NHL HOFer Paul Coffey on current game: ‘I wish there was more hitting’

Legendary defenceman Paul Coffey explains his jersey number story, and why he went from wearing number 7 in Edmonton to wearing number 77 in Pittsburgh.

Hall of Fame defenceman Paul Coffey has been asked the same question many times before: How many goals would he score in today’s NHL?

“My answer is, I think I could probably get 15 to 20 goals,” said Coffey, who set the single-season record as a defenceman with 48 goals in 1985-86. “And people always look a little bit surprised.

“And I say, ‘Well, I’m 58 years old.'”

Jokes aside, Coffey opted not to reveal how he’d fare if his career had aligned with the current era — though he did acknowledge he’s a “huge fan” of today’s game.

Still, during his recent appearance on Writers Bloc, the legendary blue-liner weighed in on one thing he’d like to change about the modern-day NHL.

“I wish there was more hitting,” Coffey said.

“I wasn’t a hitter, but I’ll tell you what, if I had my proverbial head up my rear-end one game and I wasn’t into it and somebody hit me, it certainly woke me up real fast. I think that part of the game is gone.”

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Coffey, who amassed over 1,500 points in a 21-year career, likened the speed of today’s game to a highway without traffic. He believes inserting more roadblocks — in the form of physicality — could make the action more interesting.

“The real players come out to play, the real players know how to think in traffic,” said Coffey, who referenced Mario Lemieux’s ability to score while being hooked or held by multiple defenders.

The current NHL season is in an uncertain spot due to the COVID-19 pandemic, which forced a stoppage more than three weeks ago. Under normal circumstances, this would be the time of year when the regular season ends and the stakes skyrocket.

And when that happens, Coffey knows the players turn up their physicality.

“Usually the first week of April (and) that first round of the playoffs is absolutely fantastic,” Coffee said. “Those guys play for keeps.”

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