Sharks Have Take a Bite Out of Opponents

Clyde Lemieux figures he hadn't been in a fight on the ice in eight years before going at it last night  with Edmonton's Theo Peckham. But in that 4-2 win over the Oilers, Lemieux threw roundhouses and accumulated penalty minutes like it was 1992 all over again. And that snippy Sharks squad decked a three-game losing streak and maintained a three-point Western Conference lead.

Despite Lemieux's reputation, and the "Jerry Springer Show"-guest punchout mentality he brings to The Tank, the Sharks aren't much of a fighting team. They've attained the conference lead and the second-best record in hockey with a combination of power offense, magnificent goaltending, and not much time in the penalty box.

The league itself seems to be going the opposite direction. A player was killed fighting this year in the Ontario League. The excecutive director of the NHL Players' Association even came out and said fights should be legal, as long as combatants keep their helmets on.

The underlying philosophy here, and many hockey fans would surely agree, is that fighting is an integral part of this game called hockey and should not be deterred. It's been a violent game forever. But geez, aren't there kids watching? Kids surely notice the positive reinforcement of the crowd going bananas over vicious, uncalled-for, no-glove punches to the opposing fellow's jaw. Isn't all the body-blowing and hard-checking providing adequate mayhem in this game?

The Sharks host the L.A. Kings Thursday, then Atlanta Saturday, and then clear the HP Pavilion to make room for "High School Musical: The Ice Tour".  If that doesn't unleash unreasonable violence on the ice, nothing will.

Joe Kukura is a freelance writer with a "Jerry Springer Show"-guest punchout mentality.

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