Brian Burke, current Director of Hockey Operations with the Calgary Flames, is an outspoken personality who loves the game of hockey as much as anyone. And his philosophy regarding the way the game should be played is well publicized. On October 30, 2013, Burke wrote a guest column arguing the case for fighting in the NHL. You can read Burkie’s well-written fighting column here, courtesy of USA Today.
Over the years, Burkie has openly professed a desire to build tough NHL hockey teams. As general manager of the Anaheim Ducks, he designed a winning team that played with punch and used brute physicality as an advantage to win hockey games. In the 2006-07 regular season the Ducks led the league in penalty minutes. They went on to win the Stanley Cup that year. While the 07′ Ducks could play a skill game with any team, they definitely utilized aggression to their advantage – made very obvious in the Stanley Cup finals against an Ottawa Senators team that could not compete with the Ducks’ truculence and belligerence.
When Burke arrived in Toronto as GM, he promised a more truculent hockey club. On November 30, 2008, then newly appointed, Burke told the Toronto Star, “We require, as a team, proper levels of pugnacity, testosterone, truculence and belligerence. That’s how our teams play.” Read full article by the Toronto Star here.
Burke poses many valid points in his write-up for USA Today, including: 1) the players are aware of the risk of fighting, and accept it. 2) According to Burke, those with an insider’s experience base, such as, players and coaches, have witnessed the threat of fighting act as a calming force in game scenarios that could’ve gotten ugly otherwise. 3) He also mentions that 98% of NHL players recently voted to keep fighting in the game.
In the meantime, the fighting debate will rage on. Not to be a fence-sitter, but there are good arguments both for, and against the continuation of fisticuffs in the NHL. Sadly, many feel it is inevitable that an NHL player will one day lose their life because of a fight on National Hockey League ice. Obviously, nobody wants to see that happen. And that is the most profound argument that can be raised by either side. Thankfully, the NHL is taking measures to prevent injury with this season’s premiere of the ‘no helmets off’ rule during fights.