OK, call me a troglodyte.

I like fighting in hockey.

I'm not a fossil. I like having 32 NFL teams from coast to coast, 30 baseball teams with an international flavor, and heavyweight boxing champions from parts of the old Soviet Union.

But the move to take fighting out of hockey makes as much sense as, say, cutting baseball games to seven innings because tepid fans find them too long.

Point? The people who want to eliminate fighting are people who hate hockey in the first place. Catering to them will lose the people who love the sport, who appreciate its nuances and, yes, properly applied fisticuffs.

The only people who find baseball too long are people who don't like the sport in the first place, don't understand the strategy and move-countermove pace of the game. Cutting it back to fewer innings would chase away the fans who made baseball a major sport in the first place.

So the debate over fighting in hockey is not just an insider argument. It goes to the future of the sport.

Both management and players understand there needs to be a revision of some rules to cut down on potentially tragic injuries.

Don Sanderson, a player in the Ontario senior men's league, died last month when he hit his head on the ice after falling during a fight.

On Jan. 24, the Phantoms' Garrett Klotz suffered a seizure and was taken from the ice on a stretcher after a fight with Manchester's Kevin Westgarth.

The current debate flared two years ago, near the end of the 2007 regular season, when league disciplinarian Colin Campbell asked whether it was time to control the fighting in the sport.

That was shortly after the Flyers' Todd Fedoruk was taken from the ice on a stretcher after he was knocked out in a fight with the Rangers' Colton Orr.

Yesterday, the head of the NHL Players' Association agreed it's time to consider a rule mandating that helmets must remain on during a fight.

While a "clear majority" of players want fighting to remain a part of hockey, Paul Kelly feels his constituency is open to change.

"A couple of things we've talked about are a rule where players need to keep a helmet on during the course of a fight, and perhaps require officials to step in if a helmet comes off during a fight," Kelly said.

He spoke to reporters in Toronto last night, before the Conn Smythe Celebrities Dinner and Auction.

"If it's true that when guys get hurled to the ice or tripped to the ice and bang their skull on the ice is where the real danger comes from, then maybe we can protect against that. It's certainly something worth looking at," the union chief added.

Commissioner Gary Bettman already had said fighting's "rules of engagement" will be examined during a general managers' meeting in March.

Kelly cautioned that the issue should not be dominated by the recent incidents.

"We shouldn't allow one tragic event to dictate wholesale rule changes in our sport," he said.

Kelly argued that fights arising "out of the spontaneity of the game," such as retaliating for a dirty hit, were a natural part of hockey.

He also said teams have to protect their skaters, that teams would refrain from charging star players because of threatened retaliation.

"Fighting isn't just there for some gratuitous reason," he said. "It's there because there's a need to self-police, there's a need to protect those kind of [star] players in our sport. And I think that if you get rid of fighting, you're going to have some consequences that are very unfortunate."