I don't think there is a necessary connection between fighting and hockey's passion. Hockey would still be a great sport without fighting. I think university level and international hockey is proof that hockey can be equally exciting without fighting. I also don't think Don Cherry's anecdotal evidence is strong proof of anything. Let's be honest, that guy is a little off.
I just think it's ridiculous to claim, as many of the commenters on the CBC article do, that blood and fighting has not been part of the sport historically. I also think it's a leap to assume that ITG is trying to capitalize on the deaths of Probert, Belak, Boogaard and Rypien this summer. To me it seems pretty clear that without an NHL license, ITG has to appeal to niche markets. That's why they released the 1972 set, the 1980s set, and annual Between the Pipes sets. No one accused ITG of ushering in the end of morality with those sets, but with the Enforcers set, people that don't know what ITG is about think that they are just a company trying to cash in on some controversy. There are fans of hockey enforcers, and I don't think it is unreasonable to release a set that appeals to them.