The ritual of the small-town hockey game is deeply ingrained in Canada. Far from the big rinks and big cities of the NHL, players battle on ice, with their sticks and their fists, every winter, from Quesnel, B.C. to Stephensville, Newfoundland.
But the nature of those wars may soon be changing, the New York Times reported Tuesday. Hockey Canada and U.S.A. Hockey are both considering sweeping rule changes that would vastly curtail fighting in amateur and junior hockey on both sides of the border.
“The appetite is there,”David Branch, the president of the Canadian Hockey League told the Times. “The time is certainly right to move forward.”
The proposals come as evidence continues to mount of the toll fighting takes on some players. The Times‘ series on former NHLer Derek Boogaard, published in early December, was a meticulous inditement of the brawling life he learned on his way to the show, and the price he eventually paid for those years.
The NHL seems unlikely to abandon fighting anytime soon. But dramatic change may be coming to its feeder leagues, and sooner than one might expect.
From the Times:
In January, USA Hockey’s Junior Council discussed emergency legislation that would combat fighting with much harsher penalties, starting as early as next fall. The council, composed largely of junior-league commissioners, may propose a system like that used in the N.C.A.A., where players are immediately ejected for fighting and progressive suspensions are doled out for subsequent bouts. Fights in college hockey are rare.
“A switch has been flipped within the United States to address the fighting issue in junior hockey,” said John Vanbiesbrouck, a former N.H.L. goalie who leads USA Hockey’s Junior Council.