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Special Report – Fighting To Be Removed From Junior Hockey By The Start Of 2015 Season

TJHN has learned from multiple sources that USA Hockey is working in conjunction with Hockey Canada on a plan to remove fighting from Junior Hockey no later than the start of the 2015 – 2016 season.

In October of 2013, the Canadian Junior Hockey League, which is the governing body for the ten Junior A hockey leagues, voted to ban fighting starting in the 2014-2015 season.

In essence a player that fights will automatically receive a game ejection where as in the past a player would receive a five minute major penalty. Some CJHL leagues began instituting escalating suspensions for players who continually found themselves in fights this past season.

In January at the USA Hockey annual meeting a proposal was presented that would call for an automatic game ejection, and an automatic two game suspension for those players that instigate fights.

Since January, USA Hockey and Hockey Canada have been in talks discussing how the two governing bodies can work together toward making these rules standardized for both countries.  The goal is to eliminate all fighting by the beginning of the 2015 season.

While the elimination of fighting may sound good to some, a rule will not totally eliminate fighting.  There will still be fights in Junior Hockey, but the rules being discussed will place escalating, and very severe penalties for those who continue to fight.

Sources are reporting that the discussions center around the escalation of suspensions and at what point does a player become suspended for the remainder of the season, as well as how does a player who may have been suspended for the remainder of the season come back to play the following season.

The rule changes, if adopted will fall in line with many International competition rules and NCAA rules.

Proposals include:

A player who removes his helmet to fight would receive an automatic two-game suspension, and if he removes his opponent’s helmet he would get an automatic multiple-game ban.

A goalie who crosses the center red line during a fight would be classed as an instigator, resulting in an automatic two-game suspension.

Players would be given match penalties, carrying multiple-game suspensions, in every instance when the aggressor is attempting to inflict punishment or injury to the opponent.

While there are many sides to this story and to the arguments for or against fighting in junior hockey, there are few arguments that diminish many medical facts.

At a Mayo Clinic conference on concussions in hockey last October, the University of Ottawa researcher Blaine Hoshizaki presented new findings showing that a right or left hook to the head “delivered more than twice the rotational acceleration” of other kinds of blows common in hockey and is “the most effective way to give someone a concussion.”

The fighting proponents have often argued that most concussions occur due to the natural contact of the game and not fighting.  This is true, and both USA Hockey and Hockey Canada are looking to address checking from behind, boarding, and other head contact penalties with stiffer sanctions as well.

While there are fans that enjoy fighting, many do not distinguish an NHL fight from a Junior Hockey fight when making their arguments.

NHL players make a very good living playing the game.  They are adults, and a great majority of those players who fight on a regular basis spend time in the minor pro ranks fine tuning their fighting skills.  There is nothing wrong with this because they are making employment decisions and are receiving compensation.  They are physically mature and capable of making these decisions.

Junior players aged 16 to 20 years old are not in the same position mentally or physically as an NHL player in almost every circumstance.  It is the exceptional player that makes the NHL before his 21st birthday, and in nearly every instance that exceptional player is not there to fight.

The difference between a 20 year old player and a 16 year old player physically is dramatic.  Mentally the differences are also significant.

Would you question a 16 or 17 year old police officer with a gun or baton?  Society would not allow that to take place.  Why then would society allow a 16 or 17 year old with out of control emotions be in charge of policing the game?

Certainly there will be some controversy as this discussion continues, but the discussion will definitely continue.  For the health, safety and welfare of our children who happen to be athletes, do we not owe it to them to protect them from others as well as themselves?

Joe Hughes

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