Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Jets favour fisticuffs

Trading punches a necessary evil to police game, players say

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Bad stuff can happen to the men charged with dropping their gloves to police the game in the National Hockey League.

They break their hands on opponents' heads/helmets.

They get black eyes, bloodied noses and busted lips. And, occasionally, the truly gruesome happens and one of the resident tough hombres falls and smacks his head on the ice -- as was the case Tuesday night in Montreal when new Canadiens enforcer George Parros exited on a stretcher after falling face first.

Parros was released from hospital Wednesday with a concussion and used his Twitter account to thank all the fans who offered him well wishes. He will be out of the lineup indefinitely.

In the meantime, the incident has once again stoked the discussion on fighting's place in the game -- although there is no debate inside the Winnipeg Jets dressing room.

"If they take fighting out of the game it would be a whole different dynamic, it wouldn't be the same," said Zach Bogosian. "Fighting should always be in hockey, no matter what. (Without it) you'd have guys running around playing a lot tougher than they normally would. It keeps everyone honest.

"It's definitely scary when you see something like that happen (to Parros). You never want to see somebody get hurt. But I don't think something like that should be a topic for taking fighting out of the game."

There were three games on the NHL's opening night and six fights -- five in the Habs-Leafs game, none in the Chicago Blackhawks-Washington Capitals contest and one in the Jets-Edmonton Oilers game, featuring Chris Thorburn and Luke Gazdic.

Thorburn, who has led the Jets in fighting majors in the two years since their return to Winnipeg, was asked if he thought the tolerance level was changing and if the fisticuffs might one day be banned.

"I'm just going to keep playing my game and then if a decision comes down it might not even be in my era," said Thorburn. "I'm just going to keep playing the way I play.

"It's part of my game, it's something I bring to the table. Certain guys have certain roles... I like to think I bring other things besides fighting. But at the same point I realize it's part of my game and if I need to do it, it's up to me to take the initiative."

Anthony Peluso, who also isn't afraid to drop the gloves, offered the same take.

"I think there's still a place if it is in the right time and moment of the game," he said. "Nobody wants to see somebody get hurt, but there is a time and a place for it. If you look in history at how many fights have happened in the game... realistically, there's been a small percentage of instances like that that do happen. Of course, everybody wants the best for players, nobody wants to see them get hurt. It could happen to anybody in any sport, really. There's injuries that are going to happen and that's just one of them."

Thorburn, Peluso and Bogosian -- like many others -- insist that without fighting, the nasty stick fouls and disrespect for opponents would escalate. That sentiment, whether the anti-fighting lobbyists believe it is bogus or not, is held by those who don't fight often.

"I think it still belongs here," said Jets forward Michael Frolik, who has not fought once as a pro. "In Europe, we never did that, but in the NHL I think it's still a little bit a part of it.

"You need those guys if something happens on the ice there is somebody that can step up and make sure your teammates are safe."

"For as long as I've played the game there's been fighting in it, so it's hard to imagine the game without it," added Jets forward Bryan Little. "Who knows what differences (taking it out of the game) would make. I'm not going to speculate what it would be like. I don't know. It could be totally different, it could be not different at all. As far as I can remember it's been a good way for the players to police the game themselves, but I have no idea what it would look like without it."

Ed.tait@freepress.mb.ca Twitter: @WFPEdTait

 

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition October 3, 2013 D5

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Updated on Thursday, October 3, 2013 at 8:53 AM CDT: adds videos

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