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The league doesn’t want to embrace or encourage the most violent part of its fast-paced, heavy-hitting game during a concussion crisis in sports, and with some of its former enforcers dying young and unexpectedly in 2011.

And yet fans seem to stand and cheer each time gloves drop and fists fly.

Red Wings senior vice president Jim Devellano, who has four decades of NHL front-office experience and is in the Hockey Hall of Fame, said he used to be among the majority of people within the game that accept fighting as simply being a part of the sport.

“I’ve changed 100 percent and I’m now in the minority because I personally could do without fighting,” Devellano said. “I don’t think it brings anything to the game and there’s a lot of violence in society that we have to read about all the time.

“I changed my opinion when Scotty Bowman, who wasn’t big on fighting, was our coach and I saw how beautiful the game can be when you let the talent and the speed of the game take over. I’m not a crusader to stop fighting, but when I’ve shared my opinion with hockey people, they’re not really happy with what I say.”

Toronto Maple Leafs coach Randy Carlye, who has two players _ Mike Brown and Colton Orr _ among the league leaders in fights _ said “fisticuffs” are a part of the game that are here to stay.

“I just think it’s a fact of life in the NHL that if you’re going go out there and you’re going to run around, it’s going to force confrontation,” Carlye said. “Sometimes people try to take advantage of your more skilled players and you have that deterrent.”

Getting players injured, though, might deter teams from wanting key players to mix it up.

New York Rangers captain Ryan Callahan will be out for 10 to 14 days after hurting his left shoulder ion Tuesday night a scuffle with Max Talbot ended with the Philadelphia Flyers forward tugging Talbot’s arm and dragging him down.

“Maybe we’ve been out so long and everyone is on edge,” Rangers forward Mike Rupp said.

Washington’s Jason Chimera had another theory related to the lockout that shortened the 82-season and hit players in their pocket books.

“Maybe they’re mad they missed half a year’s pay check,” Chimera said.

Boll suggested the spike in fights is a result of players being excited to be back on the ice. He also pointed to a theory that can be seen, heard and felt in arenas throughout North America.

“Definitely, if you’re the home team you want to get the crowd into it,” Boll said. “It’s fun. That’s what guys do. That’s why guys play is to compete and do their job.

“So far it seems like it’s been an exciting start to the season. Maybe we’re just trying to get the fans back in it.”

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