Fighting Down Under CJHL (Tier II) Pilot Program

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Fighting Down Under CJHL (Tier II) Pilot Program December 5, 2012 8:09 AM

Tier II hockey, also known as Junior A Hockey in Canada has always been seen as being just as tough, if not more "gooney" than Major Junior Hockey.

Many at this level have worked hard to change that perception. NOJHL Commissioner Rob Mazzuca and CJHL President Kirk Lamb are two of those people leading the way through inovative rule changes.

Hockey Canada, in an effort to curb violence on the ice, brought its “one-fight rule” to the junior level in 2010 (fight once and it’s a five-minute penalty and a game misconduct), down from the usual “two fight rule” most had been operating under.

At that time, the Canadian Junior Hockey League lobbied Hockey Canada to come up with its own plan of deterring violence in the game, which grew into a two-year pilot project encompassing the Alberta, British Columbia, Saskatchewan, Manitoba and Maritimes leagues. The NOJHL has developed their own program which is very similar to the CJHL’s, yet perhaps more thorough with its anti doping measures.

What has resulted is one of the most successful models in existence for curtailing what many are now calling “predatory players.”

Like the OHL’s plan, the CJHL’s plan is working:

The number of fights per game fell from 0.96 the season before the pilot to 0.56 in Year 1, before climbing slightly to 0.60 last season. The number of players with six or more fights in the same season dropped from 152 to just 19 in 2010-11, before climbing back to 50 in 2011-12, representing a 67 per cent reduction.

The number of instances with two or more fights in the same stoppage went from 65 the season before the pilot to 27 in 2010-11 and just 18 last season a 72 per cent decrease.

Under the updated plan for this season, the amount of times a player commits an infraction before a suspension kicks in has been reduced by one game.It’s now after a player’s second instigator penalty of the season where a one-game suspension and $1,000 team fine is levied. It used to be three under the first two years of the project.

And when it comes to fighting majors, a player’s fifth fight of the season (as compared to seventh under the first two years of the project) now results in a one-game suspension and it escalates from there until after his eighth fight (used to be 10th) leads to an eight-game ban and $1,250 team fine. There’s also now a section for accumulated infractions in multiple categories, checking from behind and boarding, blows to the head, non-fighting majors, and instigators, where the receipt of a fifth infraction on the season in these categories leads to a one-game suspension.

The world is watching as well. Hockey Canada has been sharing this information with USA Hockey and other leagues throughout the world. USA Hockey has already begun to institute some of these same rules and penaltys.

Many have said that the trend to eliminate or reduce fighting is not good for the game. Some have said that it is taking tradition and the players ability to police themselves out of the game. The numbers being produced out of Hockey Canada do not support that theory. They do support the thory that instituting these policies is having the desired effect in that players are being protected from head injuries.

The other effect, and perhaps just as important, it is forcing players to actually play the game. The end of days for the one dimensional "goon" type fighter has come.

Will some of us miss the Carl Raki type players portrayed in the movie Youngblood? Sure there is still a hockey subculture that loves the tough guys. But being realistic, those types of players can not compete with the skilled players of todays game.

Recently I watched a Tier II game that had one team still carrying a "goon" type player. They tried to send him out on a fairly regular shift throughout the game. It was clear the player was making an effort to compete. Unfortunately though the player could not compete and it was embarassing to watch. People in the stands, even home town fans were laughing at how bad the player looked on the ice compared to the others.

Are teams really doing players like this any favors by keeping them on the roster? The rules have changed, and they wont be changing back. Player protection and skill development is what todays and tomorrows game is all about.

By Joseph Kolodziej

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