Commentary

Please stop asking the NHL to toss the instigator rule

Updated: December 20, 2007, 5:19 PM ET
By Mike Brophy | The Hockey News

You hear it nearly every week -- get rid of the instigator rule.

That's right. Let the fighters rule the NHL, just like the gunslingers did in the wild, wild west. Just like the Broad Street Bullies did in the '70s when they scared the daylights out of half the league.

While we're at it, let's arm motorists, so if somebody follows too closely or cuts you off, you can pull out your piece and shoot out their tires. Let's give grocery store cashiers baseball bats so if somebody gets in the 10-or-fewer items line with 12, they can be kneecapped.

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Oh, and let's allow Chris Simon to drop his gloves and beat Ryan Hollweg to a pulp because Hollweg, who is not a fighter, has the audacity to hit him. Let's let Simon slug the snot out of Jarkko Ruutu because, like Hollweg, he banged the Islanders' aging tough guy.

Give me a break.

Listen, I am neither na´ve or delusional. I've played against players like Hollweg and Ruutu and, yes, it can be frustrating. But the last time I looked, hitting in the NHL is allowed, even encouraged.

Here's a novel idea for NHL players -- if you don't like the way Hollweg or Ruutu hit your teammates, hit them back. Drive them hard into the boards. Crunch them with an open-ice hit. Get even or, heaven forbid, drop your gloves and fight them whether they want to fight back or not. Take that whopping risk of receiving an extra minor penalty for being the instigator.

I am certain Hollweg and Ruutu (and others of their ilk), if given the choice, would elect to be goal scorers rather than pests, but they aren't. They do, however, possess some skill and clearly their energy and hitting ability are valued by their teams. It is what keeps them in the NHL.

People complain about the NHL taking hitting out of the game (which is absolutely bogus) as it makes adjustments to give skilled players more room to operate, and then when a guy goes out and delivers a hit, everybody wants to beat the crap out of him. So which is it, do we want hitting or don't we? Or can only players who fight be hitters?

The NHL will never, ever get rid of the instigator penalty. It would be so politically incorrect it defies consideration. The league says repeatedly it is comfortable with where fighting is now, largely because stiff penalties have eliminated nasty brawls. Fact is, we see more brawls in baseball than we do in hockey these days.

You think NHL commissioner Gary Bettman is going to stand before a microphone and tell the world the league has decided, for the good of the game, the NHL will let goons run the show? Ain't gonna happen, folks.

Not now. Not ever.

Mike Brophy's Double OT appears regularly on thehockeynews.com.

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