The frequent contention by the NHL's top brass that there's a proper place in hockey for fighting has always been a dubious one. Now John Ferguson, the general manager of the Winnipeg Jets and himself a noted tough guy during his playing days, has unwittingly pointed up the ludicrousness of the league's acceptance of brawling by ranking NHL players on the basis of their pugilistic abilities. Though done in all apparent seriousness, Ferguson's rankings, which ran in the Jets' program, read like the heaviest kind of satire. His top 10:
1) Jimmy Mann, Winnipeg Jets. "He's been to the well more than anyone and is willing to fight them all, big or small.... He has terrifically fast hands and a strong knockout punch."
2) Dave Semenko, Edmonton Oilers. "Has very fast hands and good boxing savvy...believes in landing the first big punch...A good inside fighter."
3) Clark Gillies, New York Islanders. "Has the strength to hurt you badly...his one weakness is that he could be a little meaner."
4) Terry O'Reilly, Boston Bruins. "Good balance, and doesn't get knocked down easily."
5) Behn Wilson, Philadelphia Flyers. "Adept at slugging it out...willing to take on the top contenders."
6) Barry Beck, New York Rangers. ."Good with both hands."
7) Nick Fotiu, New York Rangers. "Dependable club fighter."
8) Paul Holmgren, Philadelphia Flyers. "Bobs and weaves well and is good on the inside."
9) Larry Playfair, Buffalo Sabres. "A clutch-and-grab artist. He's tall and tough but his roundhouse style leaves him open for counterpunches."