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From The New York Times: Efforts to outlaw fighting in hockey go back decades. But though the number of fights in the N.H.L. has dropped significantly in recent years, fighting persists, preserved by the idea that it is a deterrent against cheap shots, a safety valve against more serious mayhem and something that fans like to watch.

This core belief in the value of fighting may prevent the league’s general managers, when they meet this month in Florida, from reacting decisively to the latest research findings, including the determination announced Wednesday that the longtime enforcer Bob Probert had chronic traumatic encephalopathy, a degenerative disease of brain tissue associated with repeated concussions.

Probert, who retired in 2002 after a 16-year career with the Detroit Red Wings and the Chicago Blackhawks, died last year at 45.

At least three N.H.L. players have sustained concussions this season as a result of fighting, and Commissioner Gary Bettman has acknowledged that concussions from fighting are one reason for a slight uptick in reported brain injuries this year over years past.


Dr. Michael Stuart of the Mayo Clinic, the chief medical officer for USA Hockey and an expert on head trauma, said he was not surprised that fighting carries an increased risk of concussion.

“You’re punching each other in the face,” Stuart said. “The objective of boxing is to cause traumatic brain injury — to knock your opponent out. So when big, powerful people fight on skates, it’s not unexpected that somebody may sustain a concussion.”

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