First...it was Steve Montador. When Jared Boll left his feet to deliver a check on Andrew Brunette last night, Montador answered what was a borderline illegal hit as almost any NHL teammate worth his salt would have...he dropped the gloves.
Then, it was Jamal Mayers. Boll AGAIN left his feet and this time raised his stick in delivering a check to Nik Hjalmarsson. Mayers responded as Montador did, and Boll engaged him.
Both fights were pretty uneventful, and the combatants went to the box, just as they had throughout the history of the game.
But in this NHL, the defender gets punished. This NHL implements the instigator rule, which results in an extra 2 minute penalty and a 10 minute misconduct for the guy deemed to have started the fight. Again...Montador and Mayers did the right thing...responding to what they deemed dirty, reckless hits...the same kind of hit the NHL is trying to outlaw. So the villain serves his 5 minutes, while the hero serves 5, 2, and 10.
Something about that isn't right to me.
Look, I'm not the biggest advocate of fighting in hockey. I like it...I get it...but if it were to go away, I wouldn't raise a stink. But if the league is going to allow it, they can't punish players for using it correctly. The unspoken "reason to fight" is to defend less physical or star players if an opposing player is taking liberties. The instigator rule neuters fighters.
While it may not seem like a big deal on the surface, it is. The instigator rule has forced players into finding other outlets for revenge. That's why you've seen an increase in head shots, knee to knee hits, and dangerous slashes. Players don't want the instigator penalty that goes along with the fight, so they'll take a cheap shot behind a refs back and hope to get away with it. Why not? It works...just like it did for Boll last night. He was able to deliver to dirty-ish hits, AND get his team a pair of power plays.
If the NHL is serious about concussion safety and minimizing head shots, they need to remove the instigator penalty and let the enforcers enforce.