The NHL’s senior vice president of hockey operations, Kris King, who also had more than 2,000 penalty minutes as a player, gives his thoughts on fighting:
WHAT WOULD THE NHL LOOK LIKE WITHOUT FIGHTING?
It's funny because having done a lot of it when I played and prior to that and getting to this level, hoping that [fighting] would open doors for me and I would be able to stop for a guy who didn't like doing it, 179 pro fights later, I don't know. Not to dodge the question, but I don't know what hockey would look like.
I can't remember one of those [fights] where I really was looking forward to doing it. It's different today, our players are bigger, they're stronger. There's some guys that do it better than some of us did it. I always remember fighting because there was a real reason for it. I don't know what it would be like. I know what it did in the game when I played, that's a while ago, 2001 when I retired. You're going from the late '80s, all through the '90s is a little bit different. The rules have changed in fighting. I don't think it's as big a problem as some people make it out to be. I think our numbers are coming down and the numbers prove that. It's just different athletes doing the same job. I honestly don't know what the game would be like. I've been through rule changes that have changed our games in positive ways. This is just a big unknown. It would be one of the things we'd have to see to be like, it would sure be hard to pull it back if we didn't like that game.
I respect all the players' opinions. I know their opinion is a lot more valuable and holds a lot more water than mine because they're playing today's game. When we polled out fighting in the late '90s and 2000s, I would have had a stronger opinion. I think fighting was a bigger part then, I could personally make a comment then because I was a bigger part of it than just being in the league office.
IF THERE'S NO FIGHTING, WOULD MORE ONUS FALL ON THE LEAGUE TO POLICE THE GAME?
I think the rules have, over a matter of time, done that. Just theoretically. If somehow rules took fighting out of the game, the rules would have to be pretty clear, black and white and clear cut that it would be a deterrent to stop it. The league and the GMs and the owners would have to have hard-and-fast rules that would not allow players to make that decision. Now, they have a decision.