Pittsburgh Penguins: “I think it does have a role. Do I think it’s necessary to the game to survive? I don’t think it’s necessary, I think it definitely has a role in a sense of a self-policing aspect to it. You know that if you do something that maybe crosses the line, you know you’re going to have to answer for it more than a penalty. … It keeps guys in check. You want to be able to step up for your teammates when something happens. It gives you an active way to step up, to answer what happened without it carrying over to the rest of the game. I think that something happens, [someone] steps up, fights — it pretty much is done at that point, versus if something happens in the first period, you’re not allowed to fight, this guy cheap-shots him, he cheap-shots someone else, then it’s a cheap shot to this guy and it balloons after that. I think for the most part, fighting tends to end it quicker and [lead to] a little less cheap shots overall.”

Jeff Skinner, C, Carolina Hurricanes: “It’s just an emotional game and you always want to keep that emotion in it. I think that sometimes fighting is a result of that emotion, but it also keeps a certain amount of respect in the game. I think that’s the one thing. It’s more than just the entertainment and it’s more than … two guys that want to sort of blow off some steam sometimes. There’s [an] underlying respect between players and opposing players and teams. So I think it’s still got that sort of role.”

Mark Giordano, D, Calgary Flames: “I definitely think there’s a role. But I think it’s turning more into energy guys; you don’t have the staged fights as much anymore. The fourth line now is more about creating energy for your team. I think it’s still important though because you don’t want other teams taking runs at your best players and stuff like that, and get it out of control.”

Ron Hainsey, D, Carolina Hurricanes: “Nowhere near the role it had. I think with our game, you’re always going to have the opportunity for two players who are in a very intense battle to let that battle carry over. Do you have to allow fighting? Probably not. It’s allowed, so it’s still going to happen. I think for all intents and purposes the department of player safety is the enforcer of the game. They’ve done a great job with that as far as changing player behavior over how many years since Brendan [Shanahan] started it, since the league started it, and that for all intents and purposes it is the enforcer. So a very diminished role, without question.”

— Scott Burnside, Pierre LeBrun, Joe McDonald, Craig Custance

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