With last night's scary incident involving George Parros of the Montreal Canadiens coming as a byproduct of a fight between Parros and Colton Orr of the Toronto Maple Leafs, many are asking questions about fighting's role in hockey today.
As Ottawa's most frequent fighters, Matt Kassian and Chris Neil fielded questions today on the merits of fighting the game.
Here's what they had to say...
On the Parros incident:
Well I hope he's okay, that's the first thing you think in that situation. You try to look at it and assess and see what happened, it just obviously happened so fast you have to kind of wait for the replay to see what exactly did happen. My first thought and still my biggest thought is I hope he's alright and from what I've heard he's doing okay and it's good to hear. Hopefully he just gets back real soon.
On those saying fighting should come out of hockey:
Those are the people that have been saying that for however long regardless of what happens or doesn't happen. It's a reaction thing obviously when you see something that isn't pleasant to see, that's the reaction. It's the same way with anything in life when people see something or something happens, the first thing is to react to it and obviously they feel, or some people feel, the best way to stop that from happening is to take fighting out of the game, but the fact of the matter is that could have just been someone tripping over someone in the boards, that could have been someone falling into the boards and blowing an edge, that could have been someone taking a puck to the face. We saw that happen a couple times last year to the jaw, not even to the eye region with guys wearing visors. I think with anything, you have to sit down and really think about it as opposed to just immediately making a decision on something just because something just happened. You have to really sit and process I think and take some time to work through it before you're just all up in arms and making an evaluation on that. I obviously know that are just going to try to use this for their agenda, which is fine that's what they're going to do and it's their right to. It is what it is.
On why it should stay:
I think it's a part of the game, I honestly think it is. I honestly think to keep guys accountable you need it. I think it's just a part of it, it has been there since the start. I mean, they obviously have their reasons for thinking it should be out too. I think you would see an upswing in stick infractions with it out, I think you'd see a lot more — I guess we call them rats in the business — taking over. We have enough of those guys already. It is what it is, people are going to say what they want to say and think what they want to think. If I'm being honest, the vast majority of people want it in the game. As in a lot of things in life it's the vocal minority making the noise and that's what you hear because those are the people speaking up. The people that don't care about it or like it aren't the ones feeling that they have to say something all the time. The people that don't like it are obviously going to say something about it every single time they can. It really is a difficult situation to assess, people are entitled to their opinion and they can think what they want to think.
On why you can't police the game without fighting:
It (bodychecking) just doesn't have the same impact. The threat of that happening is a lot less than the threat of something else happening and, I mean, you can be a rat when someone is coming to hit you too. I've been submarined by guys on more than one occasion. It's an unfortunate thing that. you know, when you have a big guy going to hit a little guy, a little guy gets away with a lot more than if a little guy comes to hit the big guy and my hands are up a little bit, even if it's accidental. That's not a complaint, that's just the fact of it. If my arms are up it's going to hit a guy higher than if his arms are up on me, which is just the way it is. That's just physics. It's a little bit of a bigger threat than that and keeps the guys more accountable. You want to keep the guys accountable by that physical presence too and by hitting too. You want that to be a part of it, so you want to be on guys with that and try to eliminate them from the game with doing that first.
On if fighting could disappear with growing opposition:
I think you'd have to get that sense from all the players, all the coaches, all the GMs and all the managers first. When those people are the ones that start speaking up against it then maybe I'd say it would start to go that way, but I can guarantee you if you talked to 99 per cent of the guys in a room or 95 per cent of the guys, at least in this room, that's not going to be the case. We'll see, like I said it's the vocal minority are the ones that are making the big noise and they're always going to be the ones making the big noise when something happens like this, they're the ones going to be saying and using it as essentially ammunition. That's just the way it always has been and that's not just hockey, that's just other aspects and other things that happen in life too. Whether it's from a car accident to safety equipment to anything, something happens and people use that, it's just the way it goes.
On if anything can be done to prevent accidents:
If you watch the fight they both guard themselves pretty well so it's not like they're blindsided. When you're fighting obviously you know when a punch is coming, you can go with it. That's why you don't see as many concussions as you do with a body check. Sometimes with a body check you don't always know what's coming and you can't go with it. In that situation he wasn't able to get his hands out, landing gear, whatever you call it. It's tough to see, obviously he's one of the best at what he does and I think our thoughts and prayers go out for him.
On the fighting debate:
Fighting belongs in the game, if you don't have it you have a lot of smaller players running around with their sticks and sticks can do a lot more damage than a punch can. I look at the Phil Kessel thing, that's just as bad as going out and getting in a fight when you see a guy swing his stick like that, but it's one of those things that you'll more incidents like that if you don't have fighting in there. It's one of those things where it'll always be a part of the game. As far as the every day fighting just for the sake of it, I think that's going to the wayside, but as far as intensity in front of the net battles, spur of the moment, that's where you see your best fights any way. The guys are going at it, they're giving it all they've got and as far as lining up next to another guy, tapping him on the pads and saying "let's go" that doesn't happen too often any more.
On aggression and intensity without fighting:
I think with how aggressive it is, think if you're going out with bodychecks that's more aggressive than fighting. If you're getting rid of fighting, you have to get rid of bodychecking, it's no different. I think as far as fighting goes, it'll be around a long time. I think it's a good way to police the game, we police ourselves out there, and I think that's a good way to have it. Obviously you see what happens last night and it's tough to see, it really is, but at the end of the day George will bounce back and I think he'll be at the top of his game even moreso. Obviously I consider that a fluke accident, I watched the fights — I watched both of the fights — like I said before, they both guarded themselves very well, it's not like they're landing a full punch right on their chin and stuff, they're going with them, they're both smart fighters and it's just one of those fluke accidents. Colton (Orr) lost his balance and ended up pulling him down and, like I said, he just couldn't get his hands out to protect himself.
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