When 21-year old senior league player Don Sanderson died from injuries he suffered during a fight earlier this month, even fans who support the continued existence of fighting in the upper levels of amateur and professional hockey had to feel a moment of pause. And now, last night in Philadelphia, we experienced another one of those moments when Philadelphia Phantoms player Garret Klotz suffered seizures after getting pummeled by Manchester Monarchs winger Kevin Westgarth.
In the above video, you can see that Klotz and Westgarth dropped the gloves right before the opening faceoff, not exactly an uncommon occurrence in the minors. For the most part, Klotz gave as good as he got, at least until near the end of the video when Westgarth landed a pair of heavy blows that sent Klotz to the ice. The Phantoms Web site has posted the following report about his condition:
Klotz was taken to the University of Pennsylvania Hospital after suffering a facial laceration and a seizure in a first-period fight. Klotz was alert and responsive en route to the hospital, and was able to watch the rest of the game on television upon arrival. He is being kept overnight for observation and is expected to be released tomorrow after further testing.The question of whether or not fighting still has a place in the game was put to NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman in a press conference earlier today in Montreal, where he was attending the league's annual All-Star Game. Here's an account from AP's Ira Podell:
"It's a fascinating question," Bettman said at Le Windsor, where he stood in 1993, days after becoming commissioner, and where 76 years earlier the league was founded. "I think it's become integral in terms of how the game is played. I think it acts as a bit of a thermostat, if you will, as to what takes place on the ice. And I believe that most of our fans enjoy that aspect of the game.The reaction from Toronto Maple Leafs GM Brian Burke, known around the league as a proponent of fighting, and an executive who leveraged toughness throughout his lineup to power his previous employer, the Anaheim Ducks, to a Stanley Cup in 2007, was rather emphatic:
"We're not going to have any immediate knee-jerk reactions," he said. "We're going to have to study things before we make changes, if we decide to make changes. I don't think that there's any appetite to abolish fighting from the game, and there are lots of reasons for that, including the fact that it's been a part of the game.
"What happens when you have a tragedy of this nature, and that's what it was, a tragedy, is there tends to be an overreaction in the media," Burke said. "Our job is to make sure this game is run properly, not to overreact, so I intend to listen.For another side to the story, here's Nifty in the Clutch:
Any discussion about the elimination or abolition of fighting will be a very brief one. I don't think there's any support for that whatsoever, of a meaningful nature."
The NHL - both its players and those in management - need to be saved from themselves. Ban fighting. Ban fighting. Ban fighting. Fighting's days in hockey are over. They're done. Kaput. Feel like the game will suffer as a result? Go watch MMA.There's only one way fighting will ever be banned in the NHL, and that's if a player in a fight either dies, or suffers a permanent impairment as the result. Otherwise, the fights will continue.
People who defend fighting in hockey need to stop acting like they think every incident is a huge tragedy. If you really thought that, you'd ban it.