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Former Leafs GM issues a threat to those trying to eliminate fighting in hockey

Published August 8, 2023 at 12:47
BY RYAN SMITHERAM

Since 1998, we have seen a steady decline in fights-per-game in the NHL. In 1998, there was an average of just over 0.8 fights-per-game and since we have seen it drop as low as 0.18 fights per game as recently as 2020. With fights-per-game on the decline, so too is the number of true enforcers and "tough guys" in the NHL. Many new fans don't like fighting, and fail to understand the significance it has in a game.

Fighting isn't a "sideshow", as many new hockey fans see it, but rather as a way for players to police the game themselves after a dirty hit or play, specifically if it leads to an injury of a star player. It is a way for teams to ensure that players don't get to take free shots or liberties with players like Connor McDavid, Nathan MacKinnon and Auston Matthews - hence why the Leafs went out and signed Ryan Reaves this off-season and why they brought in Wayne Simmonds a few years ago. The goal of fighting in hockey is to protect the team's star players and to send a warning to the opposing team that there are no free shots allowed.

Former Leafs GM Brian Burke spoke about fighting on a recent podcast. Burke, who is as old school as they come, has always believed that truculence, tenacity and physicality wins championships. He does not want fighting to leave the game. He's even willing to throw down, if necessary.

"I will personally fight anyone who tries to get rid of fighting. I'll kick their ass," said Burke when asked about fighting in the NHL.



Burke has always had the stance that fighting is good for the game. It allows them to take matters into their own hands if they disagree when officials decide that a play doesn't warrant a penalty. As the true fighters dwindle and are slowly being phased out of the league, there are others that have taken on the role of the fighter when needed, but are able to contribute more to their team, whether that be in a penalty killing role or whatever. Fighting will not be leaving the NHL any time soon, we just may not see it as much as we're used to, which, for some, is a real shame.

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August 8   |   263 answers
Former Leafs GM issues a threat to those trying to eliminate fighting in hockey

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