THN: The Death of the Goon

THN: The Death of the GoonTHN: The Death of the Goon
Lesedauer: ca. 3 Minuten

Die aktuelle Ausgabe der nordamerikanischen Fachzeitschrift "The Hockey

News" beschäftigt sich unter anderem mit dem Aussterben der sogenannten

"goons" in der NHL.

The Death of the Goon

By Mike Brophy

The pair traded punches blow for blow, eventually got tired, gave the

linesmen the signal to separate them and then rather politely headed to

their home away from home, the penalty box. It was one of those tilts

without a clear winner that prompts the uneducated – particularly those

who have never exchanged knuckles while trying to balance themselves on

skates – to suggest NHL fights are as phony as the choreographed

theatrics in professional wrestling. Of course that is pure bunk, but

when Belak gives McGrattan a little wink after they have settled

themselves in the penalty box, well, you can see why some observers

suggest that fights are staged.

And it was one of those fights you are seeing fewer and fewer of with

each passing year. Fighting in the NHL is on the decline, down 41 per

cent last season from 2003-04, the year before the lockout. In fact,

there was only 0.75 fighting majors per game called last season

compared to 1.27 in 2003-04.

The NHL still has a handful of goons, but they are rapidly becoming

extinct. In fact, McGrattan, who led the NHL with 19 fights as a rookie

last season, spent the off-season working out with talented teammate

Jason Spezza in an attempt to raise his skill level. McGrattan says he

is very aware of the direction the NHL game is heading and does not

want to be left behind in the dust.

“I’ll be the first to admit fighters are a dying breed and to play in

the NHL today, you have to be able to play a regular shift,” says the

6-foot-5, 238-pound McGrattan, who led the AHL in penalty minutes two

years ago with 551.

“You have to be able to bring more to the table than just fighting. The

guys who play just two shifts a night and do nothing more than fight

will fade away.”

McGrattan, who averaged just over four minutes per game last season,

skated 10 shifts for 7:32 in Game 2 against Toronto. His goal is to

average between six and eight minutes per game, but adds: “I’ll still

get my 20 fights because I’m going to be running the other team’s best

players. When you do that you have to expect their players to come

after you.”

The game is changing. Players who no longer wish to fight, don’t fight.

In the 1970s and ’80s, when bench-clearing brawls were a regular

occurrence in the NHL, you didn’t dare turn down an invitation to drop

the gloves.

“If you did, you got a reputation that quickly spread around the league

that you could be intimidated,” says Dave ‘The Hammer’ Schultz, a key

member of Philadelphia’s Broad Street Bullies who led the NHL in

penalty minutes four times and completed a 535-game big-league career

with 2,294 penalty minutes. “Once you got that type of a reputation,

guys would be after you all the time.”

How mean were Schultz’s Flyers? Former Maple Leafs

defenseman-turned-sports broadcaster Jim McKenny used to joke when he

and his teammates were walking toward the old Philadelphia Spectrum,

that you could look back to see the team bus still shaking. NHL

vice-president in charge of hockey operations, Colin Campbell,

accumulated 1,292 penalty minutes during an 11-year NHL career. He

recalls playing the Flyers at the Spectrum where many of his teammates

came down with the ‘Philadelphia Flu’ and were unable to dress.

“I always knew I’d be getting lots of ice time in those games,” Campbell says.

Nowadays, though, some teams don’t even bother carrying a designated

fighter. The Stanley Cup-champion Carolina Hurricanes, for example,

played all last season without one. Same with Detroit, Montreal,

Nashville, New Jersey and Washington. The Rangers did not have one

player exceed 100 penalty minutes, which is almost unheard of, although

they did dress one-dimensional fighter Colton Orr for 15 of the 35

games he played last season. (He also played 20 for the Bruins.)

To read the rest of this story and other great features from the world of

hockey, you can buy this issue

or subscribe at

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