The Ontario Hockey League is taking some bold steps when it comes to one of the most controversial aspects of hockey.
The OHL introduced a rule which suspends players who reach 10 fights in a season and it seems to have had an impact as the latest numbers show fighting is down over 30% this year after five weeks of play.
The staged fight is the first issue the rule addresses and for many it’s a tough call as you can’t deny the buzz which goes through a rink when two tough guys decided to settle a score, real or imagined.
The other area this rule is designed to address is one I think some fans, coaches and players could be pleased with.
We have seen it right here in our own Enmax Centrium when young Mathew Dumba levels an opposing player with a clean, thunderous open ice body check and right away he has to drop the mitts to do battle.
It used to be a clean, hard hit was accepted as part of the game but now the response in more cases than not is a fight.
Under the OHL rule the player starting the fight gets nailed but the player defending himself won’t have the fight registered as part of his 10 fight total.
Some of the fallout from the 10 fight rule might be how players take to the game later in the year when they are close to their fight limit.
Does this mean a player won’t come to the aid of a teammate during a game because it might cost him the rest of the season?
Would coaches use the knowledge of which player is close to their fight limit to take liberties with other players because the enforcer on the other side might be instructed to not get involved?
Removing fighting from the game is not the point of this rule according to those in the know.
It’s more of a control measure to be put in place to lessen the fights started by the one-dimensional players which many teams have on their roster.
It will be interesting to see how this plays out over the season and if other leagues decide to go the same route.