The Malik Report
by George Malik on 01/07/12 at 04:00 PM ET
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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