When No. 19 was scoring boatloads of points with the Detroit Red Wings, he acknowledged and respected the role that a guy like the late Bob Probert played in the NHL. “He certainly kept everybody honest. Everybody, for the most part, just stuck to hockey when Proby was on the ice,” said Yzerman around the time of Probert’s funeral in 2010.
Now, granted, a lot’s happened since Yzerman’s playing days, and even since 2010. We’re in an era of player safety and concussion awareness, and era where Probert-types aren’t even seen on a majority of rosters anymore.
The times have changed, and Yzerman’s apparently changed with them. The GM of the Tampa Bay Lightning told Darren Dreger of TSN that it’s time to harshly crack down on fighting in the League.
"Yes, I believe a player should get a game misconduct for fighting," Yzerman told The Dreger Report. "We penalize and suspend players for making contact with the head while checking, in an effort to reduce head injuries, yet we still allow fighting.
"We're stuck in the middle and need to decide what kind of sport do we want to be. Either anything goes and we accept the consequences, or take the next step and eliminate fighting."
Of course banning fighting would have its own consequences …
Would a game misconduct curb fighting? In some ways. The multiple bouts that we saw from George Parros and Colton Orr would be limited to one fight. You’d see fewer players with value beyond fighting – power forwards, defensemen – drop the gloves. It would lessen the frequency of fights in a game.
It wouldn’t get rid of it, though. Not at all. John Scott would simply play four minutes instead of six before battling the other team’s designated fighter.
But there are more serious repercussions here, too.
If fighting carries a game misconduct, how often would top six forwards and first pairing defensemen get harassed by a pest or a goon, knowing that any retaliation would mean they’re done for the night? Do you honestly think Milan Lucic isn’t getting poked and punched until he responds, likely in the first few shifts of the game, if it meant he’s done for the evening?
Oh, and let’s remember that as the game goes on, the game misconduct becomes less of a threat. The third period of these games would be like Thunderdome.
Dreger also gets some fighting ban talk from GM Jim Rutherford and Ray Shero in his post. Shero says a ban ‘should be considered’, but he’s also the guy who brought in Steve McIntyre to protect Sid.
But Rutherford and Yzerman on fighting? We don’t want to say Dreger knew the answers before asking the questions, so we’ll just leave this link to the NHL.com stats pages for major team penalties in 2011-12 here.