Thursday, April 24, 2014
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Fights in hockey are a 'thermostat,' Bettman says

NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman. (Ross D. Franklin/AP)
NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman. (Ross D. Franklin/AP)
TORONTO - When Gary Bettman approached Ray Emery during the Chicago Blackhawks' Stanley Cup celebration at the White House, many wondered what would happen.

The Flyers goaltender had drawn leaguewide attention a few days earlier for skating the length of the ice to fight an unwilling combatant in Braden Holtby.

"We had a nice chat," the commissioner said. "And I said, 'So just hypothetically, if there was a rule that said if you cross the red line to get into a fight with the other goaltender and you get a 10-game suspension, would you have done it?' He goes, 'What? Are you crazy?' "

It might not be a 10-game suspension, but NHL general managers will discuss potential changes to fighting rules Tuesday at their annual meeting.

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  • "I think the level of dialogue gets sparked by an occasional incident, and an incident of this nature when you look at everything else that is going on in the season was really a small pebble relative to a beach full of sand, which is seeing an incredibly entertaining season," Bettman said Monday. "I think sometimes an incident, as rare as it might be, tends to get focused on disproportionately."

    Bettman called fighting a "thermostat" in hockey that helps cool things down when tensions run high.

    One of the arguments against the abolition of fighting, or even making the punishment a game misconduct or suspension, is that it would cause more high sticks and cheap shots. Bettman said feelings on both sides of the fighting debate are "really dug in."

    Bettman wants to take the pulse of GMs. That includes feelings about goaltenders fighting and other topics. Emery was not suspended for pummeling Holtby because there is nothing in the rules to use as precedent.

    Bettman expects a "general discussion" but does not think any rule changes will come about just yet. He said that the current rules, which include a five-minute major for fighting and extra penalties stemming from the instigator and third-man-in rules, represent the consensus among GMs.

    Associated Press
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