Devils-Rangers fights sets off coaches, staged-fight debate

You know something is big in hockey when it's being discussed on national talk radio. In the States, of course.

That's what we have the day after the Rangers and Devils opened up their season finale with not one, not two but three fights on the opening faceoff. The spectacle has people who don't usually pay the great game any attention talking about the fights because, you know, it was kind of cool to see, that coming from a guy who has stated before his disinterest in hockey fighting.

But the talk continues in hockey, too. It was a throwback scene to the days of old-time hockey, more reminiscent of Slap Shot than anything in today's game. It had coaches Peter DeBoer and John Tortorella chirping at each other through the media after the game (and at each other in the game). From Ranger Rants:

“I guess in John’s world you can come into our building and start your tough guys, but we can’t do the same in here. He’s either got short-term memory loss or he’s a hypocrite. So it’s one or the other,” DeBoer said.

“It was what it was,” DeBoer added about being yelled at. “Both teams did their thing and we played the game. It was a hard fought game. I’m not here to analyze it any deeper than that.”

“It’s none of my business,” Tortorella said about DeBoer’s choice of a starting lineup. “I don’t coach that team. I do what I have to do with my team, I don’t coach his team so it’s none of my business.”

“I didn’t put the starting lineup in as far as the visiting coach, I’m not going to comment on other stuff,” Tortorella added. “I can’t stand when people talk about our team and try to coach our team, including you guys [the media], so I’m not going to coach his team.”

Tortorella's comments the day after, though, sounded a bit different, a much different sentiment.

OK, after this we can only hope that these two rivals get a postseason matchup. Add the intensity of playoff hockey to that and you have one volatile mix.

But as good of spectacle as it provided, it does leave a lot of people asking why? What exactly was the point? Even some of the staunchest defenders of fighting in hockey aren't fans of the staged fights, which is exactly what this was. This wasn't a response to anything that happened in the game, it was more about tone-setting and whatever other intangible hogwash you want to assign it -- for the record, I'm not a fan of intangibles in almost any sense, not just how they apply to fighting. The players and crowd were already pumped up.

It's been discussed in the past about trying to eliminate these types of pre-planned bouts but it didn't get through the NHLPA. But that doesn't mean that the league big wigs are still completely onboard with the idea and won't try again to tackle it.

Colin Campbell of the NHL's front office told Pierre LeBrun of about an idea that could be floated in the near future (see this summer).

"What we did with the competition committee coming out of the lockout, we crafted a new rule at the end of the game," Campbell told "We put the onus on the coach and the player."

The head coach gets a $10,000 fine and the player gets an automatic one-game suspension if he incurs an instigator penalty in last five minutes of the game.

"If the GMs find this [line brawl last night] unacceptable, maybe we’d craft it the same way at the start of the game, put the onus on both the player and the coach? Or you’d have to find a current interpretation of the rulebook," said Campbell.

It's an interesting concept and one that I think would be a little easier to swallow for a lot of people. Although it would reduce the window of fighting to 50 minutes per game, that's still plenty of time but some will show it's proof they are slowing eradicating fighting from the game.

Generally I'd be in favor of it but one benefit to these fights early in the game is that it does allow the players to get it out of their systems and focus on hockey, you know, the real reason why they are all on skates with sticks in their hand.

Of course the fact that MSG was rocking for the whole scene won't help convince people that these are really unwanted in the game either. I might not see any strategic value to this but I can get it from other perspectives, such as selling tickets.

I'd bet that nothing is going to change by next season regarding this, but it will be discussed.

More from Eye on Hockey

Rangers, Devils with three fights on opening draw

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