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The future of the “hockey fighter” in question

By Shelden Rogers

A few years ago, Ryan Regnier’s fists were enough to ensure his spot on a hockey team. In today’s game, he seems to need more than that.

The role of fighters in hockey is once again in question, after the October 1 fight between George Parros of the Montreal Canadians, and Colton Orr of the Toronto Maple Leafs. Parros suffered a concussion after falling to the ice. He hasn’t played since.

Regnier has been playing hockey since he was eight years old. He got in his first hockey fight when he was 14. He has loved fighting ever since.

“When the mitts come off, it’s a thrill. The adrenaline starts pumping and you just focus on the other guy. I can’t even explain how I feel. After the fight the adrenaline is still pumping, I feel like I’m a million dollar man,” said Regnier.

Regnier has played on a few junior hockey clubs, including some time with the Picton Pirates. He said in his hockey career he has been in more than 15 fights.

He is afraid fighting will be eliminated from the sport.

“I’m there to fight, so if they took fighting out of the game then my job would be gone pretty much,” he said.

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BELLEVILLE- Ryan Regnier demonstrates his standard fighting stance for hockey. Photo By Riley Maracle

Ryan Woodward, head coach of the Picton Pirates, said teams need more than just a guy that plays with his fists.

“Depth is so important that for the guys that enjoy playing that role, they have to give you high quality shifts. I don’t need a guy that is just going to fight, and put on a show for fans,” said Woodward.

Woodward said the game has changed, and players need to be able to do it all.

“Times have changed, the game has changed. It’s more of a skill game, it’s a fast game. So you can’t just have players on your roster that can’t give you some quality shifts, you can’t have guys that just fight,” he said.

He said he never sends a player out to fight, but when it does happen, he can feel the emotion from his team and the impact it has on the game.

“We had some times last year during our playoff run, where we had some players answer the bell and rally the guys. They came out and had a hard shift and ended up dropping the gloves. There is a sense of momentum, it wakes up the team,” he said.

Woodward said that if you’re going to tell guys to go out and fight, you won’t last very long as a coach. He said that players can judge themselves when the right time is to fight.

Regnier too, is starting to see the game change. He said a fighter like him is very expendable, that if he could go back in time he would change the way he plays the game.

“If I could go back I would be a goal scorer. Goal scoring has its upsides and downsides. Obviously if you’re a goal scorer, you’re going to play a lot more than the fighter,” said Regnier.

TSN analyst Dave Naylor thinks that with all of the changes happening to the game, there is no place for fighting.

He said nobody grows up wanting to be an enforcer.

“They dream of being hockey players, and what they find out is that when they’re not gifted like the best players in the game are, or they can’t play defense the way the best defense men of the game are. They say well how can I survive, and what can I do in this sport that other guys aren’t willing to do,” said Naylor.

He said Canada needs to question its support for fighting in junior hockey.

“I know a culture where they sell tickets to watch sixteen year olds bare-knuckle fight. It’s ours,” he said.

Naylor said that fighting could be eliminated tomorrow, if leagues installed harsher consequences. However, he said it is going to take something tragic to take fighting out of the game for good.

“The sad thing is, it would probably take a death on the ice to get fighting out of hockey. That’s the one thing that could change it,” he said.