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Report: Linesmen to stop fights if helmets come off first

Oct 23, 2013, 10:56 AM EDT

Sestito and Gazdic fight Getty Images

From TSN’s Darren Dreger:

NHL linesmen have been instructed to stop a fight when the participants opt to remove their helmets prior to swapping blows.

This isn’t a rule change, simply a common sense approach to encourage players to protect their head at all times.

There is nothing formal about this strategy. It was implemented shortly after the preseason where it became evident players weren’t concerned about the additional two-minute penalty for removing their helmets to fight…even though the rule was introduced entirely for player safety.

Linesmen now have the authority to step in, when it is safe to do so, and stop a fight when the combatants purposely take off their helmets.

We’ve written about this before. The NHL has good reason to be worried whenever players fight without helmets. From Wikipedia:

The first known death directly related to a hockey fight occurred when Don Sanderson of the Whitby Dunlops, a top-tier senior amateur team in Ontario’s Major League Hockey, died in January 2009, a month after sustaining a head injury during a fight: Sanderson’s helmet came off during the fight, and when he fell to the ice, he hit his head.

Yes, helmets are still going to come flying off during fights, unintentionally or otherwise. But this at least reduces the safety risk somewhat. (Though probably not much.)

More from Dreger:

The first clear example of this occurred Tuesday night in Montreal when linesmen Steve Barton and Michel Cormier stepped in between Montreal’s Travis Moen and Edmonton’s Luke Gazdic seconds after they dumped their helmets to scrap.

Both players received unsportsmanlike minors rather than fighting majors.

Young scrappers like Gazdic who are forced to wear visors won’t like this change in approach; nor will their dance partners while punching plastic instead of face. Remember, this is the way they used to do it in junior, where visors are mandatory:

Try that in the NHL today and the fight would be over before it started.

  1. dropthepuckeh - Oct 23, 2013 at 11:00 AM

    Yikes, I’d hate to be a linesman jumping between two willing combatants ready to throw haymakers. Above my pay grade.

    • 950003cups - Oct 23, 2013 at 12:02 PM

      You think anyone in the league consulted the linesman on this? LOL

    • joey4id - Oct 23, 2013 at 12:08 PM

      Neither linesman came remotely close to getting a caught by a punch when they jumped between Travis Moen and Luke Gazdic.

    • upper90cheese - Oct 23, 2013 at 12:50 PM

      Heaven forbid two grown men decide how and when to wear their equipment. Good thing the NHL is there to tell them.

  2. ibieiniid - Oct 23, 2013 at 11:03 AM

    LAAAAAME

  3. 7mantel - Oct 23, 2013 at 11:06 AM

    I can see linesman getting KOed

    • joey4id - Oct 23, 2013 at 12:10 PM

      they are more susceptible to getting dinged if they jump in to protect a player who is getting his a$$ kicked, not when they jump in before a punch is thrown.

  4. doubles22 - Oct 23, 2013 at 11:07 AM

    If the NHL wants to ban fighting, they should just do it. Allowing it only with certain provisions (i.e. helmets staying on) is silly and makes the league look totally hypocritical. Either ban it, or let ‘em fight with no strings (or helmets) attached. Just when ya think the NHL can’t make themselves look any sillier, they one-up themselves. The NHL never ceases to make itself look like a total clown show.

    • hockeydon10 - Oct 23, 2013 at 11:55 AM

      Yeah. Though I don’t think anything will ever get it out 100% — even the game misconduct that was recently suggested — they need to make up their minds.

    • darksidecowboy - Oct 23, 2013 at 1:58 PM

      This is just the NHL’s way of easing the fans into the eventual Roger Goodell-esque of no fighting, sigh

  5. newjerseydevilsfanpuckcollection - Oct 23, 2013 at 11:07 AM

    However do they still not have the visor rule in regards to fighting.

    Seems a little unfair if you play with a visor, and combat someone who does not wear one.

    People need to realize that if there is fighting, the bare knuckles are just as dangerous as hitting the ice. Repeated blows can cause concussions.

    Any jarring of the brain can cause a concussion.

    So checking should be banned, fighting should be banned, the boards should be removed, the ice should be removed and last but not least the puck to be removed.

    The NHL should use nerf balls, in a padded arena, where no one is allowed to be touched for fear of concussions.

    • joey4id - Oct 23, 2013 at 12:06 PM

      Nobody has gotten a concussion from a check that did not cause contact to the head. Not every head shots results in a concussion, but science has proven that head shots can cause concussions. So, everyone’s priority must be to find ways to reduce actions thay can cause concussions. hey! I never had an accident while driving intoxicated…… Like an elderly once told me, “Why put a 2 year old in a car seat. When my kids were that age they would sit on my lap in the front seat, and nothing every happened.” Isnt’ that brillant!

      • joey4id - Oct 23, 2013 at 5:44 PM

        “Scrappy Matthew Barnaby had to hang up the Bauers back in 2007 after a fight with Josh Gratton of the Phoenix Coyotes left him concussed.”

        “Stu Grimson took part in over 200 fights. that led to a number of concussions over the years. It was a fight against former NHL heavyweight Georges Laraque (of the Oilers at the time) in 2001 that knocked Grimson out for good. He was never able to shake the post-concussion symptoms, so he decided to just hang up the skates.”

    • joey4id - Oct 23, 2013 at 5:33 PM

      “Thornton out 7-10 days with concussion after fighting Sabres’ Scott”

  6. sjsharks66 - Oct 23, 2013 at 11:17 AM

    The end is near. People who do not enjoy a good scrap now and again in hockey should stick to soccer or baseball.

    • joey4id - Oct 23, 2013 at 11:59 AM

      When we were ignorant about the consequences of a good scrap, then it was ok. But! Now that science has educated us about concussions and the long term effects we should be more concerned about that than seeing a good scrap in the only team sport that players don’t get ejected for fighting.

      BTW, did you enjoy that fight during the Avs/Pit game this week?

      • hockeyflow33 - Oct 23, 2013 at 3:53 PM

        Are you this annoying about banning boxing and mma as well?

      • joey4id - Oct 23, 2013 at 4:01 PM

        Does NBC Sports have either an MMATalk or BoxingTalk blog? Let me know if you find one.

  7. sabatimus - Oct 23, 2013 at 11:28 AM

    “when it is safe to do so”. So the fighters will just have to adjust and drop their helmets and go at it immediately, thereby making it decidedly not “safe to do so”.

    • dropthepuckeh - Oct 23, 2013 at 11:33 AM

      Exactly and risking one of the fighters not being ready to go. Smells like trouble.

      • joey4id - Oct 23, 2013 at 11:54 AM

        You’re so funny? The fact that players have to adjust how to engage “smells like trouble”. However, punching a player in the without a helmet doesn’t “smell like trouble”. How do you reconcile these two perspectives?

      • dropthepuckeh - Oct 23, 2013 at 12:13 PM

        Are you drunk?

      • joey4id - Oct 23, 2013 at 12:44 PM

        dropthepuckeh, are you in high school yet?

    • joey4id - Oct 23, 2013 at 11:52 AM

      Never will happen…. There’s one thing the NHL is more concerned about than ratings. Can you say law suit?

  8. khudobinawesome - Oct 23, 2013 at 11:48 AM

    Fighting is ALREADY against the rules. Why do people not understand that? Just like kicking the puck in with your skate is against the rules, tripping, high-sticking, slashing, they’re all against the rules. Fighting is one of the most severely punished penalties one can get, and they did this to keep fighting from happening. Fighting will never be banned, the only way you can stop it is when given suspensions for fighting, which in turn is stupid. What do you do when someone slashes your goalie or player in the leg, arm, back, etc.? Do you just sit there and say nice slash? No, you defend your teammate by dropping the mitts. If you ban fighting, there will be a lot more stick work to defend teammates. It would in turn become more dangerous. This is an idiotic debate. Players know what they’re getting into and the risks it involves when they get into the fight. Though I agree with the new rule to keep your helmet on, the visors become a hazard. How hard would it be to design a clip-on visor that you could also snap-off? Maybe I’ll design and start selling those.

    • shaundre93 - Oct 23, 2013 at 1:55 PM

      That is actually a brilliant idea. My biggest concern about this rule is the mandatory visors… Players with no visors can scrap no problem without losing their helmets. The CCM visors they’ve used (idk if they still do) in the CHL could clip on and off without much trouble. If they made one that was easier to remove before a fight, there would be no need to lose the buckets. Quick, get this patented!! Lol

  9. joey4id - Oct 23, 2013 at 11:50 AM

    From a safety perspective this makes a lot of sense. There is an NHL rule that requires all players to wear a helmet during the course of a game. A player would be assessed a minor penalty If he would purposely remove his helmet after the puck drops. Should be no different for fighting. The league is indeed being hypocritical. They subscribe to the fact that an elbow or a shoulder to the head can cause concussions. When this occurs they require players to follow the NHL’s concussion protocol, but they somehow refuse to acknowledge that a punch to the head can be just as damaging. Is it ignorance or a lack of scientific evidence? Either way, they only need to enforce their own concussion protocol whenever a player is assessed a major for fighting. They’ll get their proof that punches to the head do or do not cause concussions. It’s so simple that it makes them look so bad…. I guess ratings are more important than the product’s safety.

    • dropthepuckeh - Oct 23, 2013 at 11:54 AM

      I read your comment twice and have no idea what you are trying to say.

      • joey4id - Oct 23, 2013 at 12:18 PM

        1) You’re not allowed to play without your helmet unless it comes off accidentally. Same should apply to fighting.
        2) Whenever a player has rec’d a head the NHL requires that they be removed from the ice to pass the NHL concussion protocol. For some reason this doesn’t apply to a punch to the head
        3) Science has proven that concussions are common and occur with the head comes in direct contact with a blow
        4) Force the players to get medically examined after a fight. They need only use the concussion protocol already in place

        If you don’t get this, then I understand why you don’t want to see a ban on fighting.

      • isithockeyseasonyet - Oct 23, 2013 at 1:42 PM

        That’s just your opinion, people disagreeing with your opinion doesn’t make them stupid. What percentage of players who get in fights come down with concussions? That’s a stat id like to see, not your stupid little list, good for you, you looked up the rules, congrats

      • joey4id - Oct 23, 2013 at 2:09 PM

        So! In your mind you can actually accept that an elbow to the head can cause a concussion, but your not convinced that a punch can cause the same result. That’s ok, but I highly doubt it. Now! What has the NHL done to prove that a punch does or does not cause a concussion? Nothing! Why? Because the owners stand to lose too much money. Remember! Jim Rutherford and Scotty Bowman agreed with Stevie Y. Keep fighting in the game. But! If there is a fight; 1) the players are ejected 2) each must pass the NHL’s concussion protocol. #2 will prove or disprove that punches cause concussions. Sounds simple enough. No?

      • joey4id - Oct 23, 2013 at 2:18 PM

        @isithockeyseasonyet, this post is for you.

        http://www.theglobeandmail.com/sports/hockey/researchers-press-for-ban-on-hockey-fights/article14794768/

        Although no direct link has been established between fighting in hockey and long-term brain trauma, pathological studies indicate that fighting could lead to serious brain damage, the conference organizers said.

        Dr. Michael Stuart, a director of the Mayo Clinic Sports Medicine Center and the chief medical officer for USA Hockey, cited the opening-night fight in calling for professional and junior hockey to replace five-minute fighting penalties with automatic ejections and suspensions.

  10. thewall3004 - Oct 23, 2013 at 12:44 PM

    Report: Players have been intructed to keep their gloves on during fights so they don’t break their hands from punching helmets

  11. zilla2108 - Oct 23, 2013 at 12:59 PM

    I agree with the linesmen coming in, something had to be done especially after what happen to parros with all the haters out there saying fighting needs to be taken out of the game. Fighting will always be apart of hockey and should be. Without fightiong you will see more cheapshots ex: boarding,spearing highsticking!!! If you don’t like fighting then go watch the ballet ot something!!!!!!

    • joey4id - Oct 23, 2013 at 1:42 PM

      Why are we haters if we are proponents of player safety? AVs vs Pit this week. No fights, and no more cheap shots than other games. You want to board, high stick, spear, kick, have a temper tantrum because someone took away fighting… then have at it. There are rules for those antics. I get the fact that you enjoy fighting. Times have changed, and science has revealed undeniable facts regarding brain damage caused by blows to the head.

      • wildack88 - Oct 23, 2013 at 7:34 PM

        So Do you think that the players who willingly step into a fight are completely unaware of these undeniable facts that fighting can cause concussions? I am pretty certain that every player that engages in a fight knows that they are putting themselves at risk. They make the sometimes stupid decision to fight. That is their fault. If they want to take their helmet off, and put themselves at a higher risk, then why should they not be allowed to? I know that it is a rule in the NHL that all player must have a helmet on during the game. Well, a fight is technically not during the game. The whistle blows, and they are penalized. I always see players on the bench who take their helmets off for various reasons, I have seen players not wear helmets during warm ups, and I have seen players take their helmets off during TV time-outs. I guess we should penalize them as well?

      • zilla2108 - Oct 23, 2013 at 7:51 PM

        Im not having a temper tantrum if they took away fighting, its the truth if you don’t like fighting then don’t watch it. if they take fighting out of the game which it should not then u my as well take out throwong at people in basebal, hitting in football, fouls in baskerball. Its part of the game. Players can get hurt from checks, pucks to the face etc… ALot of people complain about the fighting but thats not the main issue!!!!!

      • joey4id - Oct 23, 2013 at 8:51 PM

        wildack88, how can you ask the players to govern themselves? Here’s an analogy. A 20 year old will run through a wall, at 30 he will climb over the wall, at 40 he’ll take the time to go around the wall, at 50 he’ll build a door, at 60 he’ll use dynamite to blow a hole in the wall, at 70 he’ll just avoid it. You can’t ask the 20 year old to provide you with the best options, like you can ask players to govern themselves. That’s why there are governing bodies led by more mature and experienced individuals with wrinkles and grey hair to look out for the best interest of the people. Same reason why the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety determine crashworthiness — how well a vehicle protects its occupants in a crash. Leave that up to the car manufactures and we’re likely to die in a fender bender.

    • brainoflindros - Oct 23, 2013 at 4:41 PM

      However, Parros and Orr had their helments on…had nothing to do with helmets off. Parros and Orr are out there for one thing…to police.
      Joey – if you don’t understand that then you never played the game.

      • joey4id - Oct 23, 2013 at 5:07 PM

        Well! Maybe I never played or maybe I did. Stevie Y. said he is for ejecting players who are assesd majors for fighting. Scotty Biwman and Jim Rutherford agreed with him…. But what do they know? Eh! They don’t understand either. Right?

      • dropthepuckeh - Oct 23, 2013 at 5:20 PM

        Tampa leads the league in fighting majors. I’m not sure how much Stevie actually believes in what he is saying….

      • joey4id - Oct 23, 2013 at 5:33 PM

        Great come back!

  12. isithockeyseasonyet - Oct 23, 2013 at 1:37 PM

    Take fighting out and then see how much players like Crosby like it, this is stupid and not changing the game for the better at all

    • joey4id - Oct 23, 2013 at 1:54 PM

      I agree the the ratings may go down…. many thought they NHL would lose a load of money because of last year’s lock out. Wrong! How will not fighting be bad for the game? Players fight even after a good check these days. This whole gotta get even is so much bull. The whole pay back is what got Steve Moore on the stretcher and Bertuzzi back in court. Football had bounty gate…. No more! It doesn’t make the game any less entertaining. They are rules in the NFL to prevent players from swatting each other in the head, from tacking using the crown of the helmets. These are all rules that changed the game, but not the spirit of the game.

  13. bchockeyfan - Oct 23, 2013 at 3:03 PM

    I think we can all agree ‘joey4id’ needs to take a lap.

    Preaches safety in regards to fighting in the NHL and it’s potential dangers.

    Brags about drunk driving on a regular basis and not killing anyone……yet.

    • sabatimus - Oct 23, 2013 at 3:06 PM

      That “take a lap” reminds me of Bill Cosby :)

    • joey4id - Oct 23, 2013 at 4:34 PM

      Bragging? Where? Don’t be ignorant.

  14. channelguy - Oct 23, 2013 at 3:41 PM

    In conjunction with the new mandatory visors, it eventually means an EVENTUAL de facto ban on fighting, as you simply can’t fight someone with a visor on. Fighting will be limited to the professional ruffian most teams employ, until they retire, and then, nothing. Of course the league is far too gutless to admit this.

    And for you folks — maybe 5% of hockey fans, who think this is a good thing, — be aware that what will come next is a ban on bodychecking, It’s the same logic, get rid of physical stuff that will cause injuries and lead to lawsuits. And hey, it can sold to people by saying it will mean more goals!

    If you think this is simply absurd, that it would never happen, consider that in womens’ hockey, thats the rule today, no bodychecking.

    Fifteen years from now we can have a nice cuddly-wuddly NHL where no one fights or hits, or feels bad about themselves. Of course it will probably be a 10 team league, with 5,000 fans a game, but you can’t have everything.

  15. joey4id - Oct 23, 2013 at 5:56 PM

    A study by the NHL’s Hockey Operations department, released April/2011, looked at concussions in the league over the past two seasons. Here are some stats that many have been asking for;

    Fighting is over 43 times more likely to result in a man-game lost to a concussion than a legal hit is.

    The numbers show that only 56 concussions were caused by close to 56,000 hockey hits. This means the chances of suffering head trauma from a standard hit is approximately one-tenth of one percent. Pretty good odds. There were 10 concussions from 544 hockey fights which means 1.88% of fights resulted in the specific head injury. Still sounds pretty small but statistically it means that you are almost 19 times more likely to be concussed by dropping the gloves versus simply playing the game.

    • wildack88 - Oct 23, 2013 at 7:39 PM

      And the players are aware of the risk when they drop the gloves. Why protect them?

  16. bigoldorcafromvan - Oct 23, 2013 at 6:23 PM

    I am trying to get this right.. Its okay now for 2 players without visors to hammer the hell out of eachother until they drop if their helmets don.t fall off. And then last year when Hansen was reaching up to swat the puck out of the air and with a upwards motion touched Hossa.s helmet and concusses him is five game. But Hossa was okay as soon as the hearing was held. What I am saying it is okay to have a fight and get pummeled in the face, side of head etc and they won.t get hurt to badly but you can badly hurt a player by touching the back of his helmet. I hope the NHL can get something right for a change.

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