UPDATE: Shelley has been suspended for two games by the NHL.EARLIER: As the third period was winding down in last night’s lopsided 6-2 victory for the Vancouver Canucks over the Philadelphia Flyers, players gathered in a scrum to the right of Canucks goalie Roberto Luongo. Flyers tough guy Jody Shelley began wildly flailing his fists without a clear dance partner, and ended up swinging over the top of Alexandre Bolduc and sucker punching Andrew Alberts square in the face. Alberts immediately dropped to the ice and had to be helped by the Canucks medical staff.
Whether you support fighting in hockey or not, you know that incidents like this have no place in the game. But they are very difficult for the NHL to prevent.
Hockey fights are supposed to have some form of etiquette, as both players are supposed to drop their gloves and get into their stances before they begin pounding away on each other. The fight is supposed to end either when one player indicates that he can no longer continue, when the referees interfere, or when the players fall to the ice.
The problem is that fighting etiquette seems to have gone out the window this year. Pugilists have begun punching their opponent’s before they’re prepared, dirty players have been throwing haymakers even after the referees have tried to separate the combatants, and some guys have even continued hitting their partners after they’ve fallen to the ice.
This has been a growing epidemic in hockey, and with it so out of control, there’s no way the NHL can prevent incidents from happening in a completely disorganized scrum like last night’s, which can be far more chaotic than a one-on-one fight.
The league will likely slap Shelley with a fine, and maybe even a suspension, but neither punishment seems to have much effect in sports these days. Alberts appears to be OK, but it may take a serious injury for order to return to fighting in professional hockey.
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