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Fighting in junior hockey may be banned soon

Feb 28, 2012, 12:30 PM EDT

WHL fight

David Branch and Bob Nicholson are two powerful hockey men. The former is the president of the CHL, the umbrella organization that oversees the three major-junior leagues (WHL, OHL, QMJHL). The latter is the president of Hockey Canada.

Both men want to end fighting in their respective organizations, as reported by the New York Times.

Branch: “One of the causes of concussions is fighting. And I believe that there is more and more recognition that our game does not need fighting to survive, to be part of the entertainment package, you might say, because of the concerns of injuries and other concerns that could very well be a byproduct of fighting.”

Nicholson: “The official stance from Hockey Canada is that we want to get rid of fighting as quickly as we can. Our ultimate goal is to remove fighting.”

Branch’s comments are particularly significant, since he’s the one who has to answer to CHL franchise owners that stand to lose money if banning fighting hurts attendance. If the owners want fighting outlawed, it’ll be outlawed.

If fighting is indeed outlawed at the junior level, it’ll no doubt have an effect on the NHL, even if dropping the gloves remains a major penalty and nothing more in professional leagues. Most fighters hone their skills in junior. What’s more, many fighters only have a roster spot in junior because they can scrap. Fact is, intimidation works at all levels of hockey, but it works especially well when it’s mostly teenagers out there.

True, there are tough guys that came out of the NCAA, where there’s no fighting. George Parros, for example, went to Princeton; however, he was scrapping as a teenager in the NAHL.

(Image via dubnation-news.blogspot.com)

  1. blainelacher - Feb 28, 2012 at 12:39 PM

    It really bugs me that people don’t understand that fighting is good for both the game and the health of it’s players (and this applies to NHL and major jr.). Yes you can get hurt from fighting, even concussions too. But it really brings accountability out there. If you couldn’t fight, you would have a domino effect of head-shot checks, non-stop.

    One of your star players get’s knocked out, how can you get even? If you can’t fight, you are going to go cheap. And don’t say get even on the scoreboard, hockey is too emotional for that. I still have not seen one good argument against fighting.

    • bear654 - Feb 28, 2012 at 2:37 PM

      I don’t disagree with your statement, but I think taking fighting out of juniors makes sense. I want fighting to be around in the NHL, but having teenagers pound their brains in doesn’t do any good for their skill development, which is the the point of juniors anyways. Kids this young shouldn’t have to risk a concussion by stepping on the ice, whether it’s from a head shot or a fight. Having said that, eliminating fighting has to go hand in hand with a major crackdown on head/cheapshots at this level. Leave your feet, make contact with the head, automatic game misconduct with suspension possibilities. Respect for your opponents must be fostered, then fighting becomes unnecessary anyway.

  2. comeonnowguys - Feb 28, 2012 at 1:36 PM

    I think its day is passing, but you can’t ban it yet. You have to better address the reasons why it happens in the first place.

  3. buffalomafia - Feb 28, 2012 at 2:24 PM

    Make it a sissys game next!

    At the junior level players have to learn the rules of the NHL! You don’t want to stop fighting @ that level & when these players get to the NHL they won’t know how to defend themselves!

    • bear654 - Feb 28, 2012 at 2:47 PM

      In today’s NHL, there aren’t any (or very few) guys that only fight. You have to be able to play (see Colton Orr). I say let juniors be the place where you can develop your skill set and if you can’t make it just on hockey skill alone, fight your way through the minors. Those fights between the super heavyweights who can’t skate aren’t nearly as entertaining as some scrappy second liners who are so pissed they can’t see straight. There can still be accountability without having goons who have done nothing but fight since juniors.

    • DTF31 - Feb 28, 2012 at 4:15 PM

      I don’t disagree. It may be an unpopular opinion but I think the reason head injuries are up is because its banned in Jr and minor levels. The kids never have to worry about it when they’re young. And usually since these guys are the best, or the biggest, no one comes close to touching that much anyway. Then they end up in levels where its fair game and they are getting tagged because their safety blanket is taken away.

      I think its why you see a lot more hits that end poorly. Guys used to have the rulebook saving their ass. Now they don’t and they never learned how to take hits in open ice or along the boards properly at all.

  4. icelovinbrotha215 - Feb 28, 2012 at 3:10 PM

    I don’t mind them banishing fighting at the JR levels. Hockey is much more than fighting. Now I don’t mind a scrap or two but seeing some of the tragic endings to these beloved enforcers makes one wonder, is it really worth it? What if that enforcer was your brother? Friend? If you can’t watch hockey without fighting then when the SC playoffs come in April, just turn off the TV. Or when the Olympics are in progess 2 years from now, just watch boycott the ice hockey events. IIHF? Why bother. We have to remember that these players have lifes. They are human. Not robots. We seem to forget that as fans. I, as most of us, are extremely passionate about the greatest sport in the world called ice hockey. I just hope we support promoting safety for the talent pool that this sport has access to. No matter what level of participation is taking place.

  5. chiadam - Feb 28, 2012 at 3:54 PM

    If I were charged with making the decision, I would remove fighting. There’s no point. And please spare me the “retribution” nonsense. Trying to beat up the guy that took out your star will do nothing to bring the star back sooner, so what did the fight solve? Not a thing. And if fighting was such a deterrent, then why is it still needed? If it was working, you would no longer need it because the instigating behavior would have stopped. The best hockey in the world (the Stanley Cup Playoffs and the Olympics) are both played without fighting and no one complains.

  6. barroomhero80 - Feb 28, 2012 at 4:15 PM

    fightings and integral part of the sport and u weak stomach sissys can eat it….

  7. DTF31 - Feb 28, 2012 at 4:21 PM

    I rarely see fighting in Junior at all. I don’t think it’ll really make a difference but I don’t agree with it. I’ve probably been to 25 games, WHL and AJHL, or so this year and I’ve only seen a couple.

    But I just don’t see why. It just seems like the fad right now. The only time fighting is ridiculed is the one of 50ish where someone actually gets a licking.

    Don’t want to fight? Then don’t. The fighter doesn’t even exist anymore on an even halfway competitive team. But keep it in the game. Its entertaining and it serves as an emotional release so you don’t have guys Superman-ing into eachother to get “payback”

  8. 1sportschica - Feb 28, 2012 at 4:36 PM

    I maintain that boarding, checking from behind and flagrant–and sometimes inadvertent–open ice hits contribute to concussions.

    I don’t want to see fighting banned, but if you ban it at the junior level, then likewise ban it in the pros.

  9. eyeh8goodell - Feb 28, 2012 at 6:07 PM

    I have no problem with this. The NHL has fighting and it’s as cheap as i’ve ever seen it. The level of respect among players right now is at an all time low, and that is WITH fighting in the game. If you want to keep fighting in the NHL then fine, but it serves no purpose in Junior. And i challenge anybody to watch the Derek Boogard series from the New York Times and then come back and tgell me you don’t feel some shame and guilt in getting so much enjoyment out of these guys destroying their brains and quality of life.

  10. rsl22 - Feb 28, 2012 at 6:13 PM

    When Crosby got his concussion, when Backstrom got his concussion, they weren’t from fighting (Backstrom especially was just from a dirty, late and uncalled for hit by Rene Bourque). People can argue whether Steckel meant to do anything to Crosby, or whether that hit was actually what messed up his head, but regardless, neither was from a fight.

    However, I understand that fighting is probably something that needs to be looked at. My problem with fighting isn’t the retribution aspect. Someone above mentioned that when someone takes a cheap shot on your star, he should be held accountable, and I agree with that.

    But that’s not what the majority of fights are. The majority are guys that either take exception to a perfectly clean hit and start a fight over a legal play, or guys that start fights because “it’ll get the team fired up.”

    I don’t want fights to go away partly for the same reason I don’t want the shootout to go away…casual fans like fights and the shootout. I think both are pretty entertaining, and regardless of your stance on them, hockey needs to grow, and these are two aspects that (maybe sadly) draw fans in. MMA is huge because people do like to see people fight, boxing has been around forever, wrestling was the first Olympic sport and part of the curriculum at Plato’s Academy 2500 years ago. It’s just human nature.

    At the same time, I’d be perfectly fine if the fights after clean hits and fights “to energize the team” were banned. I think that’d be perfectly reasonable.

  11. notpartofthegame - Feb 28, 2012 at 8:19 PM

    I am happy to see the progress being made at the Junior/College level, and that fighting is close to being removed from these leagues. Now it needs to be eliminated from the NHL. I’ve posted on my blog – http://itsnotpartofthegame.blogspot.com/ – the many reasons why enforcers need to be replaced by skilled players and the negative impact that fights have on the game.

    Real hockey fans, those that love the game but not the fights, need to be more vocal to counter the pro-fighting crowd. As long as the NHL believes that the goons help sell the game in the U.S. market, they won’t realize that they are turning off a whole audience that won’t watch a sport that is violent for no reason, or that they dismiss as something closer to wrestling.

    • nothanksimdriving123 - Feb 28, 2012 at 10:01 PM

      Notpart: I completely agree!!! The fight lovers insist it is needed to prevent injuries to star players. They have no intelligent explanation for why, with fighting, there are still numerous injuries to stars anyway!! They also change the subject when we note that the best, most memorable hockey events, such as the ’87 Canada Cup, had no fights.

  12. dominicthedonkey - Feb 29, 2012 at 10:42 PM

    Wimps

  13. dominicthedonkey - Feb 29, 2012 at 10:45 PM

    If u don’t like fighting in hockey…go watch soccer Girly men. Also players choose to fight, they are not forced to.

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