Canucks' Linden: fighting has been 'coached in' to hockey culture, blames 'Coach's Corner influence'
As a player, Vancouver Canucks president Trevor Linden loved to throw the body. Just ask Jeff Norton.
Though he played a tough, physical brand of two-way hockey and played through pain in the postseason ("you know he'll play, he'll play on crutches if he has too"), Linden wasn't a pugilist. According to his hockeyfights.com "fight card", he never dropped the gloves more than four times in a season.
Here's a typical Linden fight from his playing days. Linden creams a player (in this case Stephane Yelle) with a legal hit and then gets jumped and pummeled a bit while he's prone on the ice:
Perhaps it should comes as no surprise that Linden isn't the most vocal proponent of hockey's tradition of mid-game fisticuffs.
On Tuesday afternoon, Linden co-hosted the mid-day show on Team 1040 sports talk radio in Vancouver for two hours alongside regular host Matt Sekeres. During the show, Linden was asked about his stance on fighting in hockey and responded thoughtfully and at length. Here's are his comments via Dimitri Filipovic of canucksarmy.com (full disclosure, I am a contributor at canucksarmy.com):
I think that our game is such a great one. It's built around speed, and skill, and hard-hitting, not unlike the NFL.
Can you imagine an NFL game where a linebacker puts a good lick on a running back and the linemen get in there and drop their helmets and start bareknuckle punching each other in the face. It seems rather odd. And you can see why there are some fans in the States that have a tough time with that. They say 'I watch the NFL on Sundays and they hit hard, play hard, and pop up after hits and run back in the huddle'. That's part of the game.
Hockey has a different culture, of course. I think there are a lot of fans that don't care for the needless fighting. The staged "I'm supposed to fight, you're supposed to fight, so let's fight. We're not really mad at each other, but that's our job" type of thing. I tend to agree with (that).
I think the NHL (is) moving forward - whether it be a Steve Yzerman or various others - have come out and had significant stances (against fighting).
I recall this incident when I was playing -- Mattias Ohlund came across and just leveled someone with a great bodycheck, which is a great part of the game that should be celebrated. Next thing you know he's got some guy that can't even skate chasing him around the ice. That isn't right, that's not the way our game is played.
But it's a mentality that has been coached in, talked in - you know, Coach's Corner influence. We see it in the playoffs all the time; extremely hard hitting, and there's no fighting. And I'm not sure that the intended use of fighting - which is to protect our stars - actually works. I think it's something that as we go down the path the NHL is going to have to look at.
It's worth noting that in late-November the colorful host of Coach's Corner, Don Cherry, was listed by name in a complaint filed by former NHL players alleging that the league was negligent and fraudulent in their handling of players who sustained head traumas. Cherry publicly chimed in on the filing, describing the complaint as a "money grab."