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NHL To Allow Brass Knuckles During Fights
NEW YORK (CAP) - Altering a long held custom of the sport, National Hockey League commissioner Gary Bettman has announced that the rule regarding in-game fighting between players would be expanded to allow for the use of brass knuckles and "blackjack" style clubs during fights.
"In the NHL official rule book, rule number 46, which deals with the issue of fighting in the sport, will be amended," Bettman said during a news conference held at the NHL's headquarters in New York City. "Article 46.2 of the rule, which defines the roles of instigator and aggressor will be modified to allow the non-instigator of a fight to decide whether or not the combat will involve the aforementioned weapons."
Derek Dorsett, a right wing for the Columbus Blue Jackets and one of the league's most notorious instigators, having earned more than 200 penalty minutes so far this season, was on hand for the announcement.
"I think this is a great rule change," said the ecstatic forward. "Fighting has always been a draw for the fans. But with football getting more violent all the time and things like the UFC getting popular, the fights were losing their luster."
"It used to be, a lot of people would come to the games just to see the fights. Attendance shot up when people realized they could come to the game and see someone laid out," added Ben Eager of the Edmonton Oilers. "Nowadays, they can just turn the TV to Spike or whatever and see guys getting KO'd all day. We sort of lost our footing on that market, I guess."
While it seems likely that the emergence of combat sports and the increasing violence associated with the NHL have much to do with the weakening gate and ratings numbers facing the NHL, it is their hope that the addition of this new element will rekindle some of the interest of hardcore sports fans.
"Some guys in the league can fire the puck more than a 160 kilometers per hour. And in certain situations, it is a player's responsibility to lay his body in front of that puck to prevent a goal," explained Bettman to the media. "I hardly see the difference between a frozen puck flying at you at 100 miles an hour and a pair of brass knuckles."
Eager and Dorsett nodded their heads in enthusiastic agreement with the commissioner as they posed, wielding weapons, for a photo opportunity for the press.
While fighting statistics have long been tracked both by the league and independent sources such as Hockeyfights.net, determining a clear-cut victor of a particular fight has always been a hot button issue.
"When a player's jersey is pulled over his head and he cannot see and then falls to the ice to avoid damage, he is often considered the loser of the fight," explains Thomas Spezza, founder of Hockeyfights.net. "With the addition of this new rule set, we will be able to see clear-cut victories in these fights."
The new rule will debut on Sunday, April 1, when the defending Stanley Cup Champion Boston Bruins take on the Eastern Conference leading New York Rangers in a contest that promises to be memorable. And bloody.
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