So what's all the fuss over fighting?Cherry says fans...

December 24, 1992|By Sandra McKee | Sandra McKee,Staff Writer

So what's all the fuss over fighting?

Cherry says fans should swing rules

So, what's wrong with a fight breaking out at a hockey game, anyway? Anyone going to Washington Capitals games has to enjoy the form demonstrated by center Dale Hunter -- he of the whirling-dervish fists pummeling both sides of an opposing player's rib cage at the same time.

"It's the strangest thing," said Canadian Broadcasting System commentator Don Cherry, reached at home this week. "The only people who complain about the fighting are the ones who get in free. The fans don't complain. The other night in New York when [Detroit's Bob] Probert and [Ranger Tie] Domi went at it, 18,500 fans were on their feet. To me, there's something wrong . . . the fans like it, the players don't complain about it, so who are we not fighting for?"

The fans are the ones paying the freight. When the gloves drop and the fists come up, the fans, who spend much of the night in their seats eating pretzels and soft-frozen ice cream, come alive.

"I think trying to take fighting out of hockey is taking the fun out," said Cherry. "Of course, you don't want a bench-clearing brawl, but one baseball team in the major leagues has more bench-clearing brawls than all the hockey teams together in an entire season."

Fighting in the NHL is down 56 percent this season. Is it just a freak of nature that 13 teams have reported a decline in attendance? Cherry said he doesn't think so.

"Did you ever see anyone at a hockey game go out for a cup of coffee during a fight?" he asked.

Given all the padding these guys wear, not to mention the helmets, and that few injuries result from the fighting, it seems a lot of energy is expended to outlaw a much needed release for pent-up frustration.

Why not leave the fighting alone and concentrate more on wiping out cross-checking from behind and high sticking?

"Ah, they say it's a bad role model for kids," Cherry said of the fighting. "But what about football? Every weekend the idea is to kill the quarterback. What about baseball, where pitchers throw at batters' heads at 100 mph? You've got to draw the line somewhere. I find it interesting that this all started with [Wayne] Gretzky saying his Hollywood friends didn't like the image of fighting at hockey games, and his L.A. Kings are involved in more fights than any other team."

Cherry, who played hockey for 16 years and coached for eight -- seven of them in the NHL -- said he is hopeful the NHL's new commissioner, Gary Bettman, might not be so

anti fighting.

"He goes to a lot of Rangers games," Cherry said. "That could be a good sign."

Cherry said his top three fighters in the NHL are Probert, Hunter and another Capital, Alan May.

Next, the World(s)

The Capitals will be well-represented at the Junior World Championships in Sweden on Saturday. Five of the team's top entry-draft choices have been chosen to play for their native countries: Defenseman Sergei Gonchar, the team's No. 1 choice last year, will play for the Commonwealth of Independent States; goalie Jim Cary (pick No. 2) will play for the United States; center Stefan Ustorf (pick No. 3) was invited by Germany, but must decline because of a strained knee; right wing Martin Gendron (No. 4), will play for Canada; and center Pat Peake, the team's No. 1 in 1991, also will play for the United States.

That's Big Al

Defenseman Al Iafrate, the man Capitals fans know as Wild Thing, passed up an empty-net opportunity against the Ottawa Senators on Dec. 7. The Caps hung on for a 6-5 victory that could have been easier if Iafrate had scored instead of shooting the puck into the corner.

"Empty-net goals are for sissies," Iafrate said.

Around the rinks

Philadelphia has lost eight of its past nine games and is 2-12-2 on the road. . . . The Boston Globe reports friends and acquaintances of Mike Keenan say it's a fait accompli that he'll be named GM/coach of the new Miami franchise shortly. His broadcasting pal, Gary Green, is expected to be club president. Insiders also told the Globe that Green, who was once the youngest coach in the NHL (in Washington with Bob Carpenter), a millionaire from real estate dealings.

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