Blood on the Ice

Tragedies are forcing the NHL to rethink fighting

John Lent—AP

Rick MacLeish of the Philadelphia Flyers prepares to pound Jerry Butler of the New York Rangers.

In Hockey circles, they're known as tough guys, goons, enforcers. They're sluggers on skates. The job description is simple: You touch one of our talented players, our goal scorers, I pummel your face. Underneath the cocky, growling exterior of some hockey fighters, however, is something surprising: fear. Crippling fear. The kind that can keep you up all night before a game, stomach churning, half-wishing that when you do fall asleep, you don't wake up the next day.

Jim Thomson knew the feeling. A former enforcer, he played for six National Hockey League teams from 1986 to '94 and protected, among others,...

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