Posted on: March 1, 2012 1:09 pm
Edited on: March 1, 2012 1:17 pm

USA Hockey, Hockey Canada to ban junior fighting?

The Rangers' Brandon Prust (right) in a 2004 OHL fight. (Getty Images)

By Brian Stubits

The discussion of fighting in hockey has been ramped up recently for some obvious reasons. Now USA Hockey and Hockey Canada are on the verge of making the biggest statement yet in the discussion to date.

The New York Times reported this week that the two organizations are looking at banning fighting altogether in the junior ranks.

Viewing fighting as a safety issue in light of increasing concussion research, and unwilling to wait for the National Hockey League to propose changes, USA Hockey and Hockey Canada are seriously considering rules that would effectively end fighting in nonprofessional leagues as soon as next season.

The rules would apply to dozens of leagues stretching from near the Arctic Circle to south Texas. Even the three top junior leagues in Canada, major fight-friendly feeder systems to the N.H.L., are considering immediate ways to make fighting a rarity, not an expectation.

“The appetite is there,” said David Branch, the president of the Canadian Hockey League, which oversees the Ontario Hockey League, the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League and the Western Hockey League. “The time is certainly right to move forward.”

Talk about a big move. This would have as big an impact as anything in the discussion that continues. These are the leagues that pump the most talent into the NHL. We're talking about the WHL, OHL, QMJHL and USHL among those that this would effect.

It's important to keep in mind that these are players who aren't paid. Chris M. Peters of United States of Hockey notes that is an important distinction to make.

It’s a different story in Junior hockey. These kids don’t get paid (for the most part). While fighting might fill a few seats here and there, the more significant number of people who go to USHL games are families looking to have a little fun at the arena. Maybe it’s different in the Canadian Hockey League, but I’d imagine a good deal of the folks heading to rinks across the little big towns in Canada are going to get a glimpse of future NHL Stars. Whether those future stars knock the snot out of each other is irrelevant to their enjoyment.

Besides, who over the age of 20 would want to admit that the reason they go to Junior hockey games is to watch a 17-year-old get pumped by a 19-year-old?

Peters goes on to note a study that shows that younger brains are actually not prepared to withstand trauma as well as somebody who is older for a variety of reasons, including the strength of their necks.

You don't need me to tell you that fighting is a huge part of junior hockey. But there are a lot of worthwhile points to getting rid of for the junior ranks and that's on the verge of happening. It has already happened at the NCAA and international levels.

There are going to be a lot of people opposed to this, of course. Bruins tough guy Milan Lucic is one who doesn't like the idea. He was known to drop the gloves a time or two in juniors.

“I’m totally against it,” Lucic told The Province on Wednesday.

“I think there will be more injuries because there’d be no fear of fighting. The game will become dirtier. And, for myself, I don’t think I could have made the NHL the way I did without it.”

That might be the case, it might not be. But we might find out soon.

For more hockey news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnHockey and @BrianStubitsNHL on Twitter and like us on Facebook.

Category: NHL
Posted on: February 6, 2012 5:49 pm
Edited on: February 6, 2012 6:18 pm

Ralph Nader's letter asking for end to fighting

Ralph Nader is talking to you, Commish. (Getty Images)

By Brian Stubits

Hey, remember Ralph Nader? Of course you do, he has run for president a couple of times on the Green Party ballot, garnering 2.74 percent of the popular vote in the 2000 election, decided by the narrowest of margins to George W. Bush.

Well he's a bit of an activist, you see, always has been. He is the founder of a sports activist (for lack of a better term) website called League of Fans. On Monday Nader helped write an open letter to Gary Bettman asking for the abolition of fighting from the NHL.

Really. Ralph Nader talking hockey.

Dear Mr. Bettman:

It’s time to act. The National Hockey League must take immediate steps to ban fighting and outlaw all blows to the head. And you, Mr. Bettman, as league commissioner, must lead the way.

Fighting in hockey can no longer be a long-debated issue pitting those who find it barbaric and unsportsmanlike and those who argue that it’s an integral part of the fabric of the game. The growing mound of research on sports concussions and brain injuries has taken the fighting issue to an entirely different level. We’re talking about short-and-long-term damage to the brain, the very foundation of who we are as people.

Nader's letter goes on to acknowledge the lack of any proof of direct causality between fighting and such brain issues as chronic traumatic encephalopathy (better known as CTE). He also cites the deaths of Derek Boogaard, Wade Belak and Rick Rypien and the possibility that brain trauma played a part on their deaths.

Nader goes on.

Your league has created a department of player safety. That’s well and good. But a quick question: How can you continue to allow fighting, in which the primary target is the head of your opponent, and seriously make the argument that you’re doing all you can to make player safety a priority?

That's an issue that nobody can seem to answer and is a sticking point in the pro-fighting/anti-headshot stance the league has. It's a bit hard to justify letting guys punch each other's heads while stopping players from hitting each other's heads. It's a bit of a contradiction, to be sure.

In closing, here is what Nader writes.

On behalf of hockey players everywhere – and their families — here’s hoping you have the strength and courage to take this decisive step.


Ralph Nader, Founder, League of Fans

I didn't know that Nader represented hockey players and their families. As a matter of fact, from just about everything I've seen and read, players almost unanimously don't want fighting out of the sport. So asking for the league to do something that they don't want done on their behalf? Doesn't jive with me.

It is and remains a worthwhile cause to discuss in hockey. As long as the sport is played fighting and its place in the game will be debated.

But I'd think Nader has a better chance of moving into the White House than the NHL deciding that his letter was the one to push them to change their stance on fighting.

H/t to All Things Avs

For more hockey news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnHockey and @BrianStubitsNHL on Twitter.

Posted on: October 16, 2011 9:57 pm
Edited on: October 17, 2011 11:26 am

Ex-fighters accept Cherry apology, won't sue

By Brian Stubits

If you had no litigation in the Don Cherry lawsuit odds, you have won some easy money.

The trio of Stu Grimson, Chris Nilan and Jim Thomson released a statement on Sunday that they have accepted Don Cherry's apology that he gave Saturday night during his weekly Coach's Corner segment on the CBC.

The ex-players who Cherry called hypocrites, turncoats and pukes in his season-opening Coach's Corner, said that they "appreciate the words Mr. Cherry used and that the apology is accepted." The statement concluded with the men saying there would be no legal action to follow, a threat that was made before Cherry's apology.

"Messrs. Grimson, Nilan and Thomson wish to state that they do not intend to pursue [legal] recourse, as a group."

In his own, ummm, Tweetment, Nilan said he was satisfied and that Cherry and him are friends once again.

But that wasn't it for the statements. Grimson, who now works as an attorney, had some peace to say before calling the matter over. He released a separate statement and we'll just share it in its entirety.

"I saw Don Cherry's comments on Saturday night and I need to make just a few points as this matter comes to a close. First, I appreciate the words Mr. Cherry used; I accept his apology. As far as I'm concerned, this disagreement is now settled as between Mr. Cherry and me.

"Second, there has been widespread speculation about whether our group will seek legal recourse as a result of Mr. Cherry's comments. We believed it was prudent to consider that path initially, given the words that Mr. Cherry used on a national broadcast to describe us. Having said that, I want to make clear that I have no present intention of pursuing a cause of action against Mr. Cherry.

"Third, in spite of my earlier comments on this matter, Ron McLean appears to be missing the point, even at this late date. Mr. McLean is presently saying at least two things on this issue. 'We got bad information from another former player ... I didn't see any trouble with what Don said.'

"Look, Don got his facts wrong. That's fine; he apologized for it and the matter is settled. But the bigger issue remains. This isn't about the accuracy of the information. This isn't about whether Mr. Cherry should have checked his facts. This isn't about whether Stu Grimson is against fighting or for it. This is about the words Mr. Cherry chose and the way he chose to express them.

"And let's not forget the context; Ron & Don waded into a very sensitive prominent discussion about the recent tragic deaths of Derek Boogaard(notes), Rick Rypien(notes) and my friend, Wade Belak(notes). These are three men that battled the demons and they lost. In offering his opinion on this issue, Mr. Cherry targeted two other men who played this same role and who battle some of these same demons. Chris Nilan and Jim Thomson.

"My point is this. You cannot stand on the highest mountaintop in the country — Hockey Night in Canada — and point your finger at these men and shout down to the Nation that you believe they're 'pukes, turncoats and hypocrites' simply because they have a different point of view than you. You cannot use that platform to target anyone in that way — and especially not men who are battling to get their lives back on track. You cannot shout those names at these men with that kind of fury and expect not to answer for it. I believe this is why the response to Mr. Cherry's comments has been as strong as it has.

"Mr. McLean: It's about the rage, the vitriol, in the public discourse. It's wrong as a legal matter; it's wrong as a matter of common civility.

"Lastly, it's not my decision where this goes from here. This is a decision for Canadians. The CBC is your network; you pay for it. And you hold the network to certain standards and values. Among those values is the obligation to 'treat individuals with honesty and respect.'

"Some viewers might actually believe that Ron & Don treated these men with honesty and respect. Those people might be content to just shrug their shoulders and say 'hey, no big deal, that's just Don being Don.' And that's fine. Those people are entitled to that point of view.

"But other viewers might believe that Ron & Don fell way short of those values. And if that's the case, I would encourage those people to direct their comments to the CBC. Please, don't call or email me anymore; it's not important that I know how you feel. Tell your Ombudsman at the CBC how you feel. He's a very nice man and he's there to maintain the integrity of the CBC as an institution for broadcasting."

This was the way the story was bound to end when Grimson and co. hinted at further recourse against Cherry last week. If Cherry wasn't inclined to do so himself, he was likely going to get a serious nudge to issue a strong apology by the CBC to avoid any legal action to be brought against them or their television personality.

Hat Tip: Puck Daddy

Photo: Getty Images

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Posted on: October 11, 2011 10:53 am
Edited on: October 11, 2011 10:58 am

Ex-fighters consider 'further recourse' on Cherry

By Brian Stubits

Stu Grimson, Chris Nilan and Jim Thomson, the players mentioned by Don Cherry during the now infamous first edition of Coach's Corner on CBC this season, are considering legal action against the always opinionated Cherry.

When making his stance known on fighting in the game (as if anybody wondered where Cherry could possibly fit in this conversation), he took a jab at a few of the former enforcers who discussed fighting after the deaths of Wade Belak, Derek Boogaard and Rick Rypien. In the process, Cherry said that the former players -- or "pukes" as he called them -- "reason that they're drinking drugs and alcoholic because they fight" before calling them turncoats and hypocrites.

Grimson and Nilan came out the next day and denied ever saying such things and wanted an apology from from Cherry. So in the second edition of Coach's Corner, Ron MacLean, Cherry's co-host, asked him if he had any regrets and this is what they got: “Well, maybe one, with the puke stuff ... it was rude.”

So now the three released a statement together through the firm where Grimson works now -- yes, he's an attorney -- explaining their beef.

“During CBC’s broadcast of Coach’s Corner on October 6, 2011, Don Cherry inserted himself into a prominent debate that involves the recent tragic deaths of three (3) NHL players, drug addiction, alcohol abuse and mental illness. In doing so, Mr. Cherry targeted the above-named individuals, some of whom have suffered from such diseases, as a result of views they previously expressed. Mr. Cherry’s comments were more than inappropriate; they were vulgar and malicious. Furthermore, Mr. Cherry’s subsequent attempt to qualify his comments on October 8, 2011, was entirely ineffectual. Mr. Cherry’s conduct throughout has demonstrated a complete lack of decency.

In light of the damaging and inflammatory nature of Mr. Cherry’s comments, Mssrs. Grimson, Nilan and Thomson are considering further recourse.”

Yes, further recourse could mean exactly what you were thinking. From Josh Cooper at the Tennessean:

“I’m sure what the intuitive reader is going to be asking is, ‘does further recourse include legal recourse?’ That is certainly true,” Grimson said. “Further recourse does include an investigation into what legal recourse might be available to this group. Whether or not we go in that direction is a completely separate matter. But, obviously given the nature of the comments and the forum for those comments, those two things, I think investigating what legal recourse is available is a prudent step.

“They [Cherry's remarks] were completely without a basis of fact,” Grimson said. “I never said any of the things that he said I said. I feel a little bit like the innocent victim in a drive-by shooting, standing there minding my own business and all of a sudden I’m reading ‘puke,’ ‘turncoat,’ ‘hypocrite,’ all these adjectives used to describe me.”

For their part, CBC's only statement on the matter has been that Cherry's views are his own only and don't reflect those of the CBC.

At this point, I can't imagine anything legal ever becomes of this. You have to imagine that Cherry will either decide to do it on his own or will receive a very strong push from the CBC to give a much bigger apology and retraction. Because while the threshold is high for a charge such as slander, they would likely be able to show a blantant disregard for the facts in this case. So the potential is probably real, meaning the threat carries some serious weight.

Photo: Getty Images

For more hockey news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnHockey and @BrianStubitsNHL on Twitter.

Posted on: October 11, 2011 9:52 am

Daily Skate: Marc Staal still out; lame mascots

By Brian Stubits

STILL STAALED: Marc Staal is still trying to recover from the post-concussion symptoms he has been suffering since the summer, but he's still going to be out for the foreseeable future for the Rangers. He won't accompany the team on their four-game Western Canada road trip. He has gone from being held out for caution in the preseason to still sitting out weeks later. (Newsday)

PELUSO PICKS A FIGHT: Well, not really. But in a figurative sense, the former Senators, Blackhawks, Devils, Blues and Flames tough guy is standing up for fighting in hockey, saying a ban on it "would be stupid." He goes on to assert that depression after playing isn't from fighting, but instead it's poor self-esteem from years of being told all you can do is fight. (Slam Sports)

MASCOT METER: Ever look at an NHL mascot and say to yourself, "Gee, that's really lame?" You aren't the only one. Here is a list thrown together of the eight lamest mascots in the NHL and it's topped by the Canadiens' red-headed furball known as Youppi! The exclamation point is in his name, not my sentence. (Yardbarker.com)

THE BEST EVER: That's the claim of Dejan Kovacevic about Penguins goalie Marc-Andre Fleury. He thinks the Flower will go down when it's all said and done as the best goaltender the Pens have ever seen, better than Tom Barrasso and the original netminder Les Binkley. (Pittsburgh Tribune-Review)

TROTZ PLOTS MORE: The Predators are perfect at 2-0 even with starting the season the road, but that doesn't mean Barry Trotz is happy with his team. Saying the team has goalie Pekka Rinne to thank for the four points, they are getting back to working even more on defense. Ol' Barry back at it. (Smashville 24/7)

BLADES WEEK 3: Again, for anybody who might be wondering about the Battle of the Blades show in Canada, here is a recap from the third episode. Russ Courtnall and Kim Navarro were booted from the show. They were put together a short time before the show after the death of Wade Belak, who was going to be a contestant. (Puck Daddy)

WHIP IT: Judging from the first week of the season, you are going to hear a lot of a song called The Whip by a band named Locksley this season. The Toronto Maple Leafs are among a few teams that will be using the song when goals are scored this season. Here's a look at the music video. Now it's stuck in your head for good.

Photo: Getty Images

For more hockey news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnHockey and @BrianStubitsNHL on Twitter.

Posted on: September 30, 2011 4:55 pm

Shanahan: NHL 'looking closely' at fighting

By Brian Stubits

Since Brendan Shanahan has taken over, the eradication of head shots in the league has been priority No. 1. Clearly, it is keeping him busy as eight players have been suspended in the last eight days.

Down the priority list is the possibility of removing something else from hockey: fighting. We stress possibility because he didn't come out and say he wants to get rid of it, just that the NHL is "looking at [it] closely."

Specifically, here's what he had to say to CBC show Mansbridge One on One that will air next week.

"We're definitely very serious in making advancements in studying blows to the head; we have to also look at fighting," Shanahan said. "What the final decision is, I can't tell you now. That's something we're obviously going to have to look at, but there's no way we would ever deny that it's not something we're looking at closely."

So far, just about everything Shanahan has done has been almost universally praised. But that would change in a heartbeat if fighting were taken out of the game under his watch. Again, to clarify, in no way is he pushing for it to be removed, just that the league will keep a close eye.

This has become a Lightning rod of a topic this summer after the deaths of three former enforcers, Derek Boogaard, Rick Rypien and Wade Belak. No connection can be drawn between their on-ice roles as fighters and them taking their own lives, but that hasn't stopped plenty of people from doing just that. Three times smells an awful lot like a trend.

We don't want to rehash the discussion on fighting in the sport, that's already been done. We had an informal poll up over the summer and about 75 percent of users are against abolishing fighting.

I sincerely doubt the NHL is much closer to doing anything on fighting in the sport yet, but if nothing else they are scrutinizing it more.

Photo: Getty Images

For more hockey news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnHockey and @BrianStubitsNHL on Twitter.

The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com