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Canada debates its tradition of hockey violence

I recently wrote about hockey violence. Here's the beginning of my column:

Canadians have an almost irritating reputation for being tolerant and polite. But in hockey, their dark side spills out.

Calls to curb violence in Canada’s national sport are almost as old as the game itself. But there’s new urgency to the debate: Statistics indicate a 24 percent increase in fighting in the National Hockey League this season, and two punch-ups in its feeder leagues have had terrifying results.

The latest incident occurred Jan. 23 in Philadelphia during a game in the American Hockey League, which is made up of farm teams for the NHL.

The Canadian protagonists, Kevin Westgarth of the Manchester Monarchs and Garrett Klotz of the Philadelphia Phantoms, are Goliaths on skates. Both are 6-feet 5-inches tall and considered “enforcers” by their teams — hockey thugs paid solely to settle scores.

Their clash occurred three seconds after the puck was dropped for the opening faceoff. They looked at each other, dropped their gloves and started swinging.

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