Skip to content

Bettman says debate over fighting is an ‘overblown issue’

Mar 2, 2014, 11:27 AM EDT

Gary Bettman AP

NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman wants fans to know that fighting isn’t going away any time soon.

Rob Rossi of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review spoke with the commissioner at the NHL Stadium Series game in Chicago and asked for his take on fighting in the league. Bettman stood up for fighting saying it’s not a major part of the game.

“It’s an overblown issue because it’s a small part of the game, and to the extent there are concussions it’s a small part of that,” Bettman said. “Fighting is something we’ll continue to focus on, but there hasn’t been a consensus from the hockey people — on the side of management — or the players to make a change. I’ve been told if the NHLPA did a poll that 98 percent of the players would say don’t change the rule.”

Fans who don’t like fighting will obviously not be happy with this take from the commissioner, but this is essentially what he’s said all along about having fighting in the NHL.

Some believe fighting keeps the league from becoming more of a mainstream sport while others say it’s such an established part of the game it can’t be removed.

Discussions about changing the punishment for fighting were brought up by Lightning GM Steve Yzerman, but those talks are new.  If change is going to come, it’ll take more people who think like Yzerman and hold positions of power to make it happen.

  1. luz56 - Mar 2, 2014 at 11:44 AM

    Kevin Westgarth says…Take fighting out of hockey… there really is no place for it

    • thesportsjudge - Mar 2, 2014 at 11:54 AM

      Then Kevin Westgarth would be out of a job.

    • stakex - Mar 2, 2014 at 12:04 PM

      Yes…. that’s why he dropped his gloves willingly last night, because he’s against fighting. I’ll bet anything he drops them again when he comes back from this freak injury as well because the players themselves are not against fighting.

  2. Wineshard - Mar 2, 2014 at 11:47 AM

    Funny how he wasn’t saying that when he fought Kellan Lain in his first NHL shift. Carma.

  3. Wineshard - Mar 2, 2014 at 11:50 AM

    Or Karma perhaps? Lol

  4. stakex - Mar 2, 2014 at 12:10 PM

    Who in their right mind actually thinks its fighting that’s keeping hockey from going mainstream? If there is one thing Americans love its watching two men beat the living hell out of each other…. which is why MMA is so popular.

    Years of horrible marketing, and the perception of hockey as a Canadian sport is what has kept it from reaching the same level as the other major sport. Not to mention its actually TOO fast for a lot of people to follow. Just look at the most popular American sports: Football, and Baseball…. both are incredibly slow and easy to follow. Hockey on the other hand is much faster, and harder to follow for those that have never played it. That’s also an issue: Most people in the US have never played hockey growing up…. yet almost everyone has played baseball, football, and basketball.

    Needless to say there are a lot of reasons hockey is still the least popular major sport in the US…. and none of them have to do with fighting.

    • comeonnowguys - Mar 2, 2014 at 12:35 PM

      Right. When I hear about people dismiss hockey, it’s because “it’s so Canadian.” I never hear them deriding the fighting, or saying if they want to see fighting they’ll go to a fight.

      Except for all the time.

      • uzarate - Mar 2, 2014 at 2:37 PM

        LOL…I like hockey precisely because it IS Canadian and not American and the object of the game is exactly the same as soccer. Americans don’t take to any sport that they they didn’t invent themselves.

    • strictlythedanks - Mar 2, 2014 at 1:15 PM

      Good points stakex. Hockey is far and away the best sport to see in person. You can’t truly appreciate the speed and intensity of the game on TV, almost the opposite of football. HD has gone a long ways to help that, but still mainstream america does not truly understand hockey because they havent been exposed to it enough.

    • biffnasty - Mar 2, 2014 at 2:33 PM

      I agree with your post wholeheartedly, but I also think the lock outs Always hurt hockey. Not to mention that bettman is all about making money for the owners instead of spreading the popularity of hockey

      • mackattack29 - Mar 2, 2014 at 7:42 PM

        So true. Hockey really could sell itself if we just had more capable hands in charge of advertising the sport. Right now it is great for all of us who already love it but there really isn’t anything other than the Olympics that is going to bring in new fans.

    • 7mantel - Mar 2, 2014 at 3:02 PM

      Spot on !

    • chunkala - Mar 2, 2014 at 3:36 PM

      and in the lack of scoring as well.
      when was hockey at its most popular? mid 80s-early 90s because of goal scoring and playmaking.

      • comeonnowguys - Mar 2, 2014 at 4:54 PM

        I disagree that more goals equal more popularity.

        I’ll take an exciting, end-to-end 1-0 over a sloppy 6-5 game most days.

        Don’t confuse this with mind-numbing, turtling, we-can’t-beat-you-with-skill-so-we-lay-five-guys-in-front-of-the-goalie-or-in-the-neutral-zone Dead Puck hockey. That sends people to baseball games in search of excitement.

    • inbullieswetrust - Mar 3, 2014 at 11:49 AM

      You can’t say most ppl in the US do not play hockey. I’m originally from Philly but grew up part of my life in NJ. Most of my friends play street hockey or pond hockey. It’s normal up in that area as well as any other state up north. There are a few hockey players from Southern Cal and Texas who are in the pro’s. Back in the 1960’s to 1970’s. Texas had more minor league teams than any other US state bc it was cheap to have development teams there. Kinda interesting to hear that Texas had like 10 to 15+ teams. Yzerman may not like the sport to have fighting. He has his own share of scrums. He is a hypocrite. As long as hockey has players like Chara and Lucic who can play the sport as well as drop the gloves. There will be fighting. This article doesn’t tell you about the poll it had asking 100 NHL players if they should ban fighting. All but one said keep it. So 99% said fighting stays. It’s not going anywhere anytime soon

  5. puckmepuckyou - Mar 2, 2014 at 12:23 PM

    I’d like to see more coaches like Pat Roy who want to fight the other coach. BTW total BS fighting is keeping hockey out of mainstream.

  6. strictlythedanks - Mar 2, 2014 at 12:24 PM

    The benefit of no fighting is losing the guys that do nothing for their team but fight. It would increase the quality of rosters and overall play. The main problem with fighting is the fact that it isn’t used to police dirty hits, like it should be. More often than not a guy picks a fight with someone who just threw a perfectly clean hit. Thats not how it should work. Policing cheap shots are the place for fighting in this game. Guys like dirty dustin brown are the ones who should be getting a knuckle sandwich for their lack of respect for other players careers.

    • chunkala - Mar 2, 2014 at 4:48 PM

      Like others said, if its too police dirty (not clean) hits, then I can see a place for fighting.
      But today, fighting is used as a momentum changer for a team down 2 goals or for pay back from clean hits (see Montreal-Ottawa playoffs last year).

      • joey4id - Mar 2, 2014 at 5:02 PM

        Did you see how Orlov held up today when he hit Schenn? Flyers wanted to act like the police but the refs got in the way.

  7. claudegirwho - Mar 2, 2014 at 12:33 PM

    What will the writers talk about during slow news days then?

    • comeonnowguys - Mar 2, 2014 at 4:55 PM

      Who the Penguins want to trade for.

  8. nyrnashty - Mar 2, 2014 at 12:53 PM

    Fighting is in the game for a reason. If you eliminate fighting, you would have to eliminate hitting. I would hit the other teams best players all game long if I didn’t have to fight someone. The games best players would last a handful of years. There was a game a fews years back that provides a perfect example of why fighting is in the game. Colton Orr was playing for the Rangers at the time and missed a game towards the end of the season. Todd Fedoruk (Flyers) thought he would get cute and run around all game hitting Jagr every chance he got. He was literally looking to throw big hits on him every chance. The beginning of the next season Colton Orr was in the lineup when the Rangers played the Flyers. Todd Fedoruk got knocked out by Colton Orr. If you can’t understand why fighting is in our game, our game is not for you.

    • chunkala - Mar 2, 2014 at 4:56 PM

      Sounds good, eliminate hitting as well. Nowadays, the NHL considers every hit to be illegal or a head shot anyway, so what’s the point of hitting anymore?
      Today, if a player is skating in the middle of the ice with his head down, its illegal to hit him. You like that brand of hockey? Yikes.

  9. scott24105 - Mar 2, 2014 at 1:48 PM

    God, Yzerman is such a disgusting sell out. I dont remember him being anti fighting when he had Probert, Kocur, Zombo, Gallant, Chaisson, Norwood, McRae, McKay, McCarty protecting him. Such a fraud who I have lost ALL respect for

    And those who say take fighters out to make a better game? If thats what you really want then take 4 teams,(Florida, Tampa, Nashville, Phoenix, swap Carolina with Quebec) fold them, and blend all their players through out the league, while still keeping a spot for a fighter. And focus more of re-igniting the rivalries that once made this a great game. Boston plays Montreal 4 times this year. Really???? Thats pathetic. Play your division 6-8 times, conference 4 and the the other conference 1 time a year. Get some hatred and passion back in these games.


    Chicago-Detriot-Minnesota-Winnipeg-St Louis-Dallas

  10. patthehockeyfan - Mar 2, 2014 at 2:02 PM

    “It’s an overblown issue because it’s a small part of the game, and to the extent there are concussions it’s a small part of that,” Bettman said.

    Okay, Bettman. How about somebody punch you in the head and give you a concussion?

    What a d!ck!

  11. joey4id - Mar 2, 2014 at 2:06 PM

    Since fighting is part of the game, then the NHL should eliminate the instigator rule. Eliminate the 5 minute major too. Just send the combatants to their respective benches. Just like they do after a goal because goals too have always been part of the game. Crosby, Ovi, Toews, Kane, St. Louis… actually all the NHL players should fight since 98% of them want to keep fighting in the game. Hockey USA & Canada should institute policies to teach kids the finer details of fighting because fighting has always been part of the game. Just like how they teach them to skate, pass, shoot, and score goals. Minor league hockey games are so boring to watch because they are no fights. Who wants to see a hockey with no fighting? Back on the 60s and 70s fighting was aloud at every level of minor hockey. We all should sign a petition to reinstate fighting. Are you all in? Screw you Yzerman, Bowman, Ruhterford, Dryden, and Shero. What the hell do you know about hockey and winning.

    • anthj99 - Mar 2, 2014 at 3:05 PM

      You are a moron and a cry baby.

    • imgoingtowichita - Mar 2, 2014 at 3:08 PM

      Hey Joey, meet me at 3:30 behind the portable.

      • joey4id - Mar 2, 2014 at 3:59 PM

        Still waiting. 2 more minutes before I leave. Show up.

      • chunkala - Mar 2, 2014 at 4:58 PM

        I’m all for anyone eliminating Wichita. Tap, tap.

    • chunkala - Mar 2, 2014 at 4:52 PM

      Great comebacks everyone to Joey’s insightful and intelligent argument.

      Fighting will keep hockey as fifth/sixth in popularity ith that but I’m sure the owners aren’t.

      • patthehockeyfan - Mar 2, 2014 at 6:21 PM


    • sabatimus - Mar 3, 2014 at 8:49 AM

      “Hey, I told you so from a post made 3 months ago! I’ve got it right here!”

      • joey4id - Mar 3, 2014 at 8:53 AM

        sebatimus, Yawn!

    • spiciercheez - Mar 3, 2014 at 4:14 PM

      It’s actually ‘shoot, pass, kick some ass’

  12. flyerspsu - Mar 2, 2014 at 2:40 PM

    When 99% of your players want something to stay in the game, you keep it in the game

    Thank you Bettmann for sticking to your sport’s and players principles instead of faltering from the pressure of the ignorant outside media

    • joey4id - Mar 2, 2014 at 3:33 PM

      What is the percentage of players who actually fight? idk, I think it’s a little less than 99%. If 99% of people want to eliminate income tax, then the gov’t should yield. Right? Guns are not that bad either. We should all own one. Just like they did in the Wild West. Don’t be like sheep people. Think!

      • charlieconway96 - Mar 2, 2014 at 3:55 PM

        Ah yes, finally Joey has chimed in on this “overblown issue”, didn’t see this coming.

        Joe, I’ve never met you but I’d imagine based on your last comment relating hockey to political issues that you must have the wingspan of a Stretch Armstrong action figure. The players want it, the majority of fans want it, its always been a part of the game and like Bettman said, in relation to the concussion issues that the game has its a very small part. Look at how many punches during your average hockey fight actually connect.

        Hang on, all of my friends are lining up to jump off a bridge, I should probably follow em. Stop whining or go watch the KHL. Better yet, there’s this new thing called the NBA that I hear is sort of similar to hockey, just less touching and more whining. Sounds perfect for you actually.

      • joey4id - Mar 2, 2014 at 4:05 PM

        charlie, you convinced me. Hopefully the NHL will change the rules to allow for more fighting. Olympic hockey is so boring.

      • flyerspsu - Mar 2, 2014 at 5:59 PM

        there is absolutely no logic in your rebuttal

      • spiciercheez - Mar 3, 2014 at 4:17 PM

        The percentage of players who fight is low, as you said. However I believe the argument is that many of the guys who do not fight, benefit from having that protection. I’m not saying I agree completely with this, but I’m not sure that you can use the percentage of guys who actually drop the mitts….Oh well, carry on.

  13. blomfeld - Mar 2, 2014 at 3:32 PM

    Good on Bettman for doing the ‘right’ thing ! …

    fighting in hockey is no less important that sticks, pucks or frozen ice … and God forbid if it ever was ‘actually’ removed from the game, as that would be akin to society getting rid of the Fire or Police departments … it would be ‘incomprehensible’ to say the least and God willing it will never happen ! …




    like set up the ‘winning’ goal last night in our glorious victory over the Hurricanes !! :)

  14. titansbro - Mar 2, 2014 at 3:50 PM

    I didn’t watch hockey growing up. Why? Because I grew up in the south where the lakes & ponds do not freeze enough & no one plays or watches hockey. I have since moved north & have grown to love it. My friends still do not watch. Fighting has nothing to do with it. Nothing.

  15. hardkor07mn - Mar 2, 2014 at 4:06 PM

    It is amazing how wimpy society has become. If you don’t like it, don’t watch it. Plain and simple. You wouldn’t have the crosbys or St. Louis in the league for more than a week without someone to protect their butts.
    If you take fighting out of hockey then you have to take away checking as well. The smaller more skilled players will get crushed if there is no consequences for their actions.
    By the way, if you don’t like the fighting, don’t EVER turn on a UFC fight either.

    • joey4id - Mar 2, 2014 at 4:10 PM

      BTW, since you like fighting does that mean you didn’t watch the Olympic hockey games. So boring without fights. Especially Canada/USA.

      • nyrnashty - Mar 2, 2014 at 4:25 PM

        Actually that 1-0 game was boring. The 2010 game was good, but not this one. I’m not a fan of NHL players in the Olympics and I hope they’re not there in 2018.

        If you don’t like fighting then don’t watch. The game isn’t going to change for you. Go watch tennis sissy!

      • joey4id - Mar 2, 2014 at 4:37 PM

        nyrnashty, I suppose Yzerman, Shero, Bowman, and Rutherford should no longer work for an NHL team because they clearly dislike fighting. What’s that you said? Oh! They work for and NhL team but are sissys because they don’t like fighting, and they don’t watch the games because they are watching tennis. I see. Time to start watching tennis with my three buds. 😉

  16. hardkor07mn - Mar 2, 2014 at 4:35 PM

    Any bets that Joey is 5 foot nothing 100 pounds and had never played an organized game in his pathetic little life? Or a creep in moms basement?

    • joey4id - Mar 2, 2014 at 4:39 PM

      Incorrect on all counts. blomfeld, pleas get rid of this creep.

      Joey knows hockey. 😉 wanna bet?

    • blomfeld - Mar 2, 2014 at 4:45 PM


  17. bspray - Mar 2, 2014 at 7:21 PM

    I am perfectly fine with hockey’s popularity level exactly where it is.

    Players want fighting in the game to the tune of 98% because players are fans of the sport too, just like us.

  18. provguard - Mar 2, 2014 at 8:48 PM

    When 2 goalies traverse the rink to fight, then I consider fighting to be a problem… I used to go to watch men playing hockey, but after witnessing 2 one-sided fights in the McSorley era I realized that hockey seemed to be amping up the fighting… Haven’t invested a penny since the Gretzky era… If I want fighting I will go to MMA or UFC.

  19. jaythehelmetguy - Mar 3, 2014 at 8:32 PM

    The first hockey game ended in a brawl…Just putting that out there.

  20. bluesdroogie - Mar 3, 2014 at 10:27 PM

    and why would anyone take Yzermans word for anything, He never fought, He had Probert, Konstantinov, Kocur, Chelios, Shanahan, and the rest of the likes defending him.

    Ask Brett Hull how he was able to score so many goals with the Blues, he will say Butcher, Chase, Shanahan, Twist……etc………..

    Let the players police themselves and there will be less severe injuries. No one will be taking runs at Crosby, Malkin, Ovechkin, or the rest of the superstars. Also enforcers help protect the lesser stars then those guys, stars on team without superstars.

Top 10 NHL Player Searches
  1. P. Kessel (1623)
  2. P. Kane (1285)
  3. S. Matthias (1130)
  4. D. Carcillo (1049)
  5. C. Ehrhoff (1022)