The solution? The league ought to consider these changes:
?Dress fewer players. Torrey suggests going back to the days when teams were allowed to dress only 16 skaters a game, plus two goalies. That's three lines and three sets of defensemen, plus an extra forward who can be used for penalty killing or to replace an injured player. A team doesn't need more than that for a 60-minute game. The 18 skaters that a coach is allowed to dress today guarantee the presence of specialists who too often are goons whose job it is to fight and create mayhem. "You can have all the laws you want," says Torrey, "but if you want to clean up the streets, you have to get the criminals off. We've got the same problems in our game. We've got to dress fewer of these so-called criminals."
?Automatic ejection from the game of any player who fights. With only 16 skaters, teams could not afford the constant brawling that afflicts the game today. The players themselves would probably support such a fighting ban. "In 1974-75 the Players Association recommended that for one year we try a rule that if you throw a punch, you're out of the game," says Eagleson, who plans to distribute a questionnaire to current players to gauge their attitude on that subject. "The owners dismissed it out of hand. They keep talking about outlets for frustration."
We've heard that one before: Without fighting, the players would resort to using their sticks. That's a great argument, given the harrowing stick fouls of this season, which have been accompanied by an increase in fighting. No, some hockey executives still think fighting promotes the game. "We believe in fighting," said Flyer president Jay Snider last year, speaking of his own organization. "It's an exciting part of the sport, and I don't think the league should sit on the fence about it. Just the threat of a fight can be exciting when the big guys are out there—your tough guys and theirs."
?Forbid teams from replacing suspended players for the duration of the suspension. An 18-skater roster would be reduced to 17. A 16-player roster would be reduced to 15. You don't think this would reduce the number of "unintentional" stick fouls?
Until these measures—or similar ones—are adopted, try recommendation No. 4: Watch basketball. Or if horror films are your taste, try A Nightmare on Elm Street 4. The tickets are cheaper than they are to an NHL game, even if the blood isn't quite as real.