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Um, wow. Red Wings VP Jimmy Devellano says he’d nix fighting

From the New York Times’ Jeff Z. Klein and Stu Hackel, Red Wings GM Jimmy Devellano is not exactly on the same page as Brian Burke regarding fighting:

“I would abolish fighting, like today,” Devellano, the Red Wings’ senior vice president, said on a podcast for the New York cable network SNY. “I would eliminate it immediately. I can do without it. I don’t need it.”

Devellano is widely known as a progressive N.H.L. executive on topics like fighting and checks to the head. Although it is often said that many hockey executives would say privately that they would outlaw fighting, Devellano is perhaps the only one who will actually say so, publicly and unequivocally.

“I’m in the minority among my peers,” Devellano said. But he said he had held this view “since Scotty Bowman took over our team as coach” in 1993-94. “He really didn’t care for having what you would call that five-minute player who just goes out and fights[.] And we had good teams and we had skilled teams, and the teams were very interesting and good to watch. I can do without fighting. I don’t think the game needs it. I think the game is beautiful when you see the skill that’s displayed by our better players.”

Devellano was Detroit’s general manager from 1982 to 1990, and again from 1994 to 1997. He has earned four Stanley Cup rings during his tenure with the Red Wings, who have been among the bottom four teams in fighting majors in each of the last 15 seasons.
...
Burke’s point was that hockey became more dangerous with the absence of designated tough guys to exact retribution against players who deliver cheap shots. Without “guys looking out for each other,” Burke said, “the rats will take this game over.” A result, he said, was “Brendan Shanahan’s getting six hearings every two days” to deal with illegal and injurious hits.

“You want a game where guys can cheap-shot people and not face retribution?” said Burke, who built a fight-happy Anaheim team that won the Stanley Cup in 2007. “I’m not sure that’s a healthy evolution.”

When Devellano was asked about those who say abolishing fighting would lead to a rise in stickwork and other dangers, he said: “It’s an easy response for people that have grown up with it in the game and are a little concerned that if we take it out, there’ll be a problem. My response would be, let’s try it first and see how it works out.”

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Comments

Moq's avatar

“I don’t think the game needs it. I think the game is beautiful when you see the skill that’s displayed by our better players.”

Precisely.

Posted by Moq from Denmark on 01/07/12 at 04:46 PM ET

Avatar

As if we don’t have enough conspiracies out there already.  The last thing the league needs is to increase its role in disciplining players for dirty play.  At least having fighting in the league gives players an option for policing the game.  I’m not saying they do a job at it, e.g., starting fights with players after a clean hit, but I’d rather have the onus on the players instead of the suits.

Posted by Jim from Detroit on 01/07/12 at 04:58 PM ET

MsRedWinger's avatar

It’s a barbaric and dangerous aspect of the game that is not necessary.  I think we’ve evolved past it, and it’s time to get rid of it.  As for the goon players who go around head hunting during hockey games, the league has to start imposing some really serious consequences - like you’re suspended for the rest of the season.  I’ve said this before, but I think every suspension should be paired with not allowing the team to replace the suspended player while he’s out.  Let the teams play one player short and maybe the players will start putting pressure on each other to clean it up.

Posted by MsRedWinger from Flori-duh on 01/07/12 at 05:20 PM ET

Nate A's avatar

The last thing the league needs is to increase its role in disciplining players for dirty play.

And the first thing the league needs is for officials to call the rules that are in place. How many games have gotten out of control resulting in fights and other goonish outbursts because the officials refuse to call the cheap shit when it starts?

I’ve said it time and time again, the player should not have to police themselves.

Posted by Nate A from Detroit-ish on 01/07/12 at 05:29 PM ET

MsRedWinger's avatar

...the player should not have to police themselves.

Posted by Nate A from Detroit-ish on 01/07/12 at 03:29 PM ET

Definitely agree.

Posted by MsRedWinger from Flori-duh on 01/07/12 at 05:53 PM ET

Avatar

This is damn music to my ears, and something true Wings fans have know to be the franchise position - since (as Jimmy attests) Scotty Bowman took over. Mr. Iilitch and Scotty and Kenny AND JIMMY- they knew the grace, skill and intensity of this game- its pure unadulterated beauty comes from the speed and puck handling, and they have always had a larger than life vision for what the game of Professional Hockey can evolve into. Detroit Red Wing teams have been embodying and creating the legacy of a superior puck handling, two way play, speed and skill Hockey team since the early 1990s, and its taken over 20 years for the rest of the league to finally realize it is not only the means to succeed, but a better, more pure form of the game.

One of the greatest criticisms of the game of professional hockey, from Non-fans, is that the fighting is ridiculous. It serves no purpose, and no other professional sport officially sanctions and encourages fisticuffs, that lead to a break down in play and a stoppage of the clock. Slowly the Detroit Red Wings style of game is defeating these naysayers and, as Jimmy says, making our game stronger, more skilled and more mindblowingly amazing.

Hall- Leigh-Luia and Thanks Jimmy for Speaking out.

Posted by Juice on 01/07/12 at 07:06 PM ET

J.J. from Kansas's avatar

One of the greatest criticisms of the game of professional hockey, from Non-fans, is that the fighting is ridiculous.

While I’m just staying the hell out of this tired debate, I do want to point out that no true hockey fan should give a rat’s dick what non-fans think of anything that’s part of our sport.

I am absolutely against making a change to hockey for the sole purpose of making the sport appeal more to somebody who already doesn’t love this game.  From a business perspective, I understand why the league cares about those people, but I neither make nor save any money nor does my life get any better in any way if some random thumbsucking dumbass starts liking my sport because something was changed to coddle to his stupid ass.

That doesn’t necessarily tie into my opinion on fighting in hockey, but it applies to every single facet of the game.  What would you all say if some expert said we’d draw in more non-fans if they changed to a shootout in the playoffs?

Posted by J.J. from Kansas on 01/07/12 at 07:11 PM ET

Avatar

While I’m just staying the hell out of this tired debate, I do want to point out that no true hockey fan should give a rat’s dick what non-fans think of anything that’s part of our sport.

Nice, I had no idea staying out of the debate meant jumping in just to take pot shots at another commentor. 

You stay classy JJ from Kansas.

Posted by Juice on 01/07/12 at 07:15 PM ET

Avatar

While I’m just staying the hell out of this tired debate, I do want to point out that no true hockey fan should give a rat’s dick what non-fans think of anything that’s part of our sport.

Nice, I had no idea staying out of the debate meant jumping in just to take pot shots at another commentor. 

You stay classy JJ from Kansas.

Posted by Juice on 01/07/12 at 07:17 PM ET

J.J. from Kansas's avatar

Take it as a pot-shot at you if you want. 

I think the concept of concern for non-fans’ opinion of hockey is baseless. You can work it through your own hurt feelings at your pace.

Posted by J.J. from Kansas on 01/07/12 at 07:25 PM ET

J.J. from Kansas's avatar

Take it as a pot-shot at you if you want.

I think the concept of concern for non-fans’ opinion of hockey is baseless. You can work it through your own hurt feelings at your pace.

Posted by J.J. from Kansas on 01/07/12 at 07:33 PM ET

Hank1974's avatar

“What does Jimmy D know? He never played the game
- typical beer league player who had a cup of coffee with a Junior C team.

Posted by Hank1974 on 01/07/12 at 07:48 PM ET

Kate from Pa.-made in Detroit's avatar

“What does Jimmy D know? He never played the game”

He sure does know aboot winning Stanley Cups. Seven, I believe.

Lets Go Red Wings!!!!!

Posted by Kate from Pa.-made in Detroit on 01/07/12 at 07:56 PM ET

Avatar

Nice, I had no idea staying out of the debate meant jumping in just to take pot shots at another commentor.

I guess you have no idea what debate JJ was talking about either.

Posted by Garth on 01/07/12 at 08:55 PM ET

babymachine's avatar

IMO, Fighting isn’t going anywhere until someone gets seriously injured during an NHL game, and it becomes the hot button issue at the GM Meetings (e.g. concussions). And even then, I highly doubt it would be removed from the game.

Posted by babymachine from Portland, Oregon by way of Macomb, Michigan on 01/07/12 at 10:10 PM ET

wedge56's avatar

I will respectfully disagree with Jimmy D.  Hockey is played on ice by players going far too fast whilst also wielding large sticks.

Refs, as we all know…do not see everything.  The players have to be able to defend themselves and to adjust an opponent’s attitude if he chooses to go out there and play in a manner which could end someone’s career.

Posted by wedge56 on 01/09/12 at 03:02 AM ET

Nathan's avatar

I’m not saying they do a job at it, e.g., starting fights with players after a clean hit, but I’d rather have the onus on the players instead of the suits.

Posted by Jim from Detroit on 01/07/12 at 02:58 PM ET

So, we need to have the players police themselves, even though you admit they are no good at it? That’s sound logic…

I still get excited for a fight like everyone does, so I’m not sure I can take the moral high-ground or whatever… but fighting does feel outdated and unnecessary. Even in a game that is as inherently violent as football, tearing off helmets and throwing punches is considered a serious infraction.

I can’t recall many fights in the last decade that felt like they developed organically as a part of a heated rivalry or a hard-fought game. While I think “staged” fights happen a lot less than some pundits like to pretend, I do think that nowadays most fights fall into one of these categories:

- Player A on the Blue team throws a hard hit on someone on the Red team, and the toughest guy on the ice from the Red team now skates across the rink to try to force Player A/Blue into a fight. When the hit is dirty, that’s one thing, but as we’ve seen, interpretation of what is dirty is pretty varied right now, so this has basically become, “Hit someone hard, you better be ready to fight.” What a good way to take hitting out of the game, eh?

- The Blue team is down a couple goals to the Red team mid-way through the game, and they just don’t have any energy or drive to pick up the pace of their game. So, Player A on the Blue team decides to challenge someone on the Red team to a fight as a way to try and get the bench to perk up and start giving more effort. Not really “staged,” but certainly contrived.

Posted by Nathan from the scoresheet! on 01/09/12 at 11:37 AM ET

Hank1974's avatar

Excellent post Nathan.
I’m in the same boat. I’m a hypocrite in that if a fight breaks out, I’m not turning the station.
It’s in all humans (mostly men) to be entertained by an altercation.

Still, like you pointed out, a great majority of fights are unnecessary.

And like you pointed out, a very good case could be made that fighting helps eliminate clean hits from the game, not the dirty ones.

Posted by Hank1974 on 01/09/12 at 11:56 AM ET

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The Malik Report is a destination for all things Red Wings-related. I offer biased, perhaps unprofessional-at-times and verbose coverage of my favorite team, their prospects and developmental affiliates. I've joined the Kukla's Korner family with five years of blogging under my belt, and I hope you'll find almost everything you need to follow your Red Wings at a place where all opinions are created equal and we're all friends, talking about hockey and the team we love to follow.