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The Kadri-Lindgren fight was another black eye for the NHL

(Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

The Avalanche lost on Tuesday night to the Rangers, blowing a 2-0 lead in New York and falling 5-3. But the loss wasn’t what anyone was talking about after the game.

Instead, the focus was on the fight between Colorado’s Nazem Kadri and New York’s Ryan Lindgren. The brouhaha went down toward the end of the first period, when Kadri took exception with a hit Lindgren put on Avalanche forward Joonas Donskoi.

No penalty was called on the play, so Kadri decided to take things into his own hands. He pounced on Lindgren, working him over pretty good in the process.

Not surprisingly, this was universally applauded by Colorado fans. They loved that Kadri came to the defense of his teammate. And they were celebrating that he beat Lindgren to a pulp.

The first part of that is understandable. Having a teammate’s back is always a good thing; that’s worthy of praise.

But the second part is just ridiculous. There was nothing good about seeing Lindgren standing on the ice with a bloody face.

Fighting in the NHL is an outdated form of goon behavior that should’ve been done away with long ago. It appeals to the lowest common denominator (see the comments section of this column for examples), which dates back to the league’s earlier days when they needed to attract fans.

Now, it simply detracts from the game. The speed and skill of the players is what makes the NHL great, which is why the league has done so much to rid the sport of clutch-and-grabbing tactics. They want to highlight the positives and not reward boorish play.

They should continue that trend by ridding the league of fighting, as well. There’s simply no place for it, as was evidenced last night.

Should Lindgren have been called for a penalty as a result of his hit on Donskoi? Perhaps. But that’s an argument about the NHL rulebook and the way the officials on the ice enforce it.

The idea that it’s up to players to take things into their own hands, to be vigilantes on the ice, is absolutely ludicrous. This isn’t a Charles Bronson movie. That type of behavior doesn’t fly in any other sport or any other walk of life. So why does it continue to reign in the NHL?

Of course, this notion will quickly get shot down with the usual barrage of insults. It’ll quickly be dismissed as the opinion of someone who doesn’t know anything about hockey.

These are the same arguments that have been put forth for decades by NHL fans who continue to support that fighting is still allowed in the league, despite the fact that it’s not a part of the game at virtually any other level. They continue to insist that it’s the only way to prevent “cheap shots” on the ice; the fear of retaliation is the only viable deterrent.

How’d that work out last night? Was Lindgren so fearful of a beating from Kadri that he wouldn’t deliver a hit on Donskoi?

Of course not. It’s nonsense.

Somehow, the same game played all over the rest of of the world, at a high level by players who are just as rough and tumble, manage to “police the game” without having players stop the action, drop their gloves and engage in a silly knuckle rumble for a minute or two on the ice. Why is the NHL different?

It’s not. If the league wanted to, they could police the game just like every other sport.

Instead, they want to stick with a rule that was instituted in 1922, insisting that’s the best way to police the game. Talk about being stuck in the past.

How did the NBA rid itself of the “Bad Boys” type of basketball that became the norm in the 1990s? They legislated it out of the game. They introduced rules about hard fouls, had officials implement them and upheld the decisions at the league office.

How does the NFL prevent dirty hits? They adjust their rulebook, fine players for violating their safety initiatives and suspend repeat offenders.

Can you imagine if those two leagues insisted that the only way to police their games was to stop the action and allow two players to duke it out? A hard foul in the NBA would result in haymakers being thrown at center court until one player fell to the hardwood. A blow to the head in the NFL would lead to two guys removing their helmets and exchanging punches until someone was a bloody mess on the turf.

Those would seem like a ridiculous solutions. But in the NHL, because it’s a long-standing tradition, it’s seen as the only way to resolve the issue.

It’s silly and unnecessary. And it leads to a tit-for-tat, vigilante justice that ultimately can escalate to a dangerous level. Policing the game is what led to Todd Bertuzzi ending Steve Moore’s career, as he was trying to exact some revenge for a previous play.

Kadri wanting to defend his teammate is admirable. That’s a trait worth celebrating. But the way in which he went about it, putting another player at risk and hurting his team via 17 minutes worth of penalties, wasn’t a moment to trumpet.

It was another example of the NHL being stuck in past decades. There’s no place for that kind of ugly scene in professional sports.


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