When a hockey player won't fight

It is to the credit of the National Hockey League that it moved quickly to head off criticism following an incident of violence in a recent hockey match. What is in question however, is whether the league's action will be sufficient to preclude similar acts of violence in future games.

Imagine, if you will, the topsy-turvy predicament of Paul Mulvey that triggered the present brouhaha. Mr. Mulvey, who was a strapping, six-foot-four, no-nonsense forward with the Los Angeles Kings hockey team, refused his coach's orders to leave the bench and get into a fight taking place out on the ice between his team and the rival Vancouver Canucks. ''Go and don't dance,'' were the coach's instructions, as recalled by Mr. Mulvey. For refusing to ''go,'' the young hockey player's professional future is now in doubt. He was sent to a farm team.

Now the NHL has suspended the Kings' coach and fined the team.

Mr. Mulvey, however, remains with the farm club as of this writing.

In refusing to fight, Paul Mulvey has demonstrated independence in a sport that has come under increasing criticism for its emphasis on unnecessary violence, much of it deliberately encouraged to draw spectators. And while hockey may be out front in the fisticuffs department, the same resort to gratuitous pummeling has begun to creep into other sports in recent years.

Benched for not fighting? What happened to the day when players were benched for fighting?

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