Friday, February 6, 2009

Helmets and fighting: Georges Laraque has a point

An interesting twist in the fighting debate today, thanks to Habs enforcer Georges Laraque's comments about helmets in an interview with TSN. Predictably, Damien Cox is all over the interview, holding them up as further proof that fighting should be on the way out.

I've made my stance on the issue clear over the past few weeks: I'm pro-fighting, and I'm not embarrassed to admit it.

But while I want fighting to stay in the NHL (and would even love to see if go back to the higher levels of the early 90s), I don't believe that means it has to stay exactly as-is. In the wake of the Don Sanderson tragedy, the least the NHL can do is be open to ideas about how to make fighting safer.

Laraque suggests that players be banned from removing the helmets prior to a fight or from trying to remove an opponent's, and that fights be stopped as soon as a player's helmet comes off.

He may be on to something.

The idea isn't perfect. For one, it won't seem like such a great idea the first time a player breaks his hand on a helmet or visor. And NHL linesmen may have a thing or two to say about the idea of jumping in to stop a fight between two guys who are swinging for the fences because a helmet has popped off.

But at the very least, the idea is worth a look. Combine it with new rules about tighter chinstraps and the likelihood of a Sanderson situation in the NHL would drop to close to zero.

I'm less supportive of Laraque's other suggestion, that players with visors be barred from fighting at all. We already have extra rules in place to penalize a player with a visor who instigates a fight and perhaps those could be strengthened. But beyond that, players should have a choice as to whether or not to fight a guy with a shield.

If anything, banning players with visors from ever fighting could mean that guys who play a physical game and fight occasionally (like Jarome Iginla or Luke Schenn) might feel the need to lose their shields altogether. And with apologies to Don Cherry, that's the last thing we should want.

So kudos to Laraque for raising some new ideas. And let's hope his newfound pacifism extends to tomorrow night's Leafs/Habs game. If not... keep your helmet on, Brad May.


  1. DGB, great read! I skimmed over DC's mumble jumble and was than impressed. I do find it ironic they used that pic of Laraque. You know when he tried to get Lucic to fight after he whooped Komisareks ass. That wasnt premeditated or planned at all right?
    Also loved the, "Mr. Brown here"

  2. Mr. Brown here was friggin great.

    I wonder if The Omen even knows you are taking a swipe at him with that opening.

  3. This is an old post so I doubt anyone will ever read this comment. But I've got to say that I completely disagree with Laraque's suggestion. I've seen a few OHL games this year, after they changed their rules in the prescribed way, and the sight of linesmen jumping in as soon as a helmet popped off was just awkward (and looked dangerous for the linesmen).

    Also, we've got to stop overreacting to the Don Sanderson thing. There must have been hundreds of thousands of hockey fights over the past 130 years, and until just recently, not a single recorded death has resulted from one. I've got nothing against debating fighting on its own merits, but making rules because of the Sanderson situation would be akin to instituting mandatory celestial body insurance after someone gets killed by an asteroid.

  4. Nice article. Hey, heads up, Georges Laraque was just named fighter of the decade in the new book: Hockey Fights: The NHL's Toughest Fighters 2000-2010 by Brian D'Ambrosio. Laraque is champ of the decade, I hope he returns for a new one.