A couple of years ago I wrote an article on the NHL’s concussion issue. As the NHL seems to become more of a “do what we say league,” their latest installment of rules has me scratching my head.
Last week Darren Dreger of TSN reported that the linesmen have been instructed to stop a fight if the players remove their helmets beforehand. Earlier in the season the NHL implemented a rule to issue a 2 min minor penalty to players who decided to remove their helmets before a fight. When it became clear that this didn’t matter to any of the players the League informed the Linesman to just stop the fight from happening if the players removed their helmets.
What I don’t understand is there is already a rule for players with visors who engage in fighting. They can be penalized if they DON’T
remove their helmet. Here’s the Rule from the NHL’s website:
46.6 Face Protection - If a player penalized as an instigator of an altercation is wearing a face shield (including a goalkeeper), he shall be assessed an additional unsportsmanlike conduct penalty.
Should the player (including a goalkeeper) who instigates the fight be wearing a face shield, but removes it before instigating the altercation, the additional unsportsmanlike conduct penalty shall not apply.
Am I the only one who’s confused here? The NHL is contradicting itself. If you don’t remove your visor prior to fighting, you will be assessed a 2min penalty. However if you remove your helmet (visor or not) you will be assessed a 2 min penalty and they will stop the fight. This makes it confusing for not only the fans but the players as well. Fighting is part of the game. It’s a way for them to police themselves. With all of these extra rules to figure out, it’s going to end up costing them after the fight with penalties. Prior to a fight, players don’t stand there and think about what they can or cannot do. They just fight.
Removing fighting from the NHL has been something that’s been brought up more and more due to serious head injuries that have occurred recently. However, these serious head injuries have happened in College or Juniors. For example:
“Dylan Chanter, an 18-year-old defenseman with the Dubuque Fighting Saints, fell backward and hit his bare head on the ice while fighting with Corey Petrash of the Cedar Rapids RoughRiders. Chanter, whose helmet had been knocked off, started convulsing. His convulsions lasted two minutes as trainers attended to him.” (Source NY TIMES)
“Michael Sanderson of The Whitby Dunlops, a senior-league club team in Ontario, died on Jan. 2, 20 days after banging his head on the ice during a hockey fight.” (Source NY Daily News)
Many of these serious incidents are occurring in amateur or college leagues. I agree that fighting should be reserved for the big leagues. (AHL/NHL) College is a place for Hockey players to learn how to play adult hockey and develop. They don’t need to fight. But the AHL and NHL is a whole different ball game.
Fighting is something that made the NHL what it is today. When the NHL expanded in 1967, fighting is what drew in big crowds in the new markets in America. Hockey is already an established sport in Canada so those in the US went to Hockey because it’s different. That’s what makes Hockey so great. It’s different. There is full contact constantly, fighting, dazzling plays and the game pace is better than any of the 3 other major sports.
Baseball is slow with very little to no contact, Basketball has no contact and football’s contact and plays last for anywhere from 3-15 seconds. In Hockey, if the play stops, the clock stops. If you want to upend a player with the puck you can hit him pretty hard and the play continues. In football, if you hit someone with the ball, the play is usually over but the clock keeps on ticking. Basketball if you as much as slightly push a player it’s a foul. And above all if your emotions are running high, you can’t fight in baseball, football or basketball without getting thrown out of the game, fined and suspended. In Hockey, you fight and you sit in a box for 5 min to cool off. After that you’re back to playing and could fight again if need be.
Why would the NHL even think to remove this aspect from the game especially if it’s been there since the year 1922. “In 1922, the NHL introduced Rule 56 that formally regulated fighting or "fisticuffs" as it was called in the official NHL rulebook. Rather than ejecting players from the game, players would be given a five-minute major penalty. This is why hockey is so unique.
Fighting has not only been getting a bad rap from players falling and hitting their heads during a fight, but long term effects of “blows to the head” have been a past accusation. Former NHL Enforcer Derek Boogaard’s sudden death five months after a season-ending concussion raised questions. His family donated his brain to the Boston University project and they found he had signs of brain trauma resulting from blows to the head.
But is fighting really to blame here? What about the “enforcer” role? Back in the 70s 80s and even the 90s teams had at least one enforcer to help protect a few star players but most of the players in that era had talent and the grit to protect themselves. Now-a-days, hockey has a plethora of talented finesse players and most teams have that one guy who can “only fight.” I think all hockey players should police and not just have one designated “tough guy” with no actual skill. I think removing the enforcer is the way to go about this.
Staged fighting is the issue here. More injuries happen when something is staged because the end result of it is to just win. Therefore players are going to go to the extreme to win because enforcers have something to prove. That is “who is tougher?” They go out on the ice looking for a fight because it’s their “Role”. Spontaneous fighting which is what I refer to as “old time hockey” is players whose emotions are high or they’re policing themselves. They drop the gloves to say “hey we’re not going to take that.” Regardless of who wins, dropping the gloves and fighting is how their statement is made. I think lesser injuries would occur here.
Former NHL Enforcer Riley Cote actually took boxing lessons. He had one career NHL goal. Why would a hockey player need to take boxing lessons? It’s simple, his job was to go out, find a fight and win. Scoring goals, killing penalties, or making passes wasn’t in his vocabulary. When Cote stopped winning fights and doing his role, he became a healthy scratch and that forced him to retire at the age of 28. The Enforcer days are over. The sooner teams realize this you’ll see a decrease in head injuries from fighting. Finesse players will have to stand up for themselves. Power forwards will have to step in as well defensemen.
Staged fighting is what needs to be removed, not fighting all together. With the NHL hammering down the rules with helmet removal, number of fights at a time, number of fights per player and the jersey strap it’s just going to make matters worse. Professional Hockey should be for players who can actually play and not hold a reservation for a boxer with skates. But like one NHL Source said “It will take a death before the NHL considers the removal of fighting.” However it will take a commissioner with power-trip a matter of seconds to make things his way.
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My article on the NHL’s Concussion issue can be read here: http://www.hockeyfor...ncussion-issue/