Gary Bettman maintains that one of his virtues as Commissioner of the National Hockey League is consistency.
On Monday, he told the press, "My view on fighting hasn't changed. I've always taken the view that it's part of the game."
But since he is not blind, Commissioner Bettman has also noticed that some of today's hockey fights differ from some of the hockey fights of old. During the same interview in which he defended his consistency, the commissioner remarked that "players have gotten bigger."
He might have been thinking about Chris Simon, the six foot three, two hundred thirty four pound New York Islander who whacked Rangers Center Ryan Hollweg, 5'11", in the neck with his stick on March 8th. Or perhaps the commissioner had in mind six foot one, two hundred twenty pound Ville Nieminen of the St. Louis Blues. Earlier this week, Nieminen rammed the coconut of the smaller, lighter Brett Lebda of the Detroit Red Wings into one of the metal stanchions supporting the glass behind the net, after which Lebda left the ice on a stretcher. But maybe I'm wrong, and Mr. Bettman's mind was on Colton Orr, the six three, two hundred twenty pound New York Ranger who dropped Todd Fedoruk, known as the enforcer for the Flyers, to the ice with a single punch Wednesday night. Fedoruk, too, left the ice feet first and unconscious.
Since the commissioner still believes fighting is and should be part of his game, but also says he is worried about the size of the players doing the damage during on-ice fights, muggings, and assaults, perhaps he should consider a new rule that speaks to both his historical conviction and his current concern.
What if no hockey player over five nine, one hundred fifty five pounds were allowed to fight? What if big guys who got mad at each other were required to summon from their respective benches little guys, who would mix it up as their surrogates?
Or better still, what if each team was required to employ a small child as its designated brawler? Each time two players dropped their gloves and started to square off, the ref would blow his whistle and the small children would come firing off their respective benches to meet at center ice for an evenly matched scuffle...a flurry of small, not especially dangerous fists?
Dumb? Well, yeah, but not as dumb as a head slammed into a metal pole or a stick across the throat.