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GMs to discuss role of fighting in meeting Tuesday

by Dan Rosen

TORONTO -- The role of fighting in the NHL will be discussed by the League's general managers on Tuesday, but Commissioner Gary Bettman said he doesn't expect any recommendations for rule changes to come from the one-day meeting.

The League's GMs also are scheduled to meet March 10-12 in Boca Raton, Fla.

"There's a consensus now because there is a rule in effect," Commissioner Bettman said Monday morning after he participated in a question-and-answer session with TSN's Gord Miller at the PrimeTime Sports Management Conference and Trade Show. "If somebody wants to change it there needs to be a new consensus. That's why the discussion is ongoing, but having said that it continues to evolve as the game does. Four years ago a shoulder hit to the head was not penalized; now it'll get you suspended. And so we're going to continue to look at what we can do to keep the game physical but safe as possible."

However, Commissioner Bettman said he thinks the fighting debate is getting a disproportionate amount of attention compared to what is happening around the League this season.

"I think the level of dialogue gets sparked by an occasional incident," he said.

The first incident happened Oct. 1, opening night, when Montreal Canadiens forward George Parros was in his second fight of the game with Toronto Maple Leafs forward Colton Orr, but lost his footing, fell and hit his head on the ice, causing a concussion.

The second happened Nov. 1, when Philadelphia Flyers goalie Ray Emery skated the length of the ice to engage in a fight with Washington Capitals goalie Braden Holtby at the 5:31 mark of the third period. The Flyers were trailing 7-0 at that point.

Commissioner Bettman called the Parros incident "a freak play" and the Emery-Holtby incident "a really small pebble" when compared to the entirety of the season to date.

He said the current rules prevented the NHL from suspending Emery for his actions "and we don't make up the rules as we go along, so we'll have a discussion about it to see if there is any interest in pursuing it."

During the Q&A with Miller, Commissioner Bettman said he spoke with Emery last week during the Chicago Blackhawks' visit to the White House (Emery played for the Blackhawks last season when they won the Stanley Cup) and asked him hypothetically, if there was a rule where a goalie crossing the red line to fight the other goalie would receive a 10-game suspension, would he have done the same thing?

"He goes, 'What, are you crazy?'" Commissioner Bettman said.

"There are things you can do if you believe that is not the appropriate thing," Bettman continued. "There are lots of people who believe that with the amount of equipment that goaltenders wear and the importance that they have that there should be a rule, and that's something we'll discuss. But us just throwing out lightning bolts because of the spur of the moment, you have to be better and more consistent than that when you're running a sports league."

Commissioner Bettman instead said he wants to "take the pulse of the general managers," though he admitted those with opinions on the fighting debate are staunch in their beliefs.

"The views on this tend to be very well dug-in on either side of the debate," he said.

For example, Carolina Hurricanes general manager Jim Rutherford, Tampa Bay Lightning general manager Steve Yzerman and Pittsburgh Penguins general manager Ray Shero publicly have voiced opinions against fighting, while Calgary Flames president of hockey operations Brian Burke wrote an editorial in USA Today defending the need for fighting in the game.

"We always talk about making the game better and safer but without taking the passion of the game, hard hitting and toughness," Shero told, "but there's got to be something that we can talk about that may give some consideration to."


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