The photo above is Josh McEwan in action against Merritt last year. His ability to stand up against some of the biggest guys in the league while more than holding his own is part of why he quickly became a fan favourite. However, under new league rules you're not likely to see Josh drop the gloves quite so often.
Several weeks ago we heard rumblings that Hockey Canada was looking into stricter rules on fighting. It's what they called a study into bullying and intimidation in hockey that included fighting. The result of their study was undetermined but there were rumours they would impose a game misconduct for every fight and suspensions as of a player's second fight. That was never confirmed.
However, the Junior A leagues in BC, Alberta, Manitoba and Saskatchewan didn't want to wait for Hockey Canada to impose restrictions on them. Instead, they knew they'd have to come up with some kind of plan that would satisfy the governing body while maybe not going quite as far. They've come up with a pilot project that has been approved by Hockey Canada for a two year trial.
I don't see the document anywhere online but I'll give a brief run down of some key points:
- All fighting majors will be tracked and once a player receives his 6th major he'll be suspended for 1 game and the team will get fined. That suspension and fine will increase with each subsequent fight. 7th fight wll be 2 games, 8th fight will be 4 games and 9th fight will be 8 games. After that point the league will review an appropriate suspension and fine on top of what has been handed out.
- The same sort of rule applies in a stricter way to those who receive instigator penalties. Once a player has a 3rd instigator he'll receive a 1 game suspension. The same sort of escalation follows.
- The new rules will attempt to remove "staged" fights from the game by automatically suspending the participants for 3 games. If there's an instigator penalty for the staged fight (how would there be?) the offending team will see their coach ejected and the team fined. I would think there won't be any planned or staged fights anymore based on this rule. That or players will try very hard to mask it.
There is also a tweaking in the rules when there is more than one fight after a whistle and when goalies get involve. The whole plan includes stricter punishments for heads to the head, accumulated non-fighting majors and game misconducts as well.
I imagine these rules will end up posted on the league sites for the BCHL and the other participants. If that doesn't happen I'll be glad to try to fill in some of the gaps if any of you are curious about something.
I'm of the opinion that this wasn't a necessary change. That being said, if the leagues were facing a stricter change from Hockey Canada they didn't have much of a choice. I applaud the leagues for having the initiative to take some kind of action to avoid the complete elimination of fighting from the game. I also agree with a point made in their document that the "one fight rule" could serve as a way for teams to target certain players to get them out of the game. I'm glad they've avoided that.
I guess the question is why Hockey Canada feels the need to rock the boat on this one at all. Have we seen a rash of "bullying" or "intimidating" from fighting? Have we seen a number of dangerous injuries from fighting at this level? I've only been around for a few years but I have not seen anything of that nature. This seems like a knee-jerk reaction to a problem that didn't exist. The "gong show" brawls of the past are not a problem in the BCHL. Generally I think most fights in this league are just two guys standing up for their team to send a message in a clean way. Clearly someone up high disagreed.
You will not see changes like this in major junior I'll guarantee that.
I think it's safe to say with automatic suspensions for a player's 6th fighting major we've seen the end of the tough guy or "goon" that some teams bring in. It also means we won't get to see guys like Jadon Porterfield and Sean Nugent a couple of years ago drop the gloves nearly 20 times each. If anyone gets to even half that number they'll likely be gone from the league.
Is that good or bad? I'll leave that up to you to decide. All I know is that the following youtube clip is easily the most viewed clip on my channel. I wonder why?