As one of the game's greatest legends, former Boston Bruins defenseman Bobby Orr is also one of the game's strongest and most respected voices. He has used that voice to write a book called Orr: My Story. The Globe & Mail in Canada printed an excerpt from the book in which Orr details his thoughts on fighting and its role in the game.
Orr believes there is a place for fighting in the game and opposes the idea that it needs to be taken out at the professional levels, including Canadian major junior hockey.
[Hockey] is a tough sport, a sport that requires physical play, and sometimes that can lead to frustration. Speaking as a former player, whenever those situations occur on the ice I would much rather face an opponent man to man in a fight than have to deal with sticks to the face as well as spearing to other areas of the body. Similarly, hitting from behind is a cowardly and careless act that has resulted in far more significant injuries than those resulting from fighting, at least in my estimation. If respect for the guy between you and the boards isn't enough to stop you from running him, maybe what will be is the fear of the retribution that is sure to follow.
True, the pro game can be cruel to those who choose fists over skills, and it is a tough way to make a living. But the more I look at the current state of the game, the more I realize a simple truth about it. The threat of a fight, or the fear of doing something that might trigger retaliation, is a powerful deterrent. It always has been, and it always will be.
Orr also addresses the role of enforcers or designated fighters in the game and why they should also remain.
Would you rather see Sidney Crosby performing on the ice or sitting in a penalty box after a fight? Again, the answer is obvious, but today the rules have changed. He doesn't have a John Ferguson, and that means Crosby is vulnerable. The opposing teams take all kinds of liberties with him, and if no one is going to stop you, why not do whatever you can to slow down a player like that?
The outcome of that vulnerability has become all too evident in the series of injuries Sidney has endured. I don't want to watch Sid fight his own battles. He's our best player, and I want to see him healthy and on the ice, not sitting in the box.
That last part might be a bit of a reach on Orr's part, with all due respect. The Penguins did employ tough players in the year that Crosby suffered his head injuries. Orr himself suffered career-altering injuries on the ice despite the fact that he was supposedly protected by tough guys on the Bruins' roster, but it is hardly a surprise that Orr feels this way. He played during one of the most violent eras of the NHL's history.
Orr has many thoughts, spoken from the point of experience both as a player and as a player agent. His opinion is certainly valued by many hockey fans and decision makers and is one worth noting.
A pair of other legends seem to stand firmly on the other side of the debate, as Steve Yzerman and Scotty Bowman last week each made public comments talking about the need to rid the game of fighting. It's always good to hear both sides of the debate.
This is a hot topic with very passionate views on either side. Though the debate won't cease anytime soon, it's always interesting to hear from those who not only made a living within the game, but are as much a part of its fabric as the ice itself.