No one likes to see a player barely able to stand up on the ice and having no clue where he is after he’s been knocked out in a fight.
That’s unfortunately what happened on Tuesday night when Montreal Canadiens forward Paul Byron accepted to drop the mitts with Florida Panthers’ MacKenzie Weegar. The latter wanted payback as he was still upset about the hit the Habs forward delivered to his head earlier this season. While Byron was suspended three games by the NHL for the hit, Weegar felt it wasn’t enough.
And the famous unwritten fighting code in the NHL took place. Byron felt pressured to accept his invasion to drop the gloves and Weegar landed a huge uppercut to his jaw. As the Florida player checked up on him, one of the linesmen called the Canadiens’ trainer over and escorted Byron off the ice. The poor guy could barely stand up and needed the help of three team members to make it to the dressing room…
He has now been ruled out of the Canadiens’ upcoming trip and will be monitored on a daily basis.
Byron’s agent J.P. Barry was quick to criticize the code on Wednesday:
“This wasn’t a hockey fight,” Barry texted to The Athletic’s Pierre LeBrun. “Paul knew he had to deal with it then or likely later. Paul probably gives up five inches and 50 pounds to a very tough player - how is this the code?”
“Player Safety already gave Paul three games for an improper check and now the ‘code’ gets to give him several more? …
“This exact situation is Exhibit A for re-examining our current rules for fighting. If the fight is patently retribution for something that happened long before this game was ever played, how is that allowed to occur without being addressed?
“These are the people that believe in the old ‘code,’” Barry continued. “It’s time for Player Safety to be the new ‘code.’ What really matters is eliminating avoidable concussions wherever we can.”
This got insiders thinking about the code and how it should be terminated on the air of TSN later that night.
“The code is basically expected behaviour and consequences to behaviours, and I think that has been changing and it should change, cause I guess the code was written when - the 50’s, the 60’s? I don’t know, but life is a lot different now so it is continuously evolving and it should change,” commented Mike Johnson on 7-Eleven That’s Hockey on TSN.
“Would anyone else complain about the code if Paul Byron hadn’t been hit like that? asked Craig Button during the debate.
A question many fans might be asking themselves. Johnson ended with this, while Gino Reda went back to Barry’s comments about today’s reality:
“That’s part of the problem. It’s that the other guy, who is clearly a much smaller and who doesn’t fight as often as MacKenzie Weegar does is willing to put himself on the line to respect some unwritten unsure-of code and put himself in harm’s way. I think we have to change that perspective,” added Johnson.
We will have to see how players react to this and if they will continue to respect this unwritten fighting code. The younger generation coming up in the NHL, who is a lot more aware of the dangers of head traumas and concussions, might start to change this code and make up a new one…
What would you say to that?