Brian Burke demoted his fighter, Colton Orr, to the minors on Thursday, but the Toronto Maple Leafs GM didn't like it one bit.
And Burke believes that pushing all of the heavyweights out of the NHL would be a mistake.
"I do wonder where our game is going," Burke said. "I know the Greenpeace folks will be happy with this, but I wonder where we're going when Brendan Shanahan's got six hearings every two days.
"You see the garbage that happened in here the other night [with Steve Downie going after Dion Phaneuf] and I wonder about the accountability in our game. I wonder where we're going with it. That's the only lament I have on this. The fear that if we don't have guys looking after each other then the rats will take this game over. That's my fear.
"I see guys that run around and start stuff and won't back it up and it makes me sick to my stomach."
The Leafs placed Orr on waivers on Wednesday afternoon, and Burke had to call him with the news at noon Thursday that he had cleared and would be going to the Toronto Marlies.
Moments later, Burke took to the podium at the Air Canada Centre to deliver his rant on the state of the NHL, saying he had a tough time sleeping knowing he had to potentially end the career of a "character" player like Orr.
Orr played sparingly in only five games this season after missing the second half of last year with a concussion.
"My admiration for this kid just knows no limits," Burke said. "This is a wonderful young man... We've got to get him back to the Marlies and get him playing. Try to get his game back and see where he can maybe help us later in the season."
Usually one of the top teams in fighting majors under Burke, the Leafs have this season dropped into the bottom third in the league, as coach Ron Wilson has sat his fighters far more often than in the past.
Burke noted Thursday that Orr had been pushed from the lineup as the team looked to add more speed and skill to its fourth line.
Even so, he remains uneasy with the notion that fighters no longer have a role on NHL teams.
"It's a dangerous turn in our game," Burke said. "It's not insignificant to me that this happened today.
"I think the game we provide now, the game the NHL plays is the best it's ever been since we opened our doors for business. It's fast, it's exciting. But I don't know [about removing fighting]. I just don't see accountability or respect in the game right now. It really troubles me.
"If you want a game where guys can cheap shot people and not face retribution, I'm not sure that's a healthy evolution."
Burke added that he wasn't sure what the solution was to the problem.
"I don't know," Burke said. "I don't know what the answer is. If I had the answer, there'd be a longer press conference."
The full audio from Burke's press conference is available below, but here are the few brief points he made on other subjects:
- On the concussion issue as it relates to fighters: "The science on this issue will evolve. I don't think it's there, that you can say that's the reason for these issues with Derek Boogaard. He had plenty of other issues as well. But I'm not turning a blind eye to that either. I've said from the get-go we have to track that and if that's part of it, fine."
- On Shanahan's workload with handling all the suspensions: "He needs a telephone receptionist at his house because of all this crap that's going on on the ice with these guys that won't back it up."
- On hitting being down in the NHL: "I had a linesman tell our coach last week that he's had players say that to him. I'm not hitting anybody, I'm not getting suspended. That's what I worry about."
- On trade talk increasing after Christmas: "We're listening more than anything, but it has picked up. It always does after you lift a freeze. There's always a flurry of activity."
- On buyers and sellers: "The math doesn't work for any of this: There's always more buyers than there are sellers, at this time of year. You've got too many teams that are in mathematically - that'll go right to the deadline."
- On if he has received any good offers on trade front: "It's classified. I could tell you that, but then I'd have to kill you."