Ed Moran | It's time to stand up and not fight back

Posted: March 26, 2007

THE DEBATE THAT followed the fight in New York between Todd Fedoruk and Colton Orr is a natural reaction to seeing Fedoruk on the ice, his arms in the air shaking, and the concerned expressions of the people around him.

If it looked scary on television, I can tell you it was much worse from the press box in Madison Square Garden. If you never met Fedoruk and only knew him from watching him play hockey and fight, its understandable that he would seem like just another thug in a game where thugs are condoned.

It would never occur to you that you were looking at one of the nicest guys in the Flyers' locker room. A happy-go-lucky, dedicated and loving father and husband, a guy who seems more like a kid than the little blond, pre-school boy he lets sit on his back when he does pushups or unwraps the tape on his legs after practice.

To see him down-and-out like that and wonder how badly he was hurt, knowing that he has had a series of very serious facial fractures, was unnerving.

I didn't feel better until I saw him trying to get up and telling the medical people he did not want to go out on a stretcher. I know he was thinking about his family and not wanting them to see that, particularly his little boy.

Fedoruk, on Thursday, said his son was watching the game and telling him on the television to get up .

With no apologies to anyone who argues that fighting is part of hockey, Fedoruk included, I can do without ever seeing a scene like that again.

I'm not going to preach about how wrong it is and about how no other major sport allows this, that it doesn't exist in either college hockey or in Europe, the Olympics, or even the playoffs when the games are ultra-important.

And I'm not going to lie; I've enjoyed watching.

But I can't help feeling that this debate is shallow, that the cheers from the fans in New York weren't disturbing. It stopped when they realized how serious the situation was, so I'm not putting anything on them. It's the same in any arena, the same as it has been for thousands of years: People love to watch combat.

NHL executive Colin Campbell said the day after that it was time to revisit the question of fighting in the league. Anyone want to bet where that debate goes? I'd suggest nowhere.

The comments that followed, including those from Fedoruk, were about how it is too ingrained in the game, that it's needed to police the players who can't police themselves.

And that's what stops me cold. You can't hook a player anymore. You can't even raise your stick parallel to the ice in the direction of a player with the puck without a black-and-white arm going up.

So, please, enough with the bunk about not being able to stop stick infractions or deal with players who drill to injure. Here's a one-word answer to all of that:

Suspensions.

Here's two more - zero tolerance. Hit a player with a stick with the intention to injure, done for the year. Do it twice, banned from the game. Run a player into the boards from behind with the intent to injure, done, done, and done.

I'm sick to death of hearing that the league can't stop this, that the big, fast players can't control themselves. No repercussions, no safety. This is all pretty lame.

I'm not dealing with the fans and how much everyone likes fighting. That's not open to debate. They like it, they always will. But several players said this week that the size of the fighters, how they are identified early in their careers and then trained to be fighters, is getting scary.

I don't want to wait until someone's six-year-old little boy sees his father die on television in the name of policing the game. You think I'm overacting? You would not if Fedoruk did not get up.

And please stop telling me that a guy the size of Jaromir Jgar needs someone to protect him. Don't tell me about Sidney Crosby needing a goon over his shoulder.

Watch him play. One of the reasons he is so good on the power play is he takes the body and plays hard to win puck battles. He does not shy away from contact.

But, relax, this isn't going to change. The debate will go nowhere.

Oh, and if you really believe that the game can't be played fast and hard, with hitting and speed and skill, rent a tape of last year's playoff series between Carolina and Edmonton.

Or better yet, watch this year. You won't see the fighters on the ice. *

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