“I think as the game goes on, there’s not going to be any fighting,” Trotz told reporters. “I think the game is getting more and more — it’s just getting faster. And it’s getting harder to play just a one-dimensional player. So I think [fighting’s] eventually going to get almost phased out.”
Trotz did acknowledge one of the arguments long given in favor of fights: that it helps players enforce player-safety concerns.
“You need a little bit of that, I think,” he said. “What happens naturally if there’s none, then you’re going to get a little more stick work. But I think it’s just naturally less and less. And at some point, I could envision that if you get X amount of fighting majors, then you will get suspended. That’s probably where I see our game going.”
At the all-star break, in fact, NHL fighting is at its lowest level in more than 15 years, leading to obituaries this season that have been both celebratory and wistful. You might expect a hockey lifer like Trotz to take a more traditionalist view, which he at least hinted at over the weekend.
“I think it’s probably still going to be in our game for a while,” he said, “but it’s less and less. And it does police itself a little bit in a sense of keeping the sticks down and what have you, but I could see us going X amount of fights and then you get a one-game suspension or something like that. I think that’s where it’s going.”
Which all reminded me of something else Trotz said during the one or two or 734 interviews he gave over the weekend. (Trotz’s scheduled 20-minute visit to the all-star media center wound up lasting around three hours.) A reporter asked the 53-year-old coach about Evgeny Kuznetsov’s apparent embrace of the entertainment aspect of pro sports, and the coach then started talking about Cam Newton. It got kind of serious.
“Lately I’ve been hearing the Cam Newton stuff,” Trotz said. “Everybody talks about it. But he’s entertaining. He’s entertaining. When [he’s] scoring touchdowns [against your team], you’re not happy. But as a fan, if you’re just watching — we have to sell the game, we have to sell personality. At first when P.K. Subban came into the National Hockey League, I wasn’t quite sure about him, but I’m a big P.K. fan. I think he brings a lot of things — personality — to the game. He brings a lot of different things to the game, and I think that’s good for the game.
“So I’m listening to what everybody thinks about Cam Newton and all that: I think that’s the modern athlete,” Trotz said. “That’s one thing I try to pride myself in is trying to stay current: what’s current with this generation. That might have not been kosher in my generation, but in a new generation it’s probably kosher to do that. And it’s entertaining, and so have at it. But you’ve got to back it up. And that’s why I think some of the stuff that Cam is doing, and allowing the players to show their personality, is a great thing.
“Ovi shows his personality,” Trotz said, referring to Alex Ovechkin. “P.K. does. Kuzy will. There’s a lot of guys with great stories and great personalities in this league, and why hide it? Why go and keep it regular? It’s boring. But don’t do it for attention. Do it for the right reasons. I mean, we’re very blessed to do what we do. You see the generosity of a guy like P.K. in Montreal with the children’s hospital there. That’s fantastic. So I applaud any athlete that will be out there. The danger all the time is that the media wants you to be yourself, and then you’re yourself, and one of the media members will take it the wrong way, and then the next time you’re not going to get that. So if you want personalities — I know you have to sell words and viewership and all that — but any time you want a player to be themselves, don’t carve em up, that’s for sure.”
That’s kind of far afield from the future of fighting. But it sure won’t cost Trotz any points among the people who appreciate both the decline of fighting and the rise of Cam Newton.