Now We'll Bring Some More Heat
The contributions of one Georges Laraque, it seems, have once more shifted the complex discussion of fighting in hockey.
That Laraque, the game's reigning heavyweight champion, has weighed in with some intriguing thoughts is meaningful, for none of the pro-fighting crowd will be able to shout him down, or claim that he has no business discussing fighting in hockey.
In an interview with TSN's Darren Dreger, Laraque called for players wearing visors to be prohibited from fighting and for fights to be stopped as soon as a player's helmet comes off.
Interestingly, Laraque said he's fully behind new regulations in the Ontario Hockey League on fighting instituted after the recent death of Whitby Dunlops defenceman Don Sanderson in a fight.
|RYAN REMIORZ/THE CANADIAN PRESS|
|Georges knows a thing or five about fighting.|
"The whole world is watching because some one in our sport has died," Laraque told Dreger. "The Ontario Hockey League made changes, so what examples are we (the NHL) providing. If we don't adjust, we're a bush league!"
In the OHL, new regulations say a player who takes off his helmet during a fight or undoes the chinstrap is liable to a one-game suspension. If a player removes his opponents helmet during a fight, he's liable to a one-game suspension and an extra two-minute penalty.
Laraque said no player without a helmet should participate in a fight.
"Every fight a guy ends up on the ground and risks hitting his head on the ice," he said. "It's simple. If the helmet comes off, or a player purposely takes it off, the ref should come in an stop the fight . . . It should be automatic . . . when the helmet comes off, the fight is over and if a guy throws a punch at a player without a helmet, he should get an extra penalty for that, too."
This is an interesting stance for Laraque to take. It comes on the heels of similar comments from NHLPA boss Paul Kelly, and shortly after NHL commissioner Gary Bettman called for a review of what he called the "rules of engagement" for NHL fighters. What Laraque must understand, of course, is that if his views were to become NHL law, less than half the players in the league - the non-visored ones - would be permitted to fight, and the circumstances under which those fights could take place would be very limited.
Given that Kelly and Bettman are also in favour of a rule that would grandfather in the use of mandatory visors, this would naturally, over time, produce the end of fighting in the NHL.
Laraque's comments add more fuel to the public debate raging over fighting in the NHL, and makes it more likely the NHL general managers meetings in Florida in early March which are expected to include a wide-ranging discussion of fighting could become very interesting.
Its the first time, really, that a big-name NHL enforcer has come out calling for tougher rules to regulate fighting.