Milbury and McGuire Get Serious With Fighting on NBC

In a week of chaos, confusion, punches thrown and injured players taunted, we saw maybe the most unlikely thing of all to wrap it up: a reasonable discussion on fighting between Mike Milbury and Pierre McGuire during the first intermission of NBC’s broadcast of a surprisingly exciting Boston-Detroit telecast on the network Sunday afternoon.

I’ve been a frequent critic of the antics between the two as of late, with the yelling and the forced debate and all the nonsense, however, on Sunday both men were cool, composed, and – while clearly conflicted in Milbury’s case – very clear about how they feel. I think Milbury spoke largely to a lot of fans feeling about fighting:

“We have fighting in this game, not because of the logical hogwash that says players need to have it to police the game, that’s just hogwash, we have it because we like it. We like fighting. We like it when a player gets hit and knocked down and his teammate comes and gets immediate retribution with a punch to the nose. We like it when a player gets hit, gets up himself and goes toe to toe with somebody. And we love it, we love it when teams stand up for themselves and be counted, and don’t let the other teams push them around. That’s part of the game that we like because we accept it as part of the game.

“However, if you cross these lines, if you do things like sucker punch, if you go too far with a player who was in a compromising position, or with a non-fighter, that’s unacceptable. But the rest of it is. It’s a sidelight to the game. It’s a fun part of the game, if you like that part of it. There are lines that you cross and they crossed them on Friday.”

The sense of conflict is what a lot of passionate hockey fans feel, including myself at times. Yeah, it’s fun to watch two men try and beat each other up and defend each other and whatnot, but it’s embarrassing when something like that escalates into chaos and circus-like atmospheres. We like the physical play, but at what cost are we allowing it to happen?

McGuire was a little bit more critical and specific in his words:

“What happened on Friday wasn’t about fighting. This was premeditated predatory behavior. That’s why the league ruled as harshly and as quickly as they did. They did the right thing. Case in point, Trevor Gillies, who was in that game, had six shifts for an average of 16 seconds per shift. That speaks to the premeditation. This is not about fighting in that situation. This is about an organization, the New York Islanders, that wanted to get their pound of flesh from the Pittsburgh Penguins. I’ll tell you one thing, the guy who was very lucky: Matt Martin. If Matt Martin hits Maxime Talbot in the neutral zone, that’s his Todd Bertuzzi moment. We do not want to go down that road again.”

What followed was a fairly decent discussion of how you draw the line between promoting physical play and outright thuggery when attempting to build a Stanley Cup contender, and then what to actually do as far as solutions to the problem. Milbury suggested suspensions for those who have multiple fights, while McGuire suggested dropping the number of roster players a team can carry from 18 skaters to 17. Credit goes to McHugh, for doing a solid job moderating the discussion. Credit should also be given to Milbury and McGuire, who realized that while they had to tone down the volume, they didn’t have to tone down their messages.


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5 Responses to Milbury and McGuire Get Serious With Fighting on NBC

  1. Arthur says:

    Finally, a debate between those two that was worth a little bit of a listen. But of course Milbury dropped the ball in one instance. I, for one, can’t stand the fact that Player A can’t throw a good hit on opposing Player X without someone from Player X’s team “gets immediate retribution with a punch to the nose.” Why must there be a silly scrap EVERY time there is a big hit?
    I’ll take Pierre’s thought a bit further. Reduce roster sizes to 15 and 2. Get rid of the clowns skating 1:45 per game and bringing nothing to it. 3 Lines and 3 sets of D. Of course the NHLPA will never go for it, but they sure won’t contract 4-6 teams at this point so the clowns will have jobs in this league for some time to come.

    • stevelepore says:

      It also benefits because it keeps the superstars out there a little bit more often.

      • nosferatu says:

        God forbid, I actually agree more with Milbury in this case. Go with the suspension for so many fights, other strict measures, instead of shortening the bench at all times. Teams should be rewarded for depth; plus, with injuries, there would be times when you’d basically have two lines rotating back and forth on the ice. Having guys play more minutes, superstars or not, leads to worse play, not better.

    • Jens says:

      I totally agree. Big CLEAN hits happen and are a part of the game. If your teammate has his head down and gets drilled, that is his fault!

  2. I honestly think a key is having McHugh in there as a real “host” because Pierre is an analyst, not a host no matter what NBC says. Pierre and Milbury have had good discussions in the past working on the TSN panel. I also like Milbury when he works with Kelly Hrudey on CBC and Keith Jones on NBC. I think that NBC fixed the one main problem with their NHL coverage by bring McHugh in.

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