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Chiefs favored in playoffs; fighting & concussions in the news

The Spokane Chiefs have every reason to be favored when their Western Hockey League playoff series opens in Chilliwack tonight. (Update 11:34).

There is an open debate, read on.

Here's an interesting debate. Long-time hockey writer Gregg Drinnan takes a stand against fighting in the WHL because they are part of the reason where there are so many concussions. (If you continue reading Drinnan's blog, you can find many links to this debate, including one where a reported talked to Spokane GM Tim Speltz.)

I find it hard to argue with Drinnan. I first covered the WHL about 30 years ago, in Billings, you know, back in the Don Nachbaur era. I hated the fighting, but in those days it was constant, line brawls were common. While the fans cheered, I would take the opportunity to go to the rest room, or just for a walk in the concource. As fans got to know my feelings, after fights they would turn to mock me in the open air press box (kind of like the one at McCarthey). The final straw for me was when a goalie was going to use his stick to tomahawk an opponent when a brawl erupted at the end of the game. I happened to be down for post-game interviews and I was able to get an assistant coach's attention, who was almost comical in the way he ran out on the ice to stop the goalie. It was scary.

When I returned to WHL coverage a few years ago, I was pleased with how much the game had been cleaned up. There were still some fights, but it was much less. Though I didn't enjoy them, I deferred to those who's whole life was spent in the game.

This season is a perfect example of why teams are reluctant to say no to fights. Darren Kramer made a difference for the Chiefs, a big difference. (Ironically, here's a story about the playoff series that mentions his importance.) The difference between what Kramer did for the Chiefs and what some other goons tried to do, such as running Spokane star Tyler Johnson (and Chilliwack has not just one, but two of those guys, but the ex-Chief is the biggest offender), is as different as night and day.

But in the end, it's all fighting and I wouldn't miss it. The health of all hockey players is more important than short, entertaining mid- ice fisticuffs, no matter what the reason.

I'm will to bet that almost every team would take a hit in attendance if there was no fighting, which means it isn't going to be stamped out. The only thing that could hurt worse is if they quit selling beer, although that could lead to smarter fans who understand there is no need for fighting in hockey.




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