One of the loudest defenders of fighting in hockey has completely reversed his position.
"It’s telling me it’s time to get rid of fighting. It’s telling me it’s over," he said.
Given his history as a player and commentator, his remarks were surprising.
Milbury amassed 1,552 penalty minutes in his playing career and racked up 76 fights in total, according to Hockeyfights.com.
While on Hockey Night in Canada, he said that banning fights could lead to the "pansification" of the sport, The Globe and Mail reported.
The remark landed him in hot water with gay rights group EGALE Canada.
Milbury's about-face has taken a number of commentators by surprise. Sports Illustrated's Allan Muir said it was "startling" that he changed his mind, but added "no one should label Milbury a hypocrite for reversing course, either."
A defender of hockey fighting, he went on to say that there's a "growing number of valid arguments that support the reduction — if not the outright elimination, of fisticuffs — not the least of which is irreversible brain damage and the legal peril it creates for the league."
Ryan Kennedy of The Hockey News was more critical. He disagreed with the ex-player's call because he likes his hockey "with a touch of mayhem and if a man with Milbury's track record is coming down on one side of an issue, I have no problem going the other way."
But Milbury is hardly alone among former enforcers who've spoken up against fighting in hockey.
Ex-fighter Chris Nilan was quoted saying, "The NHL should ban fighting because it's no longer a factor in the games" in a 2011 QMI Agency story.
Meanwhile, former NHL player Jim Thomson questioned why fighting is still necessary in an interview with Yahoo!
Don Cherry criticized Nilan and Thomson by calling them "pukes" and "turncoats," but later apologized.
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