Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Fighting Resurges, Hand over Fist Brawls Blossom under Bettman

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Fighting Resurges, Hand over Fist Brawls Blossom under Bettman

Article excerpt

The apologists who pretend "nobody ever gets hurt in a hockey fight" should have witnessed the bout between Joey Kocur and Ken Daneyko last Wednesday night in Madison Square Garden in New York.

After an exchange of punches, Kocur of the New York Rangers fell on Daneyko of the New Jersey Devils. Daneyko's right leg twisted grotesquely under their combined weight. He left the building on crutches, out for at least four weeks with ligament damage in his knee.

Such injuries are inevitable and may increase as fighting continues its renaissance under the administration of Gary Bettman, commissioner of the National Hockey League.

For one season in recent history, fighting declined sharply. That was in 1992-93, when Gil Stein was temporary president of the league while he and Bettman were the top candidates for the new position of commissioner.

Stein's campaign platform included an anti-fighting crackdown and legislation calling for ejection of "instigators."

Major penalties for fighting declined to an average of 1.25 per game, down from 1.75 in the previous season. But Bettman won the election, took office in February 1993 and said he was tired of the debate on fighting.

In Bettman's first full season as commissioner, 1993-94, fighting major penalties increased to an average of 1.50 per game. This season, before Friday night's games, the average was up to 1.72. As for instigators, there have been 32 players ejected among 506 fighting majors.

What does NHL headquarters say about this fistic resurgence? The only comment came from Arthur Pincus, a vice president for communications. "We knew all-conference play would create an intensity," he said, referring to the post-lockout schedule. We also noted last year that the number of fights was higher at the beginning of the season and went down through the course of the season."

It appears that ESPN2, the cable network that shows the most hockey, is using fighting as a staple of its new, half-hour highlights show. …

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