Mike Milbury, who participated in 70 fights as a player, generated quite a bit of attention last week on NBCSN by strongly advocating that fighting needs to be eliminated in the NHL.
NBCSN will revisit his statements during the first intermission of Wednesday’s Boston-Detroit game. Milbury and hockey insider Bob McKenzie will examine the issue.
Milbury expanded on his anti-fighting views in an interview with Tom Hoffarth of the Los Angeles Daily News.
Q: What prompted you to take a stand on anti-fighting in the NHL at this point, even as there have been writers and others in the league perhaps saying this for some time now?
A: It’s been evolving. From time to time, I’ve had the conversation with my old boss (Hockey Hall of Famer and Boston Bruins president and GM) Harry Sinden, and I think we both have agreed that it’s not a necessary part of the game.
You hear a lot of comments about how fighting is a way of policing the game – which I’ve described in the past as logical hogwash. I think maybe many do enjoy the spontaneity of a fight as a way of getting immediate justice. But slowly and surely, it’s been eliminated as a tactic. Back when the big, bad Flyers won (the Broad Street Bullies of the early 1970s), intimidating teams physically with their fighting, the league took steps appropriately to curb that. And since that time it’s been slowly diminishing. The recent difficulty of the enforcer to find work in the league has emphasized that. And the overwhelming scare about concussions in our sport, and in sports in general, makes it a logical conclusion that if the behavior can be modified to protect against concussions, then we should absolutely find a way.
Q: And you can speak first-hand about how fighting can affect one’s health after the game?
A: In my era, we signed up for broken bones, bad knees and lacerations of any type. I don’t think any of us were really signing up to be mentally incapacitated in some form or another for the rest of our lives.
I’ve experienced it enough fighting myself. I’ve been TKO’d before and missed games because I’ve been dizzy, lost in space, tired. I just can’t imagine that being somebody’s condition for most of the days of the rest of their lives. I mean, I’ve been out as a player since 1987 and fortunately haven’t had any issues – although some may disagree (laughing). I’ve just had foot surgery. Knee replacement. Several operations on my other knee. Back surgery. I’m an orthopedic mess. The fact I can still count and put a sentence together, sure, I feel fortunate. No one was worried about all that when we played. We saw the older players hobble around, but we were chasing the dream, chasing glory and we felt it was worth that price. But I’m an old guy now. I have a little more perspective.