Fighting In Junior Hockey

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Fighting in junior hockey – The rule is already in place

Fighting’s days in junior hockey could be numbered, with the sport’s North America overlords reportedly stick-handling options to ban it.

Hockey Canada and USA Hockey are mulling rule changes to end fighting in non-professional leagues as early as next season, The New York Times reports.

The newspaper said it’s believed the umbrella groups for the sport are looking at multiple options to curb fighting, one of which might be to do as U.S. colleges do – immediately throwing fighting players out of games.

In most leagues, fighters now are simply slapped with a five-minute penalty.

The report comes amid growing awareness of the harm head trauma can cause athletes, especially hockey players.

If adopted, the rules would apply to dozens of North American leagues, including Canada’s three major junior hockey leagues.

"The official stance from Hockey Canada is that we want to get rid of fighting as quickly as we can," Bob Nicholson, the organization’s chief executive, told the newspaper. "Our ultimate goal is to remove fighting."

Canada’s major junior leagues, feeders to the National Hockey League where fighting would be untouched, are on board for curbing on-ice violence.

"The appetite is there," said David Branch, president of the Canadian Hockey League, which oversees the juniors, including the Ontario Hockey League, in which the London Knights play. "The time is certainly right to move forward."

Branch, who’s also OHL commissioner, said the sport doesn’t need violence to sell.

"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."

A recent University of Montreal study found teen athletes are more vulnerable to concussions than adults or younger children. Lead researcher Dave Ellemberg says hits can disrupt the frontal lobe, harming short-term memory in still-growing teens.

Proponents of fighting claim it has a historic place in hockey. And there’s no arguing there’s an appetite for hockey fights. Many spectators applaud, even rise to their feet, when players duke it out.

The Rule is already in place:

Regulation 6.7 — which simply states that a player or players who receive five-minute majors for fighting also receive a game misconduct. The important thing is Regulation 6.7 has always been there — initially it was minor and female hockey. Two years ago, Hockey Canada added junior and senior, so all levels of amateur hockey that are managed by Hockey Canada would come under the umbrella of Regulation 6.7. The rule is already in place.

There are pretty harsh penalties to begin with. First, the ejection from a game is one. There are harsh penalties for instigators; there are harsh penalties for repeat offenders. Those are all the pieces that are the deterrents. Regulation has been in place for a long time that deals with the 10-minute misconduct or a five-minute major or a fight late in a game. Escalating bad behaviour late in a game because [a player might think] ‘hey what’s the difference, I got kicked out for five minutes.’ This results in some pretty stiff penalties for the next game and beyond that. Even if it was the last game of the season those sanctions will carry over to next season.

Prior to the 2010-11 season six Junior A leagues asked for an ability to construct and deliver a pilot project around education and around monitoring, and understanding the trends in bullying and violent behaviour in the game. So they were absolved from having to shift with the new rule and they were allowed to investigate over a two-year period, which is coming to an end.

B.C., Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, and the Maritime Junior Hockey League and— the Ontario Junior Hockey League — [which] is the control group. They actually play by regulation 6.7, Hockey Canada is looking at their data in comparison to the accumulation of the other five leagues.

At the annual general meeting in mid-May this pilot project will finish up and report back to the Hockey Canadas board of directors.

At that meeting it is expected that all leagues and all components within Hockey Canada abide by Regulation 6.7, and look at the elimination of fighting at all levels.

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