The agent happened to be a friend of Strachan’s and he also was there that night. There were other journalists on hand, the hour was late and the discussion was going nowhere.

It was time to put an end to the “battle.”

“Al, if you and others had done your job covering Alan Eagleson, that mess would never have happened,” I said, bluntly.

Game, set, match.

It was not pretty from that point on, as the “discussion” became more heated. But as incredulous onlookers watched, it came to an end quickly.

“Time to get a cab, Al?” I asked of my friend and former co-worker.

Then the two of us left and headed out to Bloor Street, sharing a cab to the west of the city, where we lived near each other.

Why all this preamble?

Today, in the Toronto, Ottawa and Edmonton Suns, along with The London Free Press, Sun Media columnist Steve Buffery took a whack at journalists “sitting on their high horses who can’t wait to dive into the ‘NHL is evil’ and ‘the NHL doesn’t care about (its) players’ debate without offering real solutions….”

Nothing could be further from the truth.

Some journalists now are poking holes in the game as it stands and the majority of NHL reporters don’t like the nay-sayers joining the conversation.

It was the type of journalism sports writers should have done many moons ago when Eagleson was wowing us with Canada Cups. I was part of that era and the Eagleson mistakes were wide spread.

But back to the issue at hand.

Let’s begin with the easy stuff.

In the approximately 80 concussions NHL players have suffered this season, about 8% have been caused by fighting.

So don’t ban fighting. Just eject them if they do get involved. Get in line with all other pro sports.

Make fighting, if they insist on continuing with it, more strategic, instead of just plain stupid.

The increased vigilance toward boarding and charging is a good thing.

The penalty for leaving your feet to hit another player was always there — it’s called charging — but has been dormant for some time. Look at any number of Dion Phaneuf hits this season if you need a few examples.

I could go on — international-sized ice would lead to a decrease in injuries, for example — but suggesting some journalists “want to turn ice hockey into field hockey” is flat out incorrect.

The critics don’t vent when the Olympics, world juniors, Stanley Cup playoffs, world championship or Memorial Cup are on because the silly season is not in play at that time.

There’s no pound of flesh, eye for an eye, scrums after clean hits (that’s a relatively new phenomenon), or abundance of cheap hits and general mayhem in those games.

Hockey, when played correctly, is better now than it has ever been. In many people’s opinions, Wayne Gretzky would not be the best player if he was still on the ice.

Higher, faster, stronger has long been the Olympic theme, but it could easily apply to the game right now.

So to stand by and not criticize the NHL when the game is on the edge of possible disaster — even more serious than Sidney Crosby sitting on the sidelines for half a season — is irresponsible at best.

The death of Don Sanderson from fight-related injuries that happened during a senior game in Brantford two years ago should have the been the wake-up call for one and all in the sport.

Instead, it now appears the Chara hit in Montreal is the breaking point.

It’s about time.

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