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While the debate over headshots has dominated the airwaves and headlines in the past year, NHL players seem to have little interest in eliminating fighting from the game according to the players who responded to a recent poll conducted by Hockey Night in Canada and the National Hockey League Players' Association.

When asked if fighting should be completely banished from the NHL, slightly less than 98 per cent answered "no".

While many hockey commentators have posited that the players would have more respect for each other on the ice if the instigator rule was abolished, it's not a view shared by most of those who answered the poll.

When asked if the instigator rule should be abolished, 66 per cent of the 318 players who responded said no.

Players from the 30 NHL teams were asked a series of questions to solicit their opinions on players, coaches, teams, cities, and some of the pressing issues in hockey.

Leading players

Pavel Datsyuk of the Detroit Red Wings was named in the most categories, 10, with Sidney Crosby of the Pittsburgh Penguins being mentioned in nine. But Crosby received more than 50 votes in seven of those categories, while in five of the categories Datsyuk is mentioned the Russian received fewer than 10 votes.

Crosby finished atop the voting in five categories — the smartest, the toughest forward to play against, the toughest player overall to face, the best role model, and top player to start a franchise with. Datsyuk got the nod as the cleanest player and the toughest to take the puck from.

Marian Gaborik and Zdeno Chara also were picked as leaders in two categories. Gaborik was judged the best and fastest skater, while Chara was picked for hardest shot and as the toughest defenceman to play against.

Venerable Detroit defenceman Nicklas Lidstrom placed in nine categories, while Alexander Ovechkin received votes in eight, including the pick of goaltenders as the toughest skater to face.

Steve Stamkos of Tampa Bay Lightning is an emerging star, but perhaps still under the radar a bit. Stamkos got votes in seven categories but never received more than 15 votes in any of them (He got 15 for a distant second place to Crosby in "player to start a franchise with" polling).

Leading cities

Edmonton and Montreal were ranked 1-2 in terms of having the best ice, while the Bell Centre in Montreal was deemed the favourite rink of more players than any other. However, the same venue ranked only ahead of Detroit in terms of having the worst boards in the league, according to the players.

The top two teams players would most like to suit up for were in the U.S. (Detroit and Chicago), with Vancouver third. Toronto barely cracked the Top 10, coming in at number nine.  The Phoenix Coyotes came in tenth.

Edmonton ranked only better than the New York Islanders as the least desirable team.

Quebec City was considered the Canadian city most deserving of an NHL franchise, followed by Winnipeg, and a second team for Toronto.

You can find links to all of the questions and results at

Questions for the poll were written by Hockey Night in Canada and the National Hockey League Players' Association (NHLPA).  The questions were circulated to players by the NHLPA.  The responses were compiled by staff members of the NHLPA and forwarded to Hockey Night in Canada.  318 players responded to the questionnaire.