Netcrashing: 'Do you want your team's star players to fight?'

Jamie Bell, Staff

11/4/2010 5:38:09 PM

Despite being held scoreless on Wednesday, Pittsburgh Penguins superstar Sidney Crosby still achieved the rare feat of getting NHL hockey on sports highlight shows south of the border.

He did it by dropping the gloves and pummeling Dallas Stars' defenceman Matt Niskanen.

According to - who make it their business to know such things - it was the fifth scrap of Sid the Kid's NHL career and only the third career tilt for Niskanen.

While Crosby may have won the battle, it was the Stars who won the war as they skated away with a 5-2 decision. According to TSN's intrepid stats guru, the Pens have a 1-4 record when Crosby tosses the mitts.  Also, Crosby has only collected points in one game in which he has thrown down - a one goal, two assist performance against the Boston Bruins in 2007 when he went toe-to-toe with Andrew Ferrence for his lone Gordie Howe Hat Trick.

If the Penguins are so bad in games that Crosby picks up a fighting major, then the question that presents itself is this: 'What's the point of Crosby fighting?'

Pittsburgh was trailing 4-1 in the second period when Crosby took it upon himself to exchange fisticuffs with Niskanen. Following the game, the Canadian Olympic hero said that he was looking to even things up after Stars captain Brenden Morrow thumped non-fighter Kris Letang moments earlier. Others viewed the fracas as the Penguins captain attempting to give a lifeless squad a bit of a spark.

"You've got to give credit to Sidney trying to inspire his group," Stars coach Marc Crawford told reporters afterward. 

That was a sentiment that former Edmonton Oilers' coach and veteran of 38 career NHL fights, Craig MacTavish supported.

"At times there is reason for the captain and leader of your team to make a physical stand and obviously this was it for Sidney Crosby," MacTavish stated on the Wednesday night as part of the NHL on TSN panel.  "Any leader that has that ability to stand up physically, it really adds a dimension to his leadership."

TSN Hockey Insider Bob McKenzie disagreed with that assessment.

"Some people will say that it's leadership, that he was trying to spur his team on to something greater," McKenzie countered.  "I think it was because that he was minus-2 on the night.  The Pens don't have a lot going right now and Crosby is not blessed with great goal scoring wingers and he's not racking up points.  I think it was frustration."

While you can debate Crosby's intent, what cannot be argued is that when a marquee talent decides it's time to fight that it makes for compelling viewing. 

During Game 3 of the 2004 Stanley Cup Final - with the series tied at a game apiece - Jarome Iginla and Vincent Lecavalier brought fans out of their seats as they decided to face off with fists at centre ice. In this case, you had two captains (and extremely large physical specimens) throwing down and dropping bombs on each other. While the Flames would go on to win that game 3-0, the Lightning would claim the ultimate goal by earning the lone Stanley Cup title in franchise history by taking the series in seven games. No one was injured during the tilt and both parties handled themselves adequately.

On the flip side, we present the amusing case of Washington Capitals sniper Alexander Semin's lone career bout. After being roughed up by Rangers defenceman Marc Staal, Semin responded with what appeared to be a series of open handed slaps to the back of the head of the Blueshirts' blueliner. While the performance may not have inspired teammates to victory (the Caps were already up 2-1 when Semin threw down) he was able to inspire a legion of would-be comedians to come up with their favourite bongo-related jokes to describe Semin's particular brand of pugilism.

Outside the embarrassment of a star player potentially getting their heads handed to them in a tilt, the biggest concern that presents itself when a superstar scraps is the very real possibility of injury.

With the Oilers struggling through one of the worst seasons in franchise history last year, All-Star defenceman Sheldon Souray attempted to rally the troops by lining up against Iginla in a game his Oilers were trailing 5-1.  During the fight, Souray suffered a broken hand and did not take another shift that year.  Did the Oilers gain anything with the fight?  No.  Not only did Edmonton lose the game, they lost one of their most valuable players for the remainder of the season sending the team into a further downward spiral. 

While an argument can be made that fighting should be outlawed from the NHL completely, that remains a discussion for another day.  Our question for you in the latest edition of Netcrashing is the following: 'As a fan, do you ever want to see your team's star player drop the gloves?'

Let your opinions be known in our 'Your Call' feature below.