Anatomy of a fight

"It's not like a fistfight in the schoolyard, you're not bullying. You're going up against a guy who's willing. You're both willing, you want to go, you want to put on a show for the fans, get the crowd into it. I mean there's nothing better than hearing the building roar."

Fighting itself is only part of the dynamic. But when to fight and how to approach the topic is also a key element in the bare-knuckle ballet.

"You don't want to take a penalty. If the guy's not going to drop his gloves and fight back, you can't just drop your gloves and start whaling on him. Then you're going to put your team down," Clune said. "It's a tough line to ride because if you're sticking up for a teammate. Say someone hits one of your teammates dirty and you want to get in there and kind of stand up for him and the guy doesn't want to fight, it's almost like do you just kind of throw the rulebook away and just kind of beat on the guy and deal with it and ask questions later?"

"Like this year for example with [Steve] Downie in Colorado, when he hit Roman [Jossi]. Shea [Weber] tried to get after him right there and he was kind of protected by the refs on that play, and then later in the game I got on against him and I was trying to fight him, and he was saying, 'no.' And I kind of chased him around the ice. He ended up taking a penalty on me because he slashed me. In that instance, we were down 2-1 and I didn't want to just drop my gloves. Because at the same time too, that's what he wants, right? He wants to get you off your game. So I knew what he was kind of doing and it was tough because you know your guy's hurt and you want to stand up for him, but at the same time, we'll play him again so it was kind of something you just got to file it your memory bank."

If there are lines to be drawn on the ice, there are also philosophical lines to be dealt with too. For instance, Clune rarely talks about fighting and does not consider himself a 'fighter' in the truest sense of the word.

"I don't really like watching my fights. I don't like talking about it much either," he said.

"I know there's guys in hockey and they go around talking about all their fights and how tough they are and it's just painful. I hate being around guys like that. They talk about all their fights in junior and all their fights last year and they're on YouTube all the time. I'm the complete opposite."

Still, he believes -- or at least wants to believe -- that fighting is an integral part of the game.

"It's part of the game as far as an entertainment factor goes and I think it deters a lot of other things that would happen as far as stick work, dirtier hits. I want to believe that it prevents a lot of stuff like that from happening. I mean we'd never know until you find out, if they banned fighting, we'd never be able to prove that it limited injuries. It's one of those things, you don't know," Clune said.

Of course, fighting brings with it a range of possible outcomes, including injury.


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