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Probert Injuries Could Spur Talk of Hockey Fight Ban

By Chuck Sudo in News on Mar 4, 2011 4:35PM

The brain of former Blackhawks and Red Wings enforcer Bob Probert showed signs of chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE), Boston University researchers revealed Wednesday. Probert, who died of a heart attack at the age of 45 last summer, was worshipped in some hockey circles for his fights and his toughness.

The news of Probert's CTE comes at a time when pro and college athletics are beginning to take a second look at the long-term effects of head traumas suffered by players during their careers. For the NHL, the timing of the release is particularly disturbing as Pittsburgh Penguins star Sidney Crosby — the marquee player in the league — still recovers from post-concussion syndrome.

The NHL is trying to balance the physical nature of the game with the safety of its players, so it would seem to make sense to consider placing a ban on fighting during games and bring the game in line with the more open style of international and Olympic competition, where skilled players like Crosby and the Blackhawks' Goofus and Gallant team of Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews would excel. But Hawks enforcer John Scott told the Tribune that banning fights would only lead to an increase on the hard incidental contact players already engage in.

"If you eliminate fighting, guys are just going to go around hitting people with no regard for what's going to happen to them," said John Scott, who, like Probert before him, is the Hawks' primary enforcer. "If you take fighting out, there will be guys running people, taking head shots, using their sticks. It's just going to increase the amount of concussions."

Other players interviewed by the Tribune, including former Blackhawk Adam Burish, indicated changing the culture to remove fighting would be a tough row to hoe.