Hockey players must be honourable: Cherry

Fighting will always be part of hockey but players need to show respect for one another, Hockey Night in Canada personality Don Cherry says in response to the increasing debate over whether it should be banned.

Former NHL head coach says fighting will always be in game, but has to be natural

Don Cherry says fighting will always be part of hockey, but players need to show respect for one another.

The Hockey Night in Canada personality responded to the increasing debate over whether fighting should be banned from the game on Saturday night during his Coach's Corner segment.

"I do not believe in two guys just going out [and fighting] for the sake of getting my team going. It's gotta be natural," Cherry said.

"It'll always be in the game. You're honourable. You do not be a bully. You do not hit smaller players."

Ron MacLean of HNIC said there have been calls of late for automatic game ejections and suspensions for second and third offences as it relates to fighting in the National Hockey League.

The outcry stems from the recent death of a senior hockey league player from Port Perry, Ont.

Don Sanderson, a 21-year-old defenceman for the triple-A Whitby Dunlops of the Ontario Hockey Association, died Jan. 2 after going into a coma following a fight with Corey Fulton of the Brantford Blast on Dec. 12.

Both players fell to the ice but Sanderson, who had earlier lost his helmet in the tussle, hit the ice with the back of his head and fell into a coma.

League rules state that helmets approved by the Canadian Standards Association must be worn and fastened securely with a chin strap.

Ontario Hockey League commissioner David Branch said he believes responsibility for players' safety lies with hockey organizations.

Police probe on-ice death

Police in Brantford have opened an investigation into Sanderson's death, but the NHL has indicated it has no plans to change its rules on fighting in the aftermath of his death.

Cherry was one of hundreds of family members, friends and teammates to attend Sanderson's funeral on Jan. 5 and talked to the player's father, Michael Sanderson.

According to Cherry, Sanderson told Fullerton to continue playing hockey and if someone is looking for trouble, to not hesitate to drop the gloves and fight.

"That's hard for people to believe," Cherry said Saturday. "Mike is a hockey guy. He coaches hockey, he teaches hockey. All his life he's been in hockey. If two guys want to [fight], that's it."

Cherry is also bothered by recent comments from Toronto Maple Leafs head coach Ron Wilson, who apparently said there is no code in the NHL for fighting.

"He said 'We tell [tough guy André] Deveaux not to fight, he doesn't fight.' He says [Deveaux] goes out and bangs the skill guys. That is the worst thing. You don't do things like that. That's not honourable. You have to be honourable.

"I never believe [in] having a mad dog sitting on the bench [getting] two or three shifts and going [on the ice to] fight. If you can't play and take a regular shift in the game on the third and fourth line, you should not be in hockey."