Fighting words

"This is a physical game. The players want it physical, that's how they make their livelihood. The fans want it physical, that's the nature of the game, but we want to make it as safe as we can.

"I don't make the [game's] rules. I don't have unilateral decision-making authority and there are people on both sides of the discussion that are very well dug in on their positions."

-- NHL commissioner Gary Bettman ( The Globe and Mail)


"I'm not sure I can even envision the premise. I'm not sure, regardless of what rule changes may over time be made, I'm not sure if fighting is ever eliminated from the game. I think fighting will continue to be part of the game regardless of what your rules are and it is part of other games as well."

-- Deputy commissioner Bill Daly ( Cross Checks)


"We are constantly in touch with our various constituents, including our players and our fans, on all issues pertaining to the game on the ice. At the current time, there is not an appetite to change the rules with respect to fighting.

"That said, we intend to continue to review all aspects of our game, with a focus on making it as safe as it can be for our players.''

-- NHL executive vice president and director of hockey operations Colin Campbell


"I can't remember one of those [fights] where I really was looking forward to doing it. It's different today, our players are bigger, they're stronger. There's some guys that do it better than some of us did it. I always remember fighting because there was a real reason for it.

"The rules have changed in fighting. I don't think it's as big a problem as some people make it out to be. I think our numbers are coming down and the numbers prove that. ... I've been through rule changes that have changed our games in positive ways. This is just a big unknown. [The NHL without fighting] would be one of the things we'd have to see to be like, it would sure be hard to pull it back if we didn't like that game."

-- NHL senior vice president of hockey operations Kris King ( Cross Checks)


"Fighting is part of the game right now. Always will be. If you don't have it, you'll have a lot of guys just running around sticking guys. A lot more stickwork. That's the way it goes."

Without fighting, "you'd have a bunch of rat-type players. That's who benefits. They don't get held accountable. They can go after the superstars. That's who benefits from it.

"We all know what we sign up for whenever we put the skates on."

-- Senators forward Chris Neil


"I think the game would get more dangerous [without fighting]. Absolutely. Having guys like [Matt] Kassian for us or Parros certainly keeps guys honest. Those guys do a lot of policing behind the scenes that don't get a lot of credit. They just have a calming effect out there. You wouldn't necessarily see more head shots but you'd see more at-risk hits because you know you don't have to be held accountable for it.

"No fan is going to deny the fact that when there is a fight on the ice, they're not completely glued to it. I don't think you'd see a drop of ticket sales because people go to see the potential of one, but I think people would miss it. Absolutely. Whether they want to admit it or not."

-- Senators forward Bobby Ryan


"When it's fair and two guys go at each other, it's something that fires up the team. At the same time, you don't want to see guys get hurt when they fall to the ice or hit their head. That part you don't want to see. At the same way, it would be weird not to have fighting be a part of the game."

On if he would feel less safe: "Not really. I don't think that will be -- because now, most of the time, if someone makes a clean hit they have to fight someone. That's something in the game that's wrong. It shouldn't be that if you do something bad to someone, that's when you have to stand up for yourself. Now if you make a clean up, all of a sudden you have to fight. That's wrong.

"I think we have bigger issues in our game than fighting."

-- Red Wings forward Henrik Zetterberg


"You know where my opinion lies. I'm fairly biased. I think you'd see a lot of guys taking runs at each other [without fighting in the game]. I think you'd see a lot of sticks high. Maybe I'm old-school in that thought but I think the thought of getting punched in the face by somebody can be a deterrent to dirty play.

"The players don't want it to go anywhere."

-- Bruins forward Shawn Thornton ( Cross Checks)


"I don't think it would be the NHL I grew up watching [without fighting]. But I understand the league is trying to make the game a little bit safer and maybe even a little bit better, but I don't think they should take away all the fighting. When people jump other guys, I wouldn't mind not seeing it anymore, but I think fighting should stay in the game. That's NHL hockey.

"The guys who need to fight wouldn't benefit for sure. It's kind of hard to say. If there wouldn't be any fighting, no one would jump me, right? If there's no fighting people would be a little more dirtier because they know they can get away with it. The fighting should still be there. I understand if they want to do something about it, but there should still be a little bit of fighting.

"The fans love it, right? If you asked them, I'm sure 99 percent of them want it in there, that's why they come to the games. Also, for our team it gives us momentum. Zdeno [Chara] drops the gloves [against the Rangers] and it gives us momentum and then we came out in the third period and won the game."

-- Bruins forward David Krejci


"I think it's part of the game. I think it's always been that way. I think it keeps a lot of guys honest on the ice. If they're going to do certain things on the ice to skill players, they've got to answer the bell to different tough guys. It's part of the game and teams shape their team around guys like that.

"Every team that I've been on, fighters have been the guy that calls people out when they're not doing something right and the guys that appreciate it when guys do good things. You need those guys in the league and on teams."

-- Rangers forward Rick Nash


"I think there's a certain amount of emotion it brings to the game, which individually or as a group you can feed off of, to get yourself to different levels during the season. Not to mention the fact that I think it just keeps guys honest. I think [if] it's out of the game, there's going to be a lot more dirty stuff where guys don't have to answer the bell. It's easy to take a one or two-game suspension. I think it's a little tougher to go face to face with someone.

"It's the toughest job in our game, I think. Just the mental side of having to get yourself up to do that night in, night out is something that most of us have no clue about. Realizing that, you have a profound respect for all the guys that do that and stick up for their teammates and play that role."

-- Jets forward Andrew Ladd


"Players wouldn't have to worry about any action for something they did on the ice. I think now, especially in the game, there's more players who think twice about it. Whether it's a hit or doing something cheap on the ice, players don't want to do that because they'll have to stick up for themselves and have to fight. You see it more often today where there aren't too many staged fights and more fights if a guy gets hit -- OK, we'll go after that guy because he made a hit on our skilled guy or something. It kind of puts a stamp on what happened and you move on from it. I think it kind of keeps the game in order. I think if you ask any player they want to keep fighting in the game for that reason."

-- Blackhawks forward Patrick Kane


"I don't think you can ever get rid of it, then you got guys running around and doing whatever they want. You need it in there. The intensity that builds over the games in those rivalry games, I couldn't imagine one of those games without a fight.

"I think taking it out of the game, there would be more people hurt because of it."

-- Blackhawks forward Andrew Shaw


"I've done this interview a thousand times over. No, you're not breaking any ground. I think there would be more boarding, there would be more hits from behind, there would be more stick work, there would be more cross-checking, and bottom line I think there would be more injuries. That's the way I feel from my experiences. A lot of people disagree, a lot of people agree, so it's a tough debate right now."

-- Canucks defenseman Kevin Bieksa


"You know I don't know that it would [look] a whole lot different [without fighting]. I think some people would think it would look a lot different. I think there would probably be a little more stick, dirty stick stuff, which to me it would be a little bit more like Europe as far as that. And having played over there you see a lot more stick work and a lot more 'brave' guys, I guess you would say, with their sticks. But aside from that I don't think there'd be a huge change in the overall game, product on the ice.

"The game has changed quite a bit. I truthfully see both sides of it. I really can. I think fighting probably does have a place in the game. But the way that the league has changed, the way that the viewership has changed I think overall, I mean nobody likes to see somebody laying on the ice, it's not good for hockey and that's in the headlines moreso than a beautiful goal.

"I can also see the other side of it. I mean I've been on the beneficiary of having some pretty tough guys playing with me and protecting me and it means a lot and it makes a big difference. Not an easy one."

-- Predators forward Matt Cullen


"I think it's still very much a part of our game. Obviously you don't like to see guys get hurt, but it's been in the game for a long time and I feel it still plays a part in games.

"There's been lots of talk of the policing of the game, and I do feel that's important and that fighting polices the game."

-- Maple Leafs captain Dion Phaneuf


"I understand why the question is being asked, but for me personally, I think that it's a tough job to do, it's a tough thing for players to do, but I hope it's in the game for as long as I'm playing. I think it's something that not only holds guys accountable but also happens on the basis of either changing the momentum of a game, sticking up for a teammate; I know there are injuries that you see involved with it but if you ask anybody who has played the game, or is playing, they've had somebody do it for them, they've had somebody spark the team. None of us do it for fun or for the fans, we do it because: A) We want to win; B) It changes the momentum of a game and C): If a teammate gets hit ... I just think it's a big part of hockey and I hope it's always there."

-- Maple Leafs forward David Clarkson


"I think fighting should be allowed. I've played college hockey, lockout year I played in Sweden where you get kicked out for fighting, and you got guys taking liberties when there's no idea of a repercussion; you can go out and feel free to do things. That being said, you never want to see somebody get hurt in a fight. But you know what you're in for before you drop the gloves. I don't know, I just think there's a place for it in the game.

"Some of the fights are stupid, some of the staged fights are stupid. I've probably fought 10 to 12 times in my career and none of them were staged, they were me reacting. I've never been hurt in a fight, but that being said, I've never fought Colton Orr or anything like that because I'm not that stupid."

-- Sharks defenseman Dan Boyle


"Maybe we've come to a point where people want to discuss it and figure out how it's going to go moving forward. But I don't think it's a thing you can just take out of the game tomorrow. Will it be around in five to 10 years? Maybe not. But I think there's a use for it, it can be something that would be hard to take out of the game; just the nature of the game, the emotion, things happen … so to completely eliminate it, would be tough. But again, it could be one of those things that happens slowly over time. Before you know it maybe one day it'll seem like an archaic thing to do."

-- Sharks defenseman Brad Stuart


"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.

"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."

-- Predators forward Richard Clune


"One hundred percent. If fights are not going to be in the game, lots of idiots are going to be out there coming at us. For them, they're going to be happy because no one [is] allowed to fight them. It's a men's sport. It's not a ballet. I think it's stupid to cancel the fight and say, 'No fight anymore.'"

-- Capitals forward Alex Ovechkin. ( CSN Washington)


"Does fighting still have a place in today's NHL? My answer is a qualified yes. ... Incidents of players taking such liberties are rare in today's game because fighting gives us the ability to hold each other accountable. If you play dirty, you're going to have to answer for it."

-- Bruins forward Jarome Iginla ( Sports Illustrated)


"I believe a player should get a game misconduct for fighting. We penalize and suspend players for making contact with the head while checking in an effort to reduce head injuries yet we still allow fighting.

"We're stuck in the middle and need to decide what kind of sport do we want to be. Either anything goes and we accept the consequences, or take the next step and eliminate fighting."

-- Lightning general manager Steve Yzerman ( TSN)


"It's a pretty complex issue. But with the emphasis on hits to the head, and the seriousness of concussions, if you look at fighting -- it's mostly hits to the head. It's something that has to be looked at.

"I definitely believe the players have to have a voice in this."

-- NHL's all-time winningest coach Scotty Bowman


"The players need to have a voice in this, it's their game as much as ours. We as managers meet on a regular basis, three or four times a year, and every meeting the last few years has been about safety, including fighting. It's about making it a safer environment for the players. But I haven't heard one player say he doesn't want fighting in the game. We need to figure this out together."

-- Predators GM David Poile


"Listen, I respect everybody's opinion about our game, but it's a little different when you're on the ice and you have a stick in your hand. That's the thing that's different than any other sport is what you can do with your stick, maybe a little bit behind the scenes. It's hard to say, but my guess is stick work will pick up and there will be a lot more guys that'll be a little braver, a little tougher."

-- Bruins president Cam Neely ( Cross Checks)


"My take on fighting is that we should regulate it more. There are areas we should regulate and the reason I'm pro fighting with those caveats is that it's a deterrent against the stick guy, the agitator. So, take out fighting I think there's going to be a lot more liberties on the better players. A lot more liberties taken on the better players because there's no threat of being sanctioned. You can sanction by penalties but it's not bad taking a two-minute penalty if you're going to whack a Sidney Crosby versus you know you're going to have to answer to so-and-so and don't do that again. That I think is very, very important.

"Over time I don't know what it would look like over time. All of us are copy cats to a certain degree and we'll probably start drafting them (stick men, agitators) more and maybe you'll have two now instead of one."

-- Bruins GM Peter Chiarelli


On the NHL without fighting: "We play such a fast, emotional game and things can flow very quickly. Do we go to more stick work then? How does that work?

"I'm more on the side of reducing fighting and having harsher penalties but not eliminating it.

"I don't like staged fights. I don't think that adds to our game.

"I almost feel bad talking about this because some of the nicest guys in the game and some of the best team guys are guys who would be affected by this. So I don't totally feel comfortable talking about this.

"Think about the playoffs and the Olympics on the game's biggest stage of all, we have either no fighting or very little fighting and it's a great game. But I still maintain there is a place in the game for fighting.

When players are targeted or taken advantage of by other players, "then the players have to take care of that. If that wasn't there, how many times is that going to happen?"

-- Hurricanes GM and former NHL goaltender Jim Rutherford

"Even if you said there'd be no fighting, there's going to be fights. There's no fighting in baseball and there's bench clearing brawls."

-- Penguins general managers Ray Shero


"There are a small number of rats in the game who live outside the code. But our game is improved tremendously by players' ability to police the game. It makes it more exciting and honorable. It allows skill players to focus on the skilled aspects of the game because someone else can watch their back. And it fundamentally makes our game safer."

-- Brian Burke ( USA Today)


"My one issue would be, I think fighting in hockey would probably be my biggest issue right now. ... I think it has to be changed. I think we are at a point where, I don't think people want to see the staged type of fighting in hockey. I think the whole belief that it has an impact on protecting players, because it's not the '70s and '80s where that worked. It's changed, and so I think the league has to have a good look at that. That would probably be my only problem. I think it has gone too far. The players are too big."

-- Trevor Linden ( HNIC Radio)


"Now, with the speed and size of the players and the new equipment, I do worry about not just the violence, but the very serious injuries we're seeing. I think the NHL and others have some work to do to really address that problem."

-- Canada Prime Minister Stephen Harper ( Sportsnet Magazine)


"Maybe we're getting to the point, and I'm not opposed to it, you fight, you're out of the game. Maybe we're getting to that point, especially with concussions and safety and everything else. It would be very chippy, a lot of cheap shots. I think it would become a much different game if you took it out. I think the referees have to use the rulebook and police it better. Maybe if you fight, that's it. Or once you fight three times, you get an automatic game. Then you fight another three times, it becomes three games. I'm sure you can create a formula."

-- NBC color commentator Eddie Olczyk


"Fighting isn't going anywhere. We're the only sport, one of the major sports, where the whole game we have something in our hands that can be used as a weapon. Like it or not, it's an aggressive game out there. Guys get upset and mad. Would you prefer I drop my gloves or take my stick and cross-check someone in the face? If I'm not fighting, I'm going to be doing something. Fight, get it over with, get the aggression out sticking up for your teammates and allow the players to police the game themselves. It has a funny way of working itself out."

-- NHL Network analyst Jamal Mayers


The NHLPA told ESPN.com that fighting is among the topics being discussed during Donald Fehr's fall tour with all 30 dressing rooms, but otherwise the players' union declined comment on the subject at this time.

Scott Burnside, Craig Custance, Pierre LeBrun, Joe McDonald, Scott Powers and Katie Strang contributed to this report.

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