Fighting Confidential

Players weigh in on deaths, proposed ban and NHL's most-feared fighters

Originally Published: December 2, 2011
By Lindsay Berra, Craig Custance, Doug McIntyre | ESPN Insider
FightAP Photo/Jason FransonFighting's place in the modern NHL has been hotly debated in recent months.

For the past several weeks, Insider's NHL reporters have been sweeping through the league's locker rooms and polling current players on one of the season's hot-button issues: the future of fighting in the NHL. The following are the results of our 20-player panel composed of skaters in the Eastern and Western conferences, North Americans, Europeans, enforcers, All-Stars and those in between. In exchange for their honest opinions, we offered anonymity. The result is an examination of fighting from those on the NHL's front lines.

Do you consider yourself an enforcer?

Six members of our panel identified with the term given to those who drop the mitts on a regular basis. The question was asked in part to help identify the viewpoints of the various factions involved with the issue (as Insider Craig Custance recently detailed for ESPN The Magazine). Interestingly, their opinions often diverged except in questions on which all players polled seemed to be of a similar mind.

Would you be in the NHL if fighting were banned by the league?

Of the total players polled, 70 percent said they'd stick based on their skill with their gloves still on, including three of our six enforcers. Only one player, an enforcer, said he was certain to be out of a job. Three more (including two enforcers) expressed doubt about their future employment.

"Yeah -- at least I hope I would," says one player who identified as an enforcer. "I'm not just a fighter. I'm not sure some other guys would be here, though."

Who is the most-feared fighter in the NHL now?

Pittsburgh Penguins pugilist Steve MacIntyre earned the clear nod, with 50 percent of the vote. Fortunately for his foes, he's on the IR with an undisclosed injury. Other players receiving multiple votes: Anaheim Ducks enforcer George Parros and Brian McGrattan of the Nashville Predators. At least one man trembles at the sight of the Leafs' Colton Orr and Eric Godard (currently down with the AHL's Texas Stars) with their dukes up.

Said one brawler who has locked up with Zdeno Chara and Paul Bissonnette, among others: "I think it's Colton Orr now, but we lost the most-feared guy this summer -- Derek Boogaard."

[+] EnlargeSteve MacIntyre and Derek Boogaard
Paul Bereswill/Getty ImagesAfter Derek Boogaard's death this summer, the title of most-feared fighter seems to have passed to Steve MacIntyre, now of the Pittsburgh Penguins.

If you could fight anyone in the NHL, who would it be?