Questions remain about the details of Wade Belak's death, the third such tragedy involving a tough guy to strike the NHL in the past four months. Rick Rypien and Derek Boogaard also died under strange circumstances involving severe depression and/or drugs. There were separate sets of circumstrances, but are they connected in one way or another?
The debate rages on whether their deaths were somehow related to their roles as physical players who did their share of fighting. People for years have known it was a difficult job, but it is also something that can take a person on the road to ruin? Recent studies on concussions, if not common sense, make you wonder if fighters are more susceptible to problems.
Check out Sully's column Sunday after he interviewed Rob Ray.
I've been all over the map on whether the NHL should institute a ban on fighting. My problem for years with fighting in the NHL was that there wasn't enough. My rationale wasn't about the entertainment value but whether the players should police themselves. You wouldn't see some of the cheap shots that happen if players were worried about having to answer for their actions, other than a penalty.
I guess my real beef is with the insitigator rule. The idea behind it was to cut down on fighting, but overall it might have done more harm than good. There are too many players in the league who stir up trouble with the idea they can draw opposing teams into penalties. In my opinion, it has led to fewer fights but more cheap shots. Overall, the game doesn't seem much safer.
Some want to eliminate fighting altogether and decrease health risks with the fighters themselves, but it could wind up having an adverse effect. Would players become more aggressive -- and cheaper -- knowing they didn't have to stand up for themselves after a dirty hit? Should they implement stiffer punishments for cheap shots and fighting? Should they dump the instigator penalty and go back to players policing the game?
Interesting questions, but no concrete answers.
--- Bucky Gleason