By Ken Reed

Every now and then I feel a twinge of optimism that hockey is moving in a positive direction … finally. It could be news that a minor league has banned fighting, or a hockey association at some level announcing new concussion evaluation and return-to-play guidelines. Someone mentioned to me recently that there’s fewer pure thugs in the NHL these days. Cool, I thought.

Then there’s nights like this past Thursday.

The Detroit Red Wings were playing in Denver against the Colorado Avalanche. The opening puck was dropped and … 44 seconds — seconds — later the Avs Nathan MacKinnon dropped his gloves and started fighting Jonathan Ericsson of the Red Wings. McKinnon is a talented 19-year-old, not a crusty old veteran trying to hang on any way possible. I was hoping the younger generation of hockey stars was playing without the barbaric mentality of older generations. No such luck apparently.

“It was a big game, and I asked him to fight,” said MacKinnon “He said yes. It was fun.”

There also was “an approving roar from a crowd with a lust for blood.” Ah, good ol’ manly fun all around! I hope the kids in the crowd were getting a lot out of it too. According to a reporter who has followed the Red Wings-Avs rivalry, “it’s far more likely for fisticuffs to break out among fans in the seats or on the concourse than on the ice.”

Nice. Old school, Stone Age hockey — on the ice and in the stands.

Denver Post columnist Mark Kiszla described MacKinnon’s decision to fight this way: “It was gallant. It was also just plain stupid. Your most-talented scorer, using his hands as weapons? Dumb.”

Dumb indeed. We’re now in 2015 and the best word to describe the hockey mentality is still “dumb.”

Ken Reed, Sports Policy Director, League of Fans


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