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Video: Orr says there ‘should be a policeman’ to protect skill players

Nov 18, 2013, 11:19 AM EDT

One of the greatest hockey players ever says fighting has its place in the professional game.

Bobby Orr, in an exclusive sit down interview with NBC’s Bob Costas on Costas Tonight, discussed his stance on what’s become a hot-button issue in the NHL this season, explaining how enforcers actually allow skill players to play to the best of their abilities.

“If a player has done something that he shouldn’t be doing, or is trying to intimidate a player that doesn’t play like that, if you’re trying to take liberties with a player that doesn’t play like that, there should be a policeman there,” Orr explained. “I want to see the skill players play. I don’t want to see them looking over their shoulders.

“That’s what makes our game great. We’ve got a lot of skilled players in this game. I go back to Sidney [Crosby] — where do you want Sidney? Fighting? Penalty box? Injured? Or do you want to see him play?”

Here’s the video:

As Costas refers to, there’s a distinct difference in opinion on the matter between Orr and his former head coach in Boston, Don Cherry.

During the 1974-75 season — the first Orr and Cherry were together in Boston — the Bruins fought 40 times in 80 games, fifth most in the NHL. Notorious tough guy Terry O’Reilly (the team leader in scraps, with 12) knew his job was to protect his star players and allow them time and space to play, something he did well as Orr set an NHL record for goals by a defenseman (46) while Phil Esposito led the league in tallies, with 61.

(This was also the year that Dave Schultz set an NHL record for most penalty minutes in a season, racking up 472 for the “Broad Street Bullies” Flyers team that went on to win the Stanley Cup. Schultz fought an unbelievable 25 times that season.)

Orr was quick, however, to point out that fighting needs to have its limits in the professional game.

“We gotta get rid of the foolishness,” Orr explained. “The things that happen for no reason. If we get rid of that, we’ll be fine.”

To watch the entire Orr-Costas interview, be sure to watch Costas Now on NBCSN on Tuesday, Nov. 19 at 11 p.m. ET following the Rangers-Bruins game.

  1. hockey412 - Nov 18, 2013 at 11:24 AM

    They should also get rid of the mindset that everytime someone lays a hard, legal check on someone else they have to fight immediately afterward.

    • blackandorangeforlife - Nov 18, 2013 at 12:47 PM

      That trend is getting out of hand that is for sure….I wouldn’t mind seeing an automatic 1 game for fighting…..But that suspension could be reversed if the play clearly shows a reason for the fight (defending a teammate on a dirty play)
      I love fights in Hockey but what you mentioned along with the staged fights at the face off are getting old and boring….Not saying my suggestion is perfect….But i have not seen many other suggestions either….A non fighter should only have to defend himself because of dirty play….Not because he thru a great clean hard check!

    • joey4id - Nov 18, 2013 at 3:15 PM

      You can’t have your cake and eat too. You want fighting to protect skill players, then when a skilled player gets hit, let them fight. Don’t get me wrong, I still rather side with Bowman, Yzerman, Shero, and Rutherford when it comes to the need and importance of fighting in the game. It’ a hot debate and there are proponents on both sides. Push come to shove I prefer to let science speak. Fact: a punch to the head can cause concussions, and since the object of the game is to score more goals than the other team, and not to knock someone in the head, then ban fighting.

  2. bricktop02 - Nov 18, 2013 at 12:16 PM

    You’re not kidding.

  3. xdj511 - Nov 18, 2013 at 12:21 PM

    Wow, when I saw the headline I thought it was Colton Orr. My knowledge of hockey history is a little spotty so feel free to correct me if I’m wrong, but wasn’t Bobby’s career cut short by numerous cheap shots by goons that ruined his knees? Every team can have a “policeman”, but our team’s “policeman” shouldn’t be simultaneously out there looking to injure the other team’s stars… that’s where that argument falls apart.

    • phil4444phil - Nov 18, 2013 at 1:45 PM

      “It was the way I played,” he said. “I liked to carry the puck and if you do that, you’re going to get hit.
      “That’s the way it goes. I wish I’d played longer, but I don’t regret it. I had a style – when you play, you play all-out. I tried to do things. I didn’t want to sit back. I wanted to be involved.”

      • fpstratton - Nov 18, 2013 at 7:54 PM

        Bobby Orr is one of the classiest sports superstars ever. When he was once asked about opposing players, knowing he had a very bad knee, deliberately tripping him or hitting him in the knee area with their stick, often after the whistle, his reply: “Those guys have a job to do, and that’s to help their team win, but they’re good guys. In fact, you don’t find too many bad apples in this sport.”

        Spoken like a true warrior, sportsman, and champion. God Bless Bobby Orr.

      • phil4444phil - Nov 20, 2013 at 3:14 AM

        Well said. Bobby will always be my favorite hockey player. Ever.

  4. ibieiniid - Nov 18, 2013 at 12:27 PM

    visual of an armed, uniformed officer on the ice in skates cuffing and arresting players that intentionally cut other players’ achilles tendons with their skates.

    • ibieiniid - Nov 18, 2013 at 12:27 PM

      funnier visual if you imagine a mounty instead.

  5. sjsharks66 - Nov 18, 2013 at 1:06 PM

    1 game suspension for a fight while people get 3 for concussing other players? Yeah, that is not a very good idea.

    • endusersolutions2013 - Nov 18, 2013 at 1:17 PM

      And the problem is sometimes players get a concussion because of a fight.

      I think most folks agree on a fight after an unwarrented cheap shot, especially targeting a goalie (where there was a real hit, not contact because a player was pushed/checked into the goalie – apparently flopper Mike Smith does not grasp the difference in 2013)

      The problem is writing a reasonable rule that can be reasonably well interpreted and acted on by the refs. What is reasonably provoked and what is not. Was it reasonably provoked by a dirty play in a corner after the puck and play had gone the other way and the only people on the ice are the two or possibly the goalie the action is headed away from?

  6. michiganhockey11 - Nov 18, 2013 at 1:40 PM

    Terry O’Reilly…the tasmanian devil.

    • fpstratton - Nov 18, 2013 at 3:36 PM

      O’Reilly was fantastic…they don’t make them like that anymore. He would take on anybody, and win or lose, he always gave them his best shot.

    • 22yearsagotoday - Nov 18, 2013 at 7:38 PM

      THOSE were the days.

  7. jhuck92 - Nov 18, 2013 at 2:12 PM

    I can see where he’s coming from, but I don’t think his idea of a “policeman” protecting only the skill players is practical. If they do that, the tough guys will probably want more policemen to police the policemen, and so on… It’s a very muddy issue.

  8. muckleflugga - Nov 18, 2013 at 3:04 PM

    here’s the way to go, technology is on our side…

    every player has concussion sensors in their helmets. much like an ipad, the sensors read the player’s orientation in three planes, deactivating when the player is prone and on the ice

    the sensors are preprogrammed to trigger a wifi signal when percussion to the helmet approaches threshold values known to cause concussive forces to the brain

    the wifi signal triggers small tasers sewn into cans worn by every player on the opposing team…mandated by league policy, they’ll come to be known as the nike spike

    soooo, drill someone in the head, you and all your teammates will get tased…nothing that will burn or kill anyone mind, just a four second bzzzzzzt

    self-inflicted pounding will be detected, rendering all circuits but ones own to open, and the perpetrator will get a triple flash, all his own…

    learned behaviour, the head shots stop!

    surgeon general’s warning:

    if tasers cause an erection lasting more than four hours, call a physician immediately

    • ibieiniid - Nov 18, 2013 at 3:21 PM


      but what if it isn’t the INITIAL contact with the head!? guys are gonna be getting tased for legal checks. alleviate this problem, and I’ll rally with you. it would def be fun to watch.

  9. edpeters101 - Nov 18, 2013 at 3:21 PM

    “One of the greatest hockey players ever”?, NO: Bobby Orr the greatest hockey player of all time! There is no place in hockey for fighting in this day and age, start a fight 6 game suspension, involved in a fight three game suspension. Take measures to eliminate vicious hits (like they do in football) and monitor things for future actions. Time for the NHL to grow up!!!

    • ibieiniid - Nov 18, 2013 at 3:23 PM

      their measures to eliminate vicious hits in football aren’t working, bud. and the argument here is that fighting IS a measure to eliminate vicious hits… and to an extent, it is.

      • fpstratton - Nov 18, 2013 at 3:45 PM

        ibieiniid: AMEN. I couldn’t have said it better myself. NFL football is now dominated by TV commercials, instant replays that take 5 times as long as they should to resolve silly issues, and 15 yard roughing penalties. That’s progress? I think not.

      • babykaby - Nov 20, 2013 at 5:37 AM

        Yeah, like that assault by Emery on Holtby for the vicious hit he put on………oh, yeah, nobody.

    • hockeyflow33 - Nov 18, 2013 at 3:53 PM

      Please just admit you’ve never watched hockey

      • 22yearsagotoday - Nov 18, 2013 at 7:37 PM

        Or even laced up a pair of hockey skates; maybe figure skates!

  10. joey4id - Nov 18, 2013 at 3:24 PM

    It will be difficult to get the old guard to change their mindset. Few will, and many will not. I love Orr for what he brought to the game. My favorite player growing up was a fighter. The game has changed, and the consequences of head shots are well documented. I can’t go against science. Some cancers and diseases have been directly linked to tobacco, though not everyone who smokes will develop a cancer (but their lungs will be pitch black). Regardless, I would strongly advise anyone, and certainly my own kids against smoking cigarettes, as I would advise them against fighting if they were hockey players. Skill is much more valuable to hockey team than fighting. No fighter is paid top bucks, whereas the most skilled players earn top dollars for their talent.

    • 22yearsagotoday - Nov 18, 2013 at 7:36 PM

      One of the best comments, ever.

      • ibieiniid - Nov 19, 2013 at 8:17 AM

        he makes just about that same comment every fighting post.

  11. fpstratton - Nov 18, 2013 at 3:34 PM

    I totally agree with Bobby Orr, and for the record, even as the league’s most skilled superstar, he did his own fighting when he had to.

  12. fpstratton - Nov 18, 2013 at 3:42 PM

    As a hockey fan for over 40 years, fighting has never taken away any of the enjoyment of the sport for me. I am much more concerned with reckless cheap shots near the boards that sends players head-first into them or vicious and intentional use of sticks as weapons to hurt other players. Get rid of those two things, and the game is fine. Fighting seldom results in permanent injuries. It has always been part of the game. Most often, the players can hardly get in any hurtful shots anyway. People get hurt in hockey just like they do in other contact sports like football and basketball. That’s sports. People will fight in sports because they all want to win, and tempers get the best of them, just as they do on the highway where people drive or in any other stressful situation. The complainers about fighting are the ones who need to grow up. Players fight, they then get penalized, and then the game goes on. Big deal!

    • nothanksimdriving123 - Nov 18, 2013 at 5:09 PM

      Hockey fan for over 50 years here. Orr remains my all-time favorite player. In his era, most players fought from time to time, some more often. No one pretended then, and no one should now, that it “polices” the game or prevents injuries to stars. We see injured stars all over the league, every year. In Orr’s era, guys fought usually out of anger and frustration. Now it’s more often by appointment by designated fighters to rouse the crowd and their teams. Most fans seem to enjoy them. Many of those fighters hate it but fear for their lucrative jobs keeps them quietly going back for more, risking their future health from repeated blows to the head. Fighting directly killed a player in a top Ontario amateur league a few years ago, and appears to have played a role in the deaths of a few former NHL players in recent years. Because the NHL waited too long to mandate helmets, we have the Masterton Trophy instead of a living Bill Masterton. I hope they don’t wait too long to extend the 5 minute major to a game misconduct and suspension. Oh, if fighters are supposed to police the game, what are the guys in striped shirts there for?

    • joey4id - Nov 18, 2013 at 7:47 PM

      Big deal! What you fail to understand is that fights increases the risks for concussions. You’re right! Not every fight will result in a concussion. However, repeated concussions are extremely damaging to the brain. So, why? There are enough risks in the game because of all the intentional and unintentional contact. Minimize the risks by eliminating fights to protect the well being of a player rather than leaving fighting in for the fans enjoyment is sort of hypocritical. The only way to sustain a concussion is from a blow to the head. Period! The NHL is clearly trying to address that when it comes to the regular flow of the game. I’m sorry, but a fight is not part of the flow of the game. It actually disrupts the game. Yes! Fans love it, and so do the accountants because violence sells.

      • fpstratton - Nov 18, 2013 at 7:56 PM

        Contact sports increases the risks for concussions.

      • joey4id - Nov 18, 2013 at 7:57 PM

        A punch to the head is not of a contact! A$$hole.

      • fpstratton - Nov 18, 2013 at 8:01 PM

        joey4id: Too bad you have to name call because I don’t agree with you. If you don’t like the fighting, then watch badminton.

      • fpstratton - Nov 18, 2013 at 8:10 PM

        joey4id: When you say that the only way to sustain a concussion is from a blow to the head, that is true, but better that come from a lame punch than from being cross-checked head first into the boards. Furthermore, players such as Eric Lindros didn’t necessarily get their concussions from fighting, but instead from violent head-into-boards collisions. I think that needs to be addressed more than “fisticuff” events. When Claude Lemieux uses his stick to violently shove a defenseless Kris Draper into the boards, THAT is a cause for concern.

      • joey4id - Nov 18, 2013 at 10:53 PM

        fgstratton, I would not think of resorting to name calling because we disagree. However, your comment was anything but smart. Since when is punching someone’s head part of contact sports? How many punches to the head do you see in football? Punches, cross checks, boarding calls…. Regardless, any shot to the head should not be tolerated….. Period!

      • nothanksimdriving123 - Nov 18, 2013 at 11:56 PM

        Stratton, the comment that those who don’t like fighting in hockey should abandon all they do like about the sport and enjoy badminton (or some other non-contact sport) strikes me as just as useless as my telling you that if you love fighting so much, give up on hockey and go watch cage fighting. We really should stick to explaining what we like and dislike about fighting, which we should remember is already against the rules and is considered by the rulebook as more than twice as heinous as slashing or high-sticking.

  13. muckleflugga - Nov 18, 2013 at 4:40 PM


    good argument…i agree for the most part

    take away staged fighting, take away need for instant retaliation on good hits and take away multiple fights evolving out of a single fight or simple scrums, all would be good

    but it doesn’t work that way…

    the sport has nurtured the spectacle of goonery from the advent of televised games: blood and mayhem sells beer, pizza, trucks and erectile dysfunction products. it’s all good business

    underpinning the farce is the wholly unsupportable argument claiming players should be allowed to police themselves. when has the self-policing policy worked…?

    if self-policing was effective in controlling untoward fouling, stick-work and fighting, why have all continued unabated and uncontrolled since the gun-for-hire game was invented by les canadiens in the late fifties?

    worse still, proponents of the self-policing theory including cherry, tortorella, orr with limitations, and burke among others are the first to distance themselves from embarrassments like the moore vs bertuzzi incident, but remain able to advocate for vigilantism from the safety of the distance time affords

    [ burke managed canucks at the time but was quick to separate himself from legal liability, but now, maybe vigilantism isn’t soooo bad after-all ]

    and why is big hockey an island…

    free from legal sanction imposed on the citizenry anywhere outside the boards? and why do all big league sports ban fighting, wholly and completely while the nhl finds itself isolated in support of violence as a sustainable and worthy entity of its product?

    it’s all about money…blood money

    fighting does not control behaviour, it incites behaviour…always has and always will!

    • fpstratton - Nov 18, 2013 at 5:14 PM

      muckleflugga: Thanks for the kind words. I can’t exactly tell you why big hockey is an island, but from my perspective, it is a little different from other sports as far as the role that fighting plays in it. I believe that the fight will prevent more serious retaliation, i.e., with a stick or with a vicious cross-check into the boards. I don’t expect mainstream sports fans to understand or agree with me, but as a hockey fan, I accept the fighting. Football may not condone fighting, but it has certainly looked the other way when it shows highlights of some particularly spectacular hit which probably causes way more long-term damage than a lame punch thrown in a hockey fight. As far as self-policing, you say it hasn’t worked. Hasn’t it? The worst hockey injuries come either from illegal stickwork, which can blind a player or cause a concussion by a head-first check into the boards, or by getting hit by the puck itself., or, more rarely, thank God, by a skate severing someone’s neck artery. The fights are comparatively harmless. Sure, the NHL wants to make money, but so it goes with all sports, and the fact is that fighting causes people to stop channel surfing and watch the action. That’s the reality, and that’s how the sports make money.

      • 22yearsagotoday - Nov 18, 2013 at 7:35 PM

        Agreed 110%. After some fights you see the combatants tap each other on the noggen in respect! Hockey ain’t for sissies, or pansies, and especially not for the non-violent. Tennis, anyone?

  14. tdrusher225 - Nov 18, 2013 at 5:43 PM

    As long as the “policemen” can actually contribute to the team with their hockey skills as well, then absolutely. But the days of players who are out there to be goons and nothing else should be coming to an end.

    • 22yearsagotoday - Nov 18, 2013 at 7:34 PM

      Thumbs down courtesy of goon lovers.

  15. 22yearsagotoday - Nov 18, 2013 at 7:33 PM

    Grandpa here. I remember the great Bobby Orr as a player and there have been very few with his skill set and impact on the game. If he says fighting belongs that’s good enough for me. His opinion as a retired professional GREAT means a lot more than some stinking bloggers! Whoops.

  16. thibbledorfpwent - Nov 18, 2013 at 8:34 PM

    Joey4id: actually some if the worst concussions come from a torsional or whiplash effect when a players head is snapped around in a violent manner. This causes the brain, floating in their skull to keep moving around when the skull stops, impacting the brain and causing cerebral damage which is basically (basically! Science nerds) what a concussion is. So a completely clean shoulder to shoulder or shoulder to chest hit can cause a concussion, let alone a hip heck of all things, so basically your entire statement is in error. please in the future educate yourself about something before your pudgy fingers mash your Cheetos stained keyboard, a$$hole

    • joey4id - Nov 19, 2013 at 4:35 AM

      True. A concussion may occur without a direct blow to the head. The key word is may because the full force of impact is not the head.

  17. stinkpretty1 - Nov 19, 2013 at 12:08 AM

    Orr fought numerous times in his career. He had something like 8 seasons with 100 pims or more

  18. zta7991 - Nov 19, 2013 at 9:09 AM

    honestly, I think it should be strictly a NHLPA decision. ..because no matter how many fans agree or disagree with it and no matter how many GMs or former players speak out about it…it is the player who ultimately are living it…they have to live with the consequences from it. they choose to do what they do. so I am for fighting as long as the players are.

    • joey4id - Nov 19, 2013 at 9:38 AM

      Third party independent entities should use available data and make their own research on the effects of fighting in hockey, and make their recommendations to the NHL that shall be binding. There was a time in football when linemen were thought to hit the opposing linemen on the side of the head with their forearm to blow their way pass the d to get to the quarterback. The idea was that a blow to the head would rattle the guys brain so much that he would be dazed. The NFL now has a rule to prevent that. You can’t ask players to decide. It’s like asking the banks to regulate themselves.,

  19. zta7991 - Nov 19, 2013 at 9:52 AM

    the point I am making is its a choice. there are very few instances where a player will just jump a player and fight a non willing combatant…but when it happens it blows up in the media. also if one player drops the gloves to fight and the other doesn’t that’s 2 min for unsportsmanlike conduct….like I said they have a choice to fight or not to fight MOST of the time.

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